With an average life span of 83.7 years and the most centenarians per capita on the planet, Okinawans are touted and envied for their longevity. Not only for humans, but maybe even dogs, as evidenced by 18-year old, aptly named Okie. She’s the equivalent of 88 human years, according to WebMD. That would undoubtedly make Okie one of the oldest lifelong residents of Glen Park.
Okie is often spotted out and about with her guardian, John Artates, 71, another lifelong Glen Parker. Artates lives in the same house he grew up in on Chenery Street — another neighborhood distinction. When in the village, John walks Okie on leash, just like any other dog. Artates likes more exercise and natural surroundings, though, and that’s a problem for Okie when he takes her to Glen Canyon Park.
Okie is a herder and a rat hunter and, on her 25-foot leash, likes to roam the hills in search of gophers and other rodents. On at least three outings in the park, she’s been chased by coyotes. Since then, when Artates tries to take her there, Okie–no fool–digs in her paws, stops in her tracks and refuses to budge. The standoff has resulted in a compromise, whereby Artates takes Okie into the park, seated like royalty, in her red doggie stroller. Everyone is happy now.
Okie’s travels extend far beyond Glen Park. Artates hooks up the stroller to his electric bike (pre-Covid) and he and Okie hit the road for Palo Alto by way of Candlestick Park. Okie would sleep part of the way while Artates watches her in the rear view mirror. Then, “We’d have lunch for five hours on University Avenue.”
Artates and Okie have been best friends for all of Okie’s life, except for her first six months. His career was as a civilian with the Military Airlift Command, a branch of the US Air Force. He was frequently stationed in Asia, particularly in Okinawa, Japan. There, through a breeder, he found Okie, who was born in 2002. But he couldn’t take her back home right away. There was a lot of paperwork, shots, red tape, and a quarantine, until she arrived in the US at six months old.
Okie is a very rare breed. On the small side, weighing in at thirty pounds, she’s a mix of Shiba Inu and Welsh Corgi. Shiba Inus were raised to guard the palace in the Japanese emperor’s court; Welsh Corgis, as many know, are the breed favored by the queen of England. At some point, the emperor and the queen wanted to see how this royal combination would turn out (so the story goes). Turns out, pretty well.
Okie is very calm and friendly and has an overall quiet disposition. She’s well known among the neighborhood kids: “She’s the only dog I’ve had that always loves kids,” says Artates and, in fact, Shiba Inu are noted for guarding children. According to Wikipedia, “The dog has a spirited boldness and is fiercely proud with a good nature and a feeling of artlessness. The Shiba is able to move quickly with nimble, elastic steps.”
Okie doesn’t bark and likes everyone–except two people in Glen Park. When she sees either one of them, she growls and bares her teeth. Only she knows what the rest of us don’t.
Since Artates retired in 2014, he’s done a lot of maintenance on his house, the usual stuff: fresh paint, etc. Okie has been in robust good health, except lately she’s developed an impacted tooth. Surgery might not be possible at her age, so while Artates is weighing the options he’s been spending 24/7 tending to Okie, pureeing steak and massaging her mouth, and setting the house projects aside.
“I’m not ready for her to go,” says Artate. “I’m selfish.”
*Beg to differ.*