Now is not the time to tell you about my time as a pilgrim on the Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan. Now is the time to tell you about this little pup who made the first leg of our journey a little less miserable.
It was a pretty awful first day. We walked out bright-eyed and bushy-tailed from the first of eighty-eight temples, straight into the pouring rain. Water squelched its way into my only pair of runners, making each step more annoying than the last. We trekked through flooded, muddy rice paddies, through sealed roads with roaring trucks spraying us at each pot hole they passed, through slippery rocks and dirt roads.
We don’t know the dog’s name, if it was a stray, or if its human knew where it was. All we know is that it latched onto the three of us as we left Dainichi-ji – temple number four – and brightened our day:
It quietly padded alongside us for most of the walk to the next temple, quite content to keep us company and allow us a pat or two.
We were kind of nervous at first because we were worried it was going to follow us so far it would get lost, so we kept it at arm’s length and tried not to encourage it. It seemed pretty adamant at taking care of us, though – when I lingered behind to take a photo of it, it paused, turned around and waited politely for me to catch up with the others.
A few hundred meters before we reached the next temple, it bid us farewell and trotted happily up the stairs to an Inari shrine, dedicated to the Shinto god of foxes, where it quickly disappeared from view. We never saw it again. Continuing on our journey, and in a contemplative mood, we wondered whether could have been the shrine’s shape-shifting kitsune spirit, trying to lead us off the henro path! Alas, we may never know…