Max and the Raccoon-Dog

Apropos of nothing, let’s talk about raccoon-dogs.

To start, here is a photo of Max sitting on our hearth next to a picture of himself and two statues of the famous Japanese raccoon-dogs known as tanuki.

Max Hearth

How totally dog-whipped are we that we have a picture of The Malt on our hearth alongside the actual Malt?

In Japanese folklore, tanuki nominally belong to a class of spirits known as yōkai which are essentially monster spirits but, unlike most of his contemporaries who have malevolent personalities, the tanuki is a fat and happy soul who is a bit rascally, loves his alcohol and brings good luck to establishments who position his statue at their front doors.


Rac Stat

Let’s just say that if your Aunt Alice had ’em, she’d be your Uncle Victor.

Whilst tanuki statues come in a variety of styles they typically share certain characteristics, the most obvious being an amazingly over-sized pair of testicles.  The other attributes of a quality tanuki representation include:

  • A jug of sake, representing the tanuki’s affection for a good drinking party.
  • Big eyes, to see truth and make good decisions
  • A pawful of unpaid promissory notes which dissonantly conveys his rascally yet trustworthy nature.
  • A bulbous belly (“curvy” in the parlance of the girls at 24 Hour Fitness) which the tanuki pats to make a drum-like sound. That FUPA screams wealth and indulgence!
  • A big tail which serves as the raccoon-dog’s anchor and foundation on the long road to success.
  • A wide, goofy smile which simply represents a wide, goofy smile thereby confirming Dr. Freud’s assertion regarding cigars.

While your common or garden variety of tanuki has more nuts than Mr. Planter, those huge boys have nothing to do with fertility or such.

Nope. Instead, they symbolize wealth and good money management. The story is that the skin of a tanuki is so tough, one could fill the raccoon-dog’s scrotal sac with gold leaf and hammer it so thin it would cover an entire floor.

Jeezum crow, that’s a real leg-crosser of a statement, isn’t it? Hurts just to think about. But I digress.


Say “konnichi-wa” to a real tanuki, a Japanese raccoon-dog. They are about 60 cm long which is about 2 feet.

By now you might be thinking that the tanuki is just a mythical creature. Au contraire, Japanese raccoon-dogs are real animals.

They are often confused with a badger or raccoon but are neither — the tanuki is a most unusual species of dog with distinctive stripes of black fur under its eyes and some very unusual behaviors. For example, it is the only canine that hibernates. Not only that, they hibernate communally.


Whilst appealing to a degree, the raccoon-dogs will probably not oust the Maltese as a family pet. (photo: Shutterstock)

For a creature so well-endowed, the raccoon-dog does not act assertively. It never saunters like a bow-legged cowboy into cheap dive bars. It never man-spreads on commuter trains. Rather than a gruff bark or intimidating growl, it’s vocalization is a thin high-pitched howl more associated with canine castrati.

Raccoon-dogs are generally monogamous and have a good temperament. The male of the species is said to be a compassionate partner and father. Scientists have observed TD’s (Tanuki Dads) bringing food to their pregnant mates, and after their partner gives birth, they take an active, role in the parenting of pups. Shoots, they probably hold their spouse’s purse when shopping at the mall.

In old Japan, tanuki were hunted for their meat and fur. In fact, even up to now the fur of the raccoon-dog is actively traded.

In 2008, the Humane Society of the United States filed claims against a couple dozen U.S. retailers after finding that 70 percent of faux fur garments they analyzed actually contained raccoon dog fur which, in the biz, is known as murmansky.

The raccoon-dog is not endangered but the population of wild tanuki has been decreasing of late.

Of course, all of this begs the question: could a tanuki be a satisfactory household pet, perhaps a suitable substitute for, say, a very picky and pushy Maltese dog? There are advantages and disadvantages to consider.

On the plus side, raccoon-dogs don’t bark, don’t crave for attention, will eat almost anything, sleep most of the day, don’t have to be kept inside and choose a fixed place for potty breaks. They are a bit stand-offish but not aggressive and can be leash-trained. And, just in case tanuki trivia matters to you, their tails can only move up and down, never wagging side to side.

On the other paw, tanuki are not attentive, they’re thoroughly useless as guard-dogs, they don’t learn tricks, they shed explosively every spring, are prone to mange and never become cuddly pets. At best, you can only achieve a medium level of domestication with the raccoon-dog. And, since I know you are wondering…yes, in real life they indeed have very large gonads.

So, after careful consideration, I think we’ll keep our eunuch Maltese after all.


Max would look even better if he had a jug of sake or maybe just a keg of Pilsner Urquell.


24 replies

    • Aloha Jackie! As you know there was never a chance Maxwell would get the boot. He’s got us twisted about his paw and knows it. He’s adjusted very well to life on the Mainland and as he approaches his 10th birthday is as active and energetic as always which, of course, means he continues to sleep all day and avoid any exertion beyond a stroll to his food dish. Say “hi” to all the friends at Hale Kaheka!


    • We all know you have a soft spot for small white dogs. But maybe you should try a raccoon-dog. It would probably be the only one in Ireland. Do you guys even have regular raccoons there? (btw, please do not read Helen Devries comment , below, about any purported similarities between tanuki and Irish politicians in Boston. I don’t want a recurrence of the Troubles on this silly dog blog.) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • We prefer to think that we are richer in spirit albeit far poorer in monetary terms. Far, far poorer. We have re-classified Max within the family budget as “entertainment” since he consistently exceeded his allotted amount as a Pet.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } Max, Buddy the Maltese dog 🐶 says, you need to be careful of all kinds of critters when going outside.  We have all kinds of nasty animals that would love ❤️ to have Buddy the Maltese dog 🐶 for a snack.  So with that I have taught him the names of all the animals he needs to watch out for. Great to hear from you, stay well & safe.Fondly,Audrey & Buddy Tavel

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Audrey and Buddy the Maltese Dog! Max has a fully enclosed backyard and is somewhat insulated from animal and other perils in the neighborhood. The biggest threat are coyotes, of which there are many, and they have great jumping abilities and could clear our fence line if they were after a plump, tasty Malt. Also the occasional rattlesnake but they shy from our developed digs. I guess he is exposed to danger when the AJF takes him walking but even a rabid hyena on meth would wisely fear the wrath of the AJF.


    • Are you deliberately trying to start a war with KittyKat? And did I mention my Irish heritage? Or perhaps your accurate characterization of the Back Bay Boys was a compliment? Certainly the booze and bonhommie (hon, hon as we say in Francais) are still trademarks of the politicians but you don’t see much in the way of the third item mentioned.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just wonder…are politicans given a special op on taking up their functions? One that leaves the balls intact for speeches urging more patriotic fervour (on the part of others) and for encounters with broads (usually skeletal females) but coshes them when it comes to doing what they were elected to do…stand up for their consttuents.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, I don’t know about “fervour” because it has an unnecessary “u”, (snorf, snorf) but as I age and a generation matures never having seen a day when we were not at war, my tolerance of old pols sending young men and women to fight overseas for dubious benefit to my country thins considerably. I avoid politics on this silly blog but with our Memorial Day coming this weekend, the topic you raise kind of gets under my skin. “Raises my Irish” as Granmither Galbraith would have said.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you made the right choice. You know that you timed this post on the exact night that Bear Grylls’s new show was on with actor Sterling K. Brown, and they had to dig a frozen dead trash panda out of the tundra to eat and Sterling turned into a squeamish child who said he feared all raccoons because he’d seen a pack of them “devour a cat.” But Bear forced him to eat it so there.

    At first, I thought the tanuki might be my spirit animal, but I am female so no. These pictures don’t make me want to touch them, but rather make a sharp coonskin cap. And I’m 99% sure that “Murmansky” was actually a male mermaid act in the Poconos back during the Depression.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, that comment took me on a voyage. Wine night? More references than a Funk and Wagnalls. I don’t care if it’s a tanuki or a trash panda, I am NOT going to sample any raccoon fricasee and neither will Max! I agree they might make a nice cap – by the way, as a kid I had a genyouwine Davey Crockett coonskin hat and knew how to do the “coonskin hello.” I never met a depressed Ethel Murmansky in the Poconos but maybe she had one too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Now I have to google the “coonskin hello.” I bet Max would like a little raccoon filet, but he might be above that. My dog killed a possum last week and just left it in the yard to rot. I’m like, “That’s meat for you, dog!” Oy vey. And boy howdy, do I WISH it was wine night. No alcohol for me this year. This is how I think sober.


    • We were tent-camping once at Oak Creek outside Sedona and the AJF had to make a pee run in the middle of the night. She got about ten feet from the tent when she encountered a raccoon (or trash panda if you prefer). I don’t know which screamed louder – the poor old coon or the AJF. In either case, the result was humiliating for me as several other campers, a ranger and I think Seal Team Six descended on the scene of the crime. AJF stood there with a roll of toilet paper in her hands yelling at me for putting her in that predicament and did I never learn the word “hotel” as a child? Ah, Arizona and raccoons…I’ll never forget. I’ll never be allowed to forget.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. My biped seemed quite enthusiastic about no barking! She also laughed and said it couldn’t be worse than me about the explosive moulting! But she wouldn’t swap me.


All comments are welcome, so speak! Speak! Good dog.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.