A couple recent incidents prompted me to reflect on how dogs develop and express sensitivities to their people. Bowdu, in particular, is quite attuned to his surroundings, which necessarily includes the people at his side.

20140408 Bottle at Lake Anza

Last week I took the Bows to my favorite hiking trail around a lake in the nearby hills. Temperatures hit an unexpected high, and these cool, shaded woods were a pleasant alternative to our usual routes.

20140408 Bottle at Lake Anza

As we were resting by the creek that feeds into the lake, I accidentally dropped my water bottle. I blurted out, “Oh no!” as it splashed down below.

20140408 Bottle at Lake Anza

Instantly, Bowdu was at my side. I didn’t need to point or gesture at all — he saw what I was looking at and sprang into action.

The bottle wasn’t particularly difficult to fetch, nor was it moving very quickly downstream. Nevertheless, I was in awe of how completely Bowdu responded, especially how his entire face flashed GAME ON! This is not something I’ve trained him to do specifically, yet he knew implicitly to extend backyard fetch to new terrain, and that the goal was to retrieve the errant object.

Bottle at Lake Anza

20140408 Bottle at Lake Anza

While Bowdu waded confidently to the other side, Bowpi remained dry and uninvolved on the trail. Asking her to fetch in the water would be futile.

Bowpi says nut-uh

Bowdu wasn’t exactly ready to dive in, either. He attempted a couple times to pluck the bottle out with his mouth, but it bobbed below the surface. So instead, he reached out with a paw to pull the bottle ashore…

Bottle at Lake Anza

Bottle at Lake AnzaBottle at Lake Anza

… and then picked it up when he was able to get a proper grip with his mouth.


Even though he didn’t carry the bottle all the way to me, I cheered so enthusiastically, another trail walker couldn’t help but wander over to see what my commotion was about. I started to gush about Bowdu’s amazing retrieve, but stopped short when I saw this guy was accompanied by a Labrador Retriever; I might as well have been raving about my Shiba’s beautiful dump in the woods.

Narrating this in hindsight, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. What seemed magical at the time was how quickly Bowdu sprang into action at the sound of my alarm, and how piqued he was by the situation. He’s got a sharp mind and some drive to speak of, and no doubt would have earned his keep as a working Shiba of yore. As a 21st century companion, I haven’t asked him to do much, but over the years he has risen to unexpected occasions and provided exceptional assistance, on call.

A line to bold in a resume, if he had one!

The second incident also stemmed from an unexpected encounter.

20140416 Bee surprise

I had just leashed up the dogs and was shoving my foot into my shoe when I felt a pea-sized pebbly thing at the toes. I tried to wriggle it loose with my toes, but then it started quivering. Jolted by the sensation, I leaped two rooms across the length of the house to kick off my shoe in the kitchen and fling out the contents. When an angry bee tumbled out, I squealed in horror and revulsion.

Again, Bowdu was instantly at my side, and identified the source of my consternation within a split second. There was barely a hesitation, no time for me to warn him off before he swooped down and snapped the bee with his teeth. The bee fell silent and motionless, as I’d seen happen right before my eyes when Bowdu killed a mouse in a similar situation. Yet somehow, like that mouse years ago, the insect body remained intact, unmangled and lifeless.

A precision kill.

A precision kill

Maybe the creature had been frightened to death. At any rate, it had been effectively dispatched by the time Bowpi tiptoed over to investigate. Though also a hunter, she hunts for herself, and is certainly not responsive the way Bowdu can be.

This is how bonds are formed and expressed between human and dog. They easily bridge the sensual pleasures of sight and touch to affective satisfactions when they respond to fright, alarm, or other sudden changes in mood. There is basic, primal security in not only having your screams heard, but acted upon. Now, I hesitate to say that Bowdu responded out of any sense of altruism in the first example, or protection in the second. It may have been sheer animal instinct, but most importantly, it was invoked by my voice. Canine action is always preferable to a lonely echo.

PHOTO: War, peace, puppy


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Photo by Francis Stafford, 1911

Photo by Francis Stafford, 1911

Caption from book: Insurgents resting on the banks of the Xiang River, a branch of the Yangzi River that runs through Hankou. Note a dog is snoozing by the soldiers in the foreground, reflecting a peaceful moment between battles. [Lu Hanchao, ed., The Birth of a Republic: Francis Stafford's Photographs of China's 1911 Revolution and Beyond (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010), p. 57.]

Drama-free Dremelling and ‘spoiled’ dogs


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20140402 BowpiDremel2

Bowpi is an angel about getting her nails filed by Dremel. She’s easy to physically manipulate, and will just flop into my lap like a sack of sand during the process.

20140402 BowpiDremel1

Yes, note the pouch of Fruitables treats nearby. I spent several weeks warming up both Bows to the Dremel after I first got it, conditioning them to associate the sound of the motor with treats, then working them up to the whirring file making contact with their toes. I don’t consider the food a bribe; it’s a mood enhancer, putting them in an agreeable state so I can do things that would otherwise irritate or freak them out.

20140402 BowpiDremel3

Bowdu is a different matter. Even though he comes running for handouts at the sound of the Dremel, he does not like to be held, nor does he typically like his paws to be handled, especially with purpose. A groomer back in Taiwan traumatized him on this one. She did nail trimmings for about $3, and routinely cut into the quick, calling it “normal” part of the process. Well, after seeing his face streaked with blood because he was frantically trying to paw off the grooming loop with his damaged nails, we put an end to that.

After that, he got downright violent about any attempts to trim his nails, even at home. I basically gave up… until I got the Dremel.

Bowdu gets his nails done in the car

I found that he is relaxed and non-reactive when sitting in one of his favorite places — the car. So that’s where I do his nails, and it works out beautifully for both of us. I just pack up the Dremel for our regular outings, and take care of it after he’s been thoroughly chilled by a nice long walk.

Once, a passerby commented on my “spoiled dog” getting manicured in the parking lot. He said it lightheartedly, probably a joke because it seemed an odd place for the occasion, and I must have looked a little ridiculous, crouched in the leg area of the passenger-side front seat while Bowdu perched like a champ above, patient paw in my hand.

But I was annoyed by the assumption that I was doing something excessive for Bowdu, and therefore “spoiling” him. (My parents, who don’t understand my relationship to the dogs, frequently use that term too.) How is this radical notion that working with our animals, in full consideration of their history and their feelings, an act of “spoiling”? Knowing his trauma, I meet him on his terms. That’s just basic consideration out of my sense of responsibility to him, acknowledging his capacity to express fear, personal preferences, and trust.

From that day on, I’ve been making a conscious effort to excise that term from my vocabulary, because I don’t see my pets in terms of wasted resources. I’d rather have our “spoiled” relationship where we can relish our mutual excesses, instead of a “normative” relationship, contained and impoverished.

Bowdu vs. tissue box

Bowdu caught himself a wild box of tissues.

20140304 Bowdu vs. Tissue Box

By the time I had found him with his ‘prey,’ he had already gutted the thing, and all that was left was the cardboard hide.

20140304 Bowdu vs. Tissue Box

It was still worth rolling in…

Bowdu vs. Tissue Box

… and flinging around for a bit …

Bowdu vs. Tissue Box

… before a couple victory laps around the yard.

Bowdu vs. Tissue Box

Bowdu vs. Tissue Box

He knows how to improvise, whether I like it or not… He’s got toys of his own, but it’s the interactive, disassemble-able, pilfered objects that are always much more fun.

Bowdu vs. Tissue Box

Note: Photos from early March, right when Bowdu began blowing his coat and appeared to have been bitten by a couple fleas on his chest.

The Cost of things: March 2014


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20140331 Stare stare

This is my fourth year of tracking pet finances at the House of Two Bows. This is an ongoing effort to get a practical sense of what it costs to keep two 20 ~ 30 pound adult dogs in an area of the US with relatively high costs of living. Previous posts in this series can be found under the category of finances.

The Cost of (Pet) Things for March 2014:

  • Food: $83 [previous month, $10]
  • Treats: $31 [previous, $12]
  • Grooming: $13 [previous, $8]
  • Vet & Medical: $80 [previous, $121]
  • Accessories and misc: $15* [previous, $44]
  • TOTAL: $222 [running average for 2014: ~$181/month]

How did I spend so much on food?? Well, there was a 15 pound bag of Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream, and I stocked up on four canisters of The Honest Kitchen Sparkle while they were offering free shipping, and while they still have this discontinued item in stock.

Bowdu has been stripped of nearly all his underfur, as you can tell above. My strategy in the past couple years has been to kick up the skin and coat supplements as he’s growing his coat back, easing into the spring allergy season. The remaining fur still doesn’t feel great after his February flea disaster, but the dandruff’s basically gone since there’s no more fluff to hide in.

20140331 Respective grooming
simultaneous self-grooming, side-by-side

The rest of the food expenses were rounded out by about $10 of raw chicken on sale.

Treat expenditures were relatively high this month, despite spending it almost exclusively on chicken gizzards and hearts for the dehydrator. That’s because about half of the 10+ pounds was gifted to my next door neighbor in exchange for some house maintenance assistance.

Last time I mentioned them, they were fostering a pit bull named Ashley. Well, they’ve since adopted her (saw that one coming!), and renamed her Addy. I’m lucky not only to have dog-friendly neighbors — they’re also handy and they’re willing to help for dog treats! Okay, okay, I also threw in a huge bag of fancy dark chocolate as well, but that comes out of the human budget, whereas I’m making the Bows absorb the cost of the treats even though it wasn’t all for them. It makes sense to me, since dog-life and human-life are interrelated, so the budgets may as well reflect that.

In grooming needs, I bought poop bags from the pet store. I have a bad habit of waiting until the last minute to restock, necessitating an in-person purchase instead of just ordering online, where I can get 5x the amount of bags at the same cost. Though I generally prefer to support my local businesses, that’s a situation where I’d much rather buy online for significant savings.

For vet fees, refer to Bowpi’s most recent visit.

In accessories, the Bows got updated ID tags from American Pet Classics. I paid and filled out their forms at my local pet store, and they mailed it off on my behalf. Turnaround was fairly quick — about a week. However, the tags are not particularly aesthetically pleasing. The fonts are all wonky and the spacing is uneven. They also misspelled Bowpi’s tag, so I had to return it for correction, taking another week of time. Anyway, these are just cheap temporary tags while contact information is in transition at the House of Two Bows, so it’s more important that they’re legible and functional rather than pretty.

Meanwhile, Bowpi’s Freedom No Pull harness finally arrived, and I’m very happy with it. A more full update later.

For all the doodads, the accessories and misc. total this month appears low because I decided to return the Hurtta jacket after all. I underestimated the size that Bowpi needed, and got her a 15″ jacket (length along spine) when I probably should’ve gotten the 18L (the next size up in stock where I got it). The material is nice, and overall well constructed.

Hurtta JacketHurtta Jacket

However, the design just won’t work with Bowpi, because she’s too squirmy to wrangle into these overalls. Basically, you have to stuff all four feet into the rather narrow sleeves before you can zip up the jacket along the spine. It’ll only work if your dog is accustomed to standing still in one place, which Bowpi is not. By the time I managed to get two feet into the jacket, the other two had already fallen out. I quickly gave up, and decided to return the item at a loss of shipping.

I’m glad these dogs don’t have many sartorial needs, because tailor-made wearables have worked out best. Dogs come in a funkier range of shapes and sizes than humans, after all.

20140205 Slipping on her collar
she looks so funny when she’s putting on her collar

FILM: Legend of the T-Dog 命運狗不理


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Film: Legend of the T-Dog [Mingyun gou bu li 命運狗不理]
Director: Li Tian-chueh 李天爵
Performers: Wang Po-chieh 王柏傑, Lin Ruoya 霖若亞, Blackberry 黑莓 (T-Dog)
Animal trainer: Chen Ying-jie 陳英傑
Breed featured: Taiwan tugou, Formosan Mountain Dog, Golden Retriever (brief), French Bulldog (brief)
Production information: Dilu Quan 的盧犬, 2012 (Taiwan)

Ah Dou is an aid at a hospital where several people are rushed in for bizarre, life-threatening emergencies. Each time, there is a mysterious black dog chasing the ambulance — the titular T-dog, named such because he bears a distinctive gold T emblazoned across his forehead, and also probably because is a classic Taiwan tugou.


As it turns out, the T-Dog is a modern day incarnation of an inauspicious “hellhorse” from ancient times. Anyone who assumes dominion over this creature enjoys short term success, but then inevitably befalls calamity upon the 49th day.


This is not a horror film, and for all its absurdity, it’s not quite comedy. Rather, it’s what new director Li Tian-chueh has characterized as some kind of avant-gardist science fantasy, in the Chinese literary tradition of zhiguai, “records of the strange,” with a decidedly contemporary, Taiwanese twist.

Folk religion, often pejoratively labeled “superstition,” is quite integrated into modern everyday practice in Taiwan. This is played out in the actions of Ah Dou, who cultivates a warm, altruistic personality to stave off the misfortune which has plagued his family for generations. Ah Dou’s concern for his ragtag, downtrodden neighbors manifests as a cheerful obsession. For as much good as he tries to do for others, Ah Dou often gets in trouble because he can’t keep his own act together.


One day, when Ah Dou is down on his luck, he witnesses the T-Dog struggling with a dog catcher, and decides to intervene. Against the admonitions of his colleagues, he takes the dog home and names him “Happy” (a pun on ‘black coat,’ heipi 黑皮) to signal the new directions he intends to pursue.


For a while, the canine charm seems to work. The kindness he showed to his neighbors is repaid when they set him up with an apartment after an unexpected eviction. He finds comfort and learns to make his home anew by living with a cool dog. After being fired from his hospital job, he even manages to get with Dr. Lai, the beautiful head doctor from his old ward.


Ah Dou’s allegiances and beliefs are put to one final test. A stranger contacts him, offering him a rare postage stamp to finish a set that Ah Dou has been trying to collect. His father died clinging to the belief that this complete postage set will break the family curse, so Ah Dou continued the search out of filial duty. However, the stranger wants to exchange the stamp for the T-Dog.


An interesting proposition. It seems like a clear decision to exchange the unlucky dog for a clean slate. However, in part because of his girlfriend’s urging, Ah Dou decides that he must commit to protect his “family members” in the present, no matter how his past may have determined is fate. With that, he passes the test and the curse is lifted… as it turns out the stranger is another incarnation of an ancient eccentric that Ah Dou had wronged in a previous life. That relationship had been the basis of the multi-generational curse all along, not the possession or lack or any lucky talismans.


As I was working through this summary, I realized how this film’s premise is really quite charming, but unfortunately, much of its potential was lost in execution. For the very first drama to feature a Taiwan dog as a lead character, I had high hopes. Blackberry 黑莓, the tugou recruited for the part, was actually scouted from her prominent cameo in the 2011 blockbuster Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (on the list to be blogged).

However, Legend of the T-Dog was filmed under very different conditions. According to the ‘making of’ video above, there was definitely an acclimatization and socialization process to get Blackberry accustomed to working with her costars. Taiwan dogs make for recalcitrant movie stars, as they don’t easily open up to strangers and can be nervous and flighty on a busy set.


Blackberry, fortunately, was very food-motivated.


She was also extraordinarily tolerant of ridiculous costuming and lots of (wo)manhandling!



It is much to Blackberry’s credit that she performed and was filmed so well, despite the movie’s faults! That said, she’s also indicative of how poorly the characters were constructed. Sure, she was probably the most “experienced” Taiwan dog actor for the part, but if they were going to go through the trouble of dyeing additional markings on her, I don’t know why they didn’t just go ahead and give her four white paws and a white streak across her chest, to tap into the superstitions that continue to be deeply ingrained in the Taiwanese popular imagination of “unlucky” dogs.

20060723 Don't mess
My aunt’s Taiwan dog, Nyo-nyo

I also don’t know what’s up with Ah Dou’s goofy-looking mustache, the panoply of fantasy cultists who stand in as exaggerated quirks of local folk religion, and the obnoxious nurses whom Ah Dou works with at the hospital. Ah Dou himself is fairly nondescript as a generic “good guy” character, whom you end up rooting for only because everyone else is so utterly annoying. I would really have liked to see more examples of his developing relationship with the dog, rather than the doctor, to add some depth to both human and canine characters.


Legend of the T-Dog was a valiant attempt to experiment with dog movie conventions, moving beyond the typical tropes of cuddly, infantilized, domesticated creatures, and trying to invest the dog with some kind of historical or cultural significance. All the elements failed to alchemize in the end, leaving the audience with a little bit of black gold… and a whole lot of lead.


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The House of Two Bows keeps a running index of movies blurbed on the site, annotated by breed. If you’re interested in writing a guest blog for a dog film, contact for details.



The Bows are doing better.

Bowdu’s looking extremely scraggly now that he’s lost nearly all his underfur. A few tufts remain to be plucked. At least his skin is not raw and red anymore, and he’s not frantically itching his chest.

This round of shedding produced a lot of dandruff along his back. I didn’t actually shampoo his back when I gave him the medicated bath that threw his skin oils out of whack, and I haven’t bathed him again since. Just letting him shed it all out, with some manual assistance, and supplementing with fish oil, vitamin E, and Honest Kitchen Sparkle.


It’s been a couple weeks, but Bowpi’s harness hasn’t arrived yet. I’ll have to report later. Her more extreme hacking cleared right up with meds and the return of clear skies. Yesterday brought another round of rain, and it seemed to me that she was chuffing a bit more with the wet weather. Perhaps that’s the connection after all.

For now, she still wears her limited slip collar, which is not an issue during our daytime off-leash walks. At night, I’m being extra careful to maintain a loose leash, though it can be a challenge when she insists on her own targets for the sniffing that MUST! happen at THAT! particular spot.

I've been so busy this morning! But the dogs look at me like I ain't done shit 'till I've taken them to the park. #whyicantgetenoughdone

Like everything else in my life, I’m figuring this out as I go. Luckily, the dogs don’t judge too harshly for my missteps. They do get impatient when I move too slow and haven’t taken them out yet, according to schedule.

Deadlines and pushy hounds riding my tail…

Health update on the cusp of spring


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A health update is called for, as we’ve had a titch of trouble recently.

Last Wednesday, I brought Bowpi in to the vet. She’d been cough-wheezing for a while. It’d reportedly started in November, when I was still in Taiwan. I certainly noticed it when I came back — a sporadic, whuffing sound that came on when she was balled up, either getting into or just emerging from sleep. RJ figured it was due to the unusually dry winter we’ve been having in California, and as it seemed to come and go, we just kept monitoring her.

The cough suddenly got louder and more frequent over one rainy weekend, so I had her in ASAP. Basically, she was whuffing and chuffing in several, continuous, uncontrolled rounds, and doing a lot of this in addition:

… yet, she wasn’t coughing frequently enough that I could count on her to demonstrate her symptoms to the vet. So I took video. Even on the day that I brought her in, the rain had cleared up, and she hadn’t coughed for over 12 hours. And Bowdu, as you can see, has been his usual, doofy self, so it didn’t seem to be a highly contagious condition.

20140305 Palpated

Based on the video, manual palpation, my description of the symptoms, and Bowpi’s overall age and stature, the vet’s diagnosis was partial tracheal collapse, aggravated by a secondary infection of kennel cough. She spared me the X-rays for a more precise diagnosis, since she was pretty sure that was what was going on, and her condition wasn’t severe. She was able to recreate the coughing sound in the examination room by pressing on Bowpi’s trachea, and noted that the condition was not in the esophagus, so there was some process of elimination going into the diagnosis too.

20140305 Heart and hand

So we were sent off with a round of Doxycycline for the cough, and a harness for Bowpi is already on the way. I definitely feel some guilt, wondering if this all could have been prevented if I had just been walking Bowpi on a harness to begin with. Like pretty much every Basenji I’ve ever walked, she’s always been a puller, jerking with great determination (for such a small dog!) towards the object of her scrutiny. This is much less of a problem when she’s off leash, as the vast majority of our daytime walks tend to be.

Obviously, I can’t always walk her off leash, so I’m doing what I can to minimize the harm that’s already been done. Like the doc predicted, her cough cleared right up after a week of medication, and her chuffing has subsided to very occasional, and minor disruptions. Neither her energy levels nor appetite has been affected, and otherwise she remains in great shape, so we carry on, and will follow up by phone in a couple months.

I am transparent about pet finances on this blog, and since veterinary fees can be one of the most inscrutable costs, I present the itemized bill:

  • Office call, $56 $50.40 (minus 10% student discount
  • Doxycycline (strength: 25 mg/mL), 28 mL, $30
  • TOTAL: $80.40

Meanwhile, Bowdu was off his flea medication schedule for over two weeks, as I’d forgotten about it in February’s flurry. This is atypical of me, and poor Bowdu is the one that had to suffer for it.

20140304 Bowdu isn't happy about having his bald chest exposed

Due to what I think were some flea or bug bites, Bowdu got really itchy in a couple spots on his chest, resulting in the loss of large swathes of fur. I didn’t actually see any bugs, though I saw the bite areas, and I didn’t find anything on Bowpi, whose short fur is usually quick to reveal any such problems. However, knowing that Bowdu does react pretty intensely to bug bites, and given the intensity of the fur loss (most of it came right out within about a two day window), my first response was to get both dogs back on Comfortis, ASAP.

Bowdu fur loss

This does coincide with a seasonal fur blow, which is already pretty intense in its own right. Since a few years ago (with the diagnosis of canine hypothyroidism), I’ve noted that Bowdu does tend to lose his fur in big, bald patches when he’s shedding. Pictures from February 2011 for comparison:

20110204: Hair loss neck and armpit20140203 Hair loss neck area

Pretty much always the same areas around the neck, chest, and belly, but never his back.

20140304 No problem back here

This is clearly the worst Bowdu has had it in years, with raw red skin and hyperpigmentation and everything.

Underside with bug bite

I gave him a bath with some medicated shampoo to try and ease the itch and speed along the shedding process. I think it was actually a little too intense and offset his skin oils, because he’s felt greasier since the bath. I’ll give him another week or so, and try again again with a gentle shampoo.

Meanwhile, he’s been getting generic diphenhydramine (Benadryl) about twice a day, with breakfast and before bedtime. He’s got his skin and coat supplements: the usual fish oil and vitamin E, and additional Honest Kitchen Sparkle (which is being discontinued due to “regulatory challenges combined with low sales” — time to formulate our own herbal blend!). His itching seems to be under control, he just looks and feels rough, and is a bit cranky about being touched in certain ways.

At least he’s not too self-conscious about showing off his precious, slightly bald tummy.

20140313 Not self conscious

PHOTOS: Taiwan dogs of the Japanese resistance, early 1900s


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As I was mining the archives in Taiwan, I always kept my eyes open for canine sightings. The difficult and wondrous thing about dogs is how ubiquitous they are, yet unindexed. I found them chronicled in books that are not specifically about dogs, but on closely related topics — such as Taiwanese indigenous resistance to Japanese colonialism. What we now know of the Formosan Mountain Dog is closely aligned with the history of Taiwanese aborigines, or yuanzhumin 原住民.

Dogs were seldom depicted as isolated subjects of early photodocumentation. But the photographs where they are integrated into domestic, social, and military scenes are incredibly rich with anthrozoological detail to me. Here are a few of my favorites from GEN Zhiyou 根誌優, ed., Collection of Historical Photographs of Taiwan’s People’s Resistance Against Japanese Occupation 1874-1933 [Taiwan kangri shi tuji 台灣抗日史圖輯] (Taipei: Taiwan yuanzhumin chuban youxian gongsi 台灣原住民出版有限公司, 2010).

Vol. I, p. 305 (Year 1905): “日軍11月9日以步砲聯合作戰攻入北葉社,懲罰其頭目庇護抗日義軍,圖為1905年在頭目宅前合影的北葉社排灣族。” On November 9th, the Japanese military launched a coordinated infantry-artillery attack on the Beiye Society as punitive measures against a chieftain who was harboring Japanese resistance fighters. Pictured are members of the Beiye Society, assembled in front of the chieftain’s home.

A moment of relative peace, given the violence that would ensue, as described in the caption. Even the dog, a drop-eared specimen, looks docile in contrast to the prick-eared hunters that are usually depicted in aboriginal company — and which would clearly be favored in the Formosan Mountain Dog breed standard, a century later.

Vol. II, p. 195 (Year 1916-7): “在警察掌握部落行政,法律與教育的日據時代,部落駐警宛如太上皇,可是一旦原住民忍無可忍起義,平日宛如貴族的日警與眷屬往往要魂斷異邦。” During the Japanese colonial period, the [Japanese] police who assumed administrative, legal, and educational control were basically overlords of their stations, but they’d quickly push the aborigines to the limits of tolerance and cause them to revolt. Typically, the aristocratic Japanese police and their families would have to make efforts to dissolve cultural differences.

I absolutely love the forced togetherness and awkward poses of this shot, especially the contrast between the Japanese ladies seated carefully atop furniture, the aboriginal women squatted even lower than the standing Japanese boy, and of course, the dog splayed on the ground, front and center.

Vol II, p. 39 (Year 1913): “南投,臺中軍警討伐隊完成大甲,北港兩溪流域之屠殺掃蕩任務後,下山路過草屯,當地日警與眷屬列隊歡迎之鏡頭。” Japanese Expeditionary Force from Taichung marching through Nantou after mopping up a massacre at the Dajia and Beigang Rivers. As they descended from the mountains and passed through Caotun, the police administrators and their families lined up to welcome the troops.

And who stands in the middle of the pathway, in defiance of all this pomp and circumstance? A pair of naughty piebald tugou. I just hope they had the sense to move ahead, instead of getting kicked out of the way.

Vol I, p. 402 (Year 1906): “「外太魯閣蕃」當中的博落灣(今部落灣)社人”

This shot, depicting “Savages of Outer Taroko,” is one of my favorites, because it is so layered, perfectly composed, and evocatively personified. The background scenery situates this in majestic nature — the steep, lushly forested cliffs make Taroko Gorge one of Taiwan’s signature tourist sites even now. Meanwhile, the building presents stark geometry, its sharp lines indicative of its rigid construction. The men are probably the most immediately eye-catching characters, scattered across the foreground in various poses of defiance. One guy even seems to be waving his sword? This was the year of a major incident in Hualian, and the aborigines were in no mood to be “pacified.” From the intensity of their direct stares, I definitely get the sense that the cameraman is intruding.

Yet, what is most fascinating to me is the canine detail, carefully set between two of the human characters in the foreground and quietly lurking somewhere in mid-ground, on the front porch of the building.

V1-p402 closeup

The flexed muscles and antagonistic stance of the man on the right is subtly offset by the casual posture of the dog lying in front of the door (I can’t quite make out what the other dog is doing). Now, hanging back and not approaching the camera may very well be the dog’s manner of expressing his disapproval. What I think is interesting is how perfectly those dogs fit into the gap between the foregrounded figures, as if this was a deliberate compositional choice. Or the whole thing could have been a happy accident, shot quickly just moments before the cameraman was charged and chased off the site. I have no idea. But this picture stirs my imagination in so many ways, I wish I had a large, sharp print to frame and hang and stare at every day.

Vol II, p. 83 (Year 1914): “力里社頭目在宅前處理剛獵獲的山豬,排灣族和所有台灣原住民一樣都愛狩獵,收押其槍枝,必然引發極大的風暴。” The chief of the Lili Society carves up a freshly caught mountain hog in front of his house. The Paiwan tribe, like the rest of the Taiwanese aborigines, love to hunt. Forced disarmament [by Japanese decree] inevitably caused a commotion.

You get a good sense of the size of the boar compared to the dog. The dogs were hunting partners and part of the tribe, and so naturally expected a share of the meat (the look on the face of the dog watching the butchering is so familiar). But it was the gun that brought down the animal, not the dog.

There’s more where these came from, but I’ll present them some other time. This is the fun part of research, after all — flipping through hundreds of pages of words and images, scanning for the traces of that which was deemed not important enough to index, but means the world to me. Sorry about the crooked frames and page glares. I had my choice of low resolution scans or higher resolution cell phone pictures, so this is what worked best for me at the time. Click on any of the pictures for a closeup.

The Cost of things: February 2014


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20140201 Ears

This is my fourth year of tracking pet finances at the House of Two Bows. This is an ongoing effort to get a practical sense of what it costs to keep two 20 ~ 30 pound adult dogs in an area of the US with relatively high costs of living. Previous posts in this series can be found under the category of finances.

The Cost of (Pet) Things for February 2014:

  • Food: $10 [previous month, $67]
  • Treats: $12 [previous, $50]
  • Grooming: $8 [previous, $0]
  • Vet & Medical: $121 [previous, $0]
  • Accessories and misc: $44 [previous, $23]
  • TOTAL: $195 [running average for 2014: ~$167.50/month]

Yeah for an awesomely low FOOD total! Well, that’s about as low as it ever gets, anyway. Rocking the power of 50% discounted chicken, cheap organs, and working through the food we already stockpiled.

For treats, the Bows got a bag of C.E.T. HEXtra Chews in the “petite/small” size, which I have found to work pretty well even though they’re marked for dogs under 11 pounds. The other sizes are made from chlorhexidine coated rawhide, while the petite size is about a five-inch long stick of what I can only describe as a “hide-like compound.” Well, I mean, they are made of actual beefhide, and other ingredients, but it doesn’t look like it. They seem less of a choking hazard and less apt to cause intestinal blockage for the Bows, anyway.

CET HEXtra chews, petite

These days, I’m hard pressed to find anything I need to bump up my PetMeds orders to reach their minimum threshold for free shipping. I tacked on one grooming/hygiene item, another tube of dog toothpaste, because an order was necessary in the next category.

For Vet and Medical needs, Bowdu got another 250 days of Soloxine refills at 8 cents a pill for 0.4 mg (or 0.2 mg per dose, twice a day) from PetMeds. That’s a good deal.

What was not a good deal and kind of pissed me off was that Comfortis prices have yet again been jacked up, at $100.53 for a box of 6 ordered directly from my vet. No free dose this time. This is up about $10 from last year, purchased at $92.12. Yet, it’s still cheaper to get it directly from the vet, since this is the only way you qualify for the ongoing Elanco rebate (minus $10 on a pack of 6, or $25 on a pack of 12). PetMeds charges $98.99 for the same amount, and the rebate does not qualify.

Not that the rebate is much to praise. My WTF, Elanco? post, in which I ranted about the company’s repeated difficulties with processing my simple rebate, has become one of this blog’s most visited and commented posts, even a year after I wrote it.

I swear, I only stick to Comfortis because we have no better alternative, specifically for Bowdu and his flea allergy dermatitis that is made worse with his thyroid condition (more on that in another post). Anyway, if I’m ever at the vet at the same time that the Elanco rep is dropping in, boy do I have a lot I want to say…

[Edit 7 March 2014: Elanco now has an online electronic rebate submission form. Interesting. Let's see if that streamlines the process at all...]

Finally, in accessories, I picked up a Hurtta outdoor jacket for Bowpi, because rain! (we need it badly, here in California). And I got it on sale at an excellent price! And her three-year-old Outward Hound jacket (pictured below) is getting ratty and in need of replacement!

Outdoor Hound jacket, three years later

And… and… Dammit, I really don’t have any good excuse to have spent $40+ (with shipping) on a freaking dog jacket. Sigh. I admit, I did it in a moment of weakness. The item hasn’t arrived yet, and I’m skeptical about feeling like my purchase was justified once I receive it. At least, given the good things I’ve heard about Hurtta, it better not suck.


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