Teaching an old dog (breed) new tricks
On July 19th (2011), Mr. Futaba (二葉), who belongs to an indigenous breed of Japanese dogs, known as shiba-ken (柴犬), became the first Japanese dog to qualify as a police dog in postwar Japanese history. He will be serving with the Okayama Prefectural Police Department. It was his third attempt at qualifying, after having failed the exam in the fiscal years 2009, 2010. The third time was the charm, proving the Japanese saying, (三度目の正直・sandome no shojiki=the third time is when a victory is really decided) is both true for humans and canines as well.
Mr. Futaba is 50 centimeters tall, and weighs 11 kilograms. In compliance with the personal privacy information protection act (個人情報保護法), the Okayama Prefectural Police Department will remain silent on Futaba’s real age. He is not over the age limit.
He will be spending the next year primarily searching for missing persons. In a normal year in Japan, one without colossal earthquakes and killer tsuami, over 80,000 people are reported missing; he will be one very busy dog.
According to the Asahi Shinbun, typically, native Japanese canines make very poor police dogs because, “they are stubborn, go at their own pace, and do not listen to orders from anyone other than their own masters.” In many ways, this passage could be used to describe the average Japanese bureaucrat–they also make for poor police officers.
Up until now, reverse discrimination had relegated most prime police dog positions to foreign breeds, but Mr. Shibata’s inspiring victory has shown Japan and the world that it is possible to teach an old dog (breed) new tricks.