‘Dog days’ arrive with Chinese New Year

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    The Chinese Year of the Dog starts barking Friday.

What do Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa and Elvis Presley have in common? They were all, it turns out, born in a “Year of the Dog,” which will run from Chinese New Year on Feb. 16, 2018, to Feb. 4, 2019.

But there’s more to it than that. Reading further from the “Culture” section of the Internet — www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/dog.htm — I learned that each of these well-known heroes was born in different dog-day years. By the Chinese horoscope way of reckoning, there were different factors at work under differing categories. The statesman and the singer idol turn out to be “Wood Dogs,” and the saint happens to have been born a “Gold Dog.” My mind jumped to the associated British bulldog, and “Hound Dog” (strange!), then skittered on to the donated funds (gold) that fed the poor of the Calcutta slums through Mother Teresa’s ministry (Hmm … ).

If you or your family members fall into the Dog Years of the Chinese Zodiac, you may have fun checking out the China Highlights link. It seems the repeats of the five various categories of dog repeat in 60-year cycles.

Since Churchill and Presley had a widespread age difference, I wondered about that. The young Winston, I’d read, achieved some degree of early fame as a war correspondent through his escape from captors at the end of the 19th century during the first Anglo-Boer War; the book he then penned describes his ordeal. I remembered seeing Elvis the first time he debuted on the Ed Sullivan show in the mid-1950s. As for Mother Teresa, she was the headmistress of my big sister’s convent school in Calcutta in the early 1940s.

If you go further into boning up on the Chinese zodiac, you’ll find that for every lucky thing, there is an unlucky one. This shouldn’t be surprising: the balancing of yin and yang as a concept is familiar worldwide via the easily recognizable “taichi symbol” (taijitu) of Chinese philosophy (that has even ridden its way into the world of surfing). The twinned dark-light and negative-positive halves, each containing a seed of the other, represent opposites that are complementary. It seems they may even create each other through the effect of their polarized interrelationship.

And so, Dear Readers, if you get “curious and curiouser,” you may easily find more on the predictions for Dog Year people in 2018: personality, health, best careers and love prospects — subject matter most of us would find helpful, given foreknowledge, or even a hint or pointer.

Speaking of pointers, it amazes me to see the variety of dogs people own and, of course, walk or run, considering that the dog, or ilio, was a food item to Polynesians at a far distant point, their teeth destined to be fashioned into adornments. Those dogs were not so lucky as the kind that noticed, pampered, talked about and treated like “children” in today’s society.

We’ve all heard (or told) some heart-warming first-hand dog stories, and some bone-chilling ones, too. And there you have the yin and yang, both ends of the spectrum.

Just last week I witnessed a cute, small black-and-white service dog sit patiently beside his mistress throughout a two-hour rehearsal of the Kauai Community College Orchestra; I became apprehensive about a snarling, neighborhood guard dog who, thankfully, is kept in a yard surrounded by a high fence. Then, there are the friendly black Lab who strolls out with his owner, my nurse neighbor; the jumpy, yippy little pooch who makes a big show of guarding the perimeter of his yard’s chainlink fence; the joyous dog who churns sand to bury the stick he’s saved from the beach waves; and the old, old dog who stretches out on his sun-warmed driveway at the extent of his leash and doesn’t give a yip about territory protection.

I’ll welcome your dog tales, Dear Readers, and hope to capture them in a column this Dog Year. Meanwhile, don’t forget to celebrate our Chinese New Year with at least a rousing round of “Gong Hee Fot Choy” (Greetings of Riches). And if you’ve used up all those Year of the Rooster stamps, check out the Year of the Dog ones at your local post office. They’re timely and colorful, but I challenge you to find the dogs. Next year in the 12-animal cycle, the zodiacal Pig is to come rooting around once again (like the real Kauai “peegs”).

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Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live with books, music and birds in Wailua Homesteads. Word is that, according to the Chinese Zodiac, they get along well as a Dragon and a Tiger (so-so with Dogs). The writer’s books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon. For further information, write to tropicbirdpress@gmail.com

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