Sunday, December 11, 2011

Alex super vet tech!!

This week sees the departure of an amazingly inspirational volunteer. She came in from the States with Kinship Circle the first time round, went home after 3 and a bit months, came back again and has been doing the massive rounds that the volunteers of the Inawashiro shelter do with nothing short of vim and vigour!!
She is headed back Stateside to get back to life that she put on hold by selflessly coming out here to volunteer for 6 months. She is bringing a little bit of "Made in Japan" back with her a mom cat and two of her babies and a pound dog. Thing is, she wasn't expecting to bring back the doggie and the costs associated with doing so  are creeping up. A friend of hers created a chip in for the venture and I have posted the link below. I hope you if you have any spare change knocking around you could send a little her way and help get this 1 year old pound baby out, and over to the States with her. Thank you

Friday, December 9, 2011


Where on earth does the time go? I've been very remiss with regard to my blogging. The semester started in second gear and quickly revved up to 5th. Life is coming at me hammer and tongs and I'm thoroughly engaged in deflecting, delegating, defying and deliberating over all the curve balls with my name on them. 3 more months sees me at the end of my 6 year stint at this institution of 'higher' learning. Time to move on, not far, just a realignment of what matters in life here. While my brother is calling this readjustment my mid-life crises, I'm calling it prioritising :-)

I haven't given up on the Northern furbs (or the ones in Okinawa either, having picked up two kittens in the last 4 months). I was able to negotiate a donation of $15,000 worth of science equipment for our volunteer vets in Fukushima and continued to collect donations of pet food and pet items. In my blog hiatus I was able to send over 100kg of food North and what seemed like a billion kennels. I am now very well acquainted with packing tape and cardboard boxes. While I thought  I would eventually have mastered "a technique" I'm sorry to report the packing gene did not get passed down and I suffer greatly every time I come near the sticky stuff :-) "Sure it is for a good cause" I console myself.

So I'll keep it brief for my re-entry into the world of blogging and leave you with a little Okinawan lad we picked up in an awful state at a 24 hour charity Mararthon for Tohoku.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

World Animal Day

October is choca-full of animal-ness with vegetarian awareness month, vegetarian day, No harm done week and today; World Animal Day. This is the month that it is all happening in the animal kingdom............... internationally that is. Here in nihon-land we are little bit behind the times and the concepts of having a day for everything if it doesn't fit in with a numbered date.Although us here at JEARS are trying our hardest to change that state of affairs. We have a candle light vigil going on on Facebook and have changed our profile pics to candles. There is also an awesome virtual site where you can cyber-listicly (once again I apologise to any English teacher who ever endured me in their classes!!) light candles. (it is free and easy to do) We have chosen to honour the fourleggeders of Tohoku.Not only those that survived the horrendous natural disasters of March 11th yet are at the rainbow bridge now  because of human rules and regulations but those who are STILL waiting to be rescued.The international community are most likely not seeing reports on animals in and around the zone but be assured those poor haggard souls are still scraping by. So if you have a minute or two please let JEARS know you are supporting them with your thoughts.

On a personal note, I had a pretty successful week as far as getting the word out was concerned. I was interviewed for the national newspaper; The Japan Times and believed I was a contributing person for Maruko's story. The article turned out to be about JEARS, Maruko and I. It was picked up by a Brazilian daily today and wheee heeeee we are off. Maruko's camera shy family and I are in touch and it is certainly a wonderfully happy ending. So if I can just send a little prayer up to the people in heaven's animal department, that there may be many more reunions like Maruko's I would be a happy camper. I might just slip Setsuo's name in there a few times too because I'm three brick walls short of a dozen at the moment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Abandonment- a first hand account

Two wonderful volunteers from Tokyo, Anna Vieste and Etsuko Hori, recently spent time at the JEARS shelter in Inawashiro, Fukushima prefecture. A formerly popular ski area. I say "formerly" because the name Fukushima is now internationally synonymous with the sentiment `Danger Keep Out` and the droves of visitors who sought out Fukushima's natural beauty are thin on the ground these days. The JEARS shelter is located about 130km away from the TEPCO plant. The shelter offers sanctuary to abandoned animals from all over Tohoku and peace of mind to pet guardians who temporarily place their animals in JEARS care while they get the rest of their lives up and running again. Anna penned the following account of her recent volunteer experiences with the human Angels of Inawashiro. Her trip to Namie, a town 30km away from the nuclear plant. 
A surreal story of the forgotten fourleggeders of Fukushima.
 On Saturday we (Etsuko and I ) went with Alex to Namie town in Fukushima to do some food drops. After showing the appropriate passes we entered the abandoned town, geiger counter on lap and face masks uncomfortably in place. Alex said we should put them on when the counter hits 2.0 which it did well before the entrance to the ghost town. At first it seemed a li...ttle surreal how the counter started climbing up 2 - 5- 10 -12 -13 -20 finally up to 30 .The strangest most unsettling part of the trip was the totally abandoned town..houses unlocked with slippers neatly arranged at the entrance. Deserted businesses, machinery left to rust , a little van left neatly at the side of the road ivy creeping up over the windshield and doors, grass covering the foot paths on the side of the roads .

As we stopped to leave yet more food at a designated spot 2 young cats came running up right in the middle of the road seemingly unaware of what a road should be. We left food near houses were their feline occupants had been left to fend for themselves and saw kittens born well after the quake growing up in a world devoid of humans. Alex told us of a recent trip where she had spotted wild boars and babies which had now started breeding.

Please take me with you!

We went to visit and feed a poor dog that had been left chained up by a sad little dirty filthy kennel........its only shelter. JEARS had been in contact with his owner begging to take the dog and care for him assuring the owners that they could visit whenever they liked but they refused and said they go twice a week to leave food.(as if that was more than enough) They warned that there were now wild boar and he wouldnt stand a chance. Their warnings falling on deaf ears. We saw animal footprints near his kennel out of reach from his leash so he is being visited by others who may want to take his food. He fell in love with Etsuko and we started sobbing at having to walk away from him praying his owners would come to their senses before it was too late.
See More
 Then the eeriest of all ... the spiders! They were simply everywhere spinning their webs from power lines on sign posts over almost everything...The absence of movement and human vibrations creating their ideal environment. Even a trio of wasps nests that had taken over the eaves of a house didn't deter them . At first we marveled at their bright lime coloured bodies and strong webs but the further in we went and the more spiders we saw the admiration turned to an uneasy nervousness. There were just so many and they were simply everywhere that we wondered how many may be there in a few months time.

When and if the inhabitants of these deserted towns ever go back what will they find? How will the animal inhabitants cope with their return? How will the animals cope with the coming winter?
JEARS does amazing work leaving food, capturing cats to spay and neuter, caring for any sick animals they find. And all WITHOUT government assistance! There is no animal fund no money coming to help these poor creatures or assist their owners to be able to take them to temporary housing. Its so sad and seems actually barbaric that they can just be treated like the rest of the abandoned objects left to rot and rust.

The girls at the inawashiro shelter do the drops twice a week rain, hail, shine and radiation . It takes about 6~7 hours to drive there do the drops and get back. Sometimes Alex Susan or Selena have to do this alone if there is no one else available to help! AMAZING!

I had a lift back to Tokyo the next day new family member Sophi in her carrier (and her complaining meows) on my lap appreciating my life all the more and as always in complete admiration and gratitude of the important selfless work JEARS does!
— at Tokyo, Japan.

For those animals who didn't make it,  those who were rescued and those who are still holding on in the hopes of being rescued.
World Animal Day .October 4th 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Catching up with old friends

While up in HEART I had the privilege to reconnect with a few rescues from Iwate ken. Pitan and Taro the two corgis Tiffany and I pulled from Miyako pound and Ofunato pound.

Pitan, while still a little on the corpulent side, had definitely slimmed down. The butt waddle wasn't nearly as pronounced and she didn't need to rest every five steps.In fact she was quite chipper and was well able to keep up with her companions on the walks. The only thing that would stop her dead in her tracks was the remotest inclination that we may have possibly walked through the teeniest split second waft of something edible.She was a machine when it came to all things food.The volunteers ate lunch down in the lower office with the four legged inhabitants who resided there. Although Pitan had only just joined the pre-fab gang she had already gently asserted herself as "Chief Lunch Implorer" by simply being persistent. The others would soon realise they were onto a loser begging for tidbits from ravenous volunteers but Pitan's resilience remained undeterred.Her furry companions would drift off into their afternoon siesta while Pitan remained ever vigilant in the presence food. She was a hoot. Second place on Pitan's list of 'likes' was petting. This lady likes her shoulders rubbed and ears scratched and sure, if we weren't useful for getting food out of, at least we could bestow that upon her, right?:-) She was in great spirits and it was wonderful to see her doing so well now all this lovely lady needs is a home to call her own.

On her way to becoming a super model:-)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Maruko's happy ending

Maruko,last week at HEART  6 months on
This lucky lady certainly has a guardian angel or two shining down on her. In brief, she was trapped under rubble left in the wake of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. She was stuck for 11 days. When she got out she was surrendered to the city pound and was due to be gassed the day we met her. Along with a local vet, a local couple and our three Japanese speaking volunteers, we argued, beseeched and plagued the city hall officials to show mercy in her case. Begrudgingly they did. Maruko spent time in the Niigata shelter and the Heart Tokushima shelter where The video I made of her and her story was posted on their blog. Her owners found the site and got in touch.Today she was flown up to Sendai where her owners met her for the first time in 6 months. Local TV were there to report it.

Long version: (because you know I don't do short very well;-))
SO for the background of all the original shenanigans at the city hall you can read these blog entries. walls of bureaucracy that we kept coming up against had no right to be there given later information. Maruko should never have been in such a precarious situation.

It turns out that Maruko's owners had indeed handed her over to city hall on account of having nowhere to keep her after she was retrieved. She was handed over to be taken care of. Yes, you read right, TAKEN CARE of. They never signed any paperwork to relinquish their dog as is the case when someone does not want their pet any more. They believed Maruko was going to be held so they could sort things out and then they could come and get her. They returned to get her and the city hall would not divulge any information as to Maruko's whereabouts. The only thing they were told was that Maruko was still alive. The college age daughter pursued as many avenues as she possibly could to find their dog and find her she did. HEART has a blog and they wrote up Maruko's story and added the video I made. About 6 weeks ago Heart got a phone call from Sendai that ended in tears.The Maruko in HEART's care was indeed the Maruko they had been looking for. Since then all the angel's in charge of fourleggeders have been setting things in motion for her to be back where she belongs. Today was the culmination of those efforts and Miss Maruko has gone home.... FINALLY ;-)

Maruko at Sendai this morning

Friday, September 16, 2011

Beating the heat!

We lucked out! There was a typhoon on the horizon a few days before we headed up to Tokushima. It miraculously dissipated before we got there. We had a rain free, hot and sunny week to work under and we just did a handbrake skid in sideways arrival back to Okinawa before typhoon 15's presence started to be felt.

Our week was HOT. without a drop of rain from the heavens but we had sound counsel on how to keep our cool.

1. Only walk in shaded areas.

2.When close to a natural water source, get in.

3.If no natural water source is available but there is water provided, get in.

4.Try to drink plenty of fluids even if a friend is IN the water source.       

5.Don't take no for an answer when it comes to getting your fluids despite obstacles.
 We had a teency tiny glimpse of everyday life at Heart Tokushima and were humbled at the fantastic things being achieved there.Susan, Hitoshi, Yamada san, and Tamura san and their wonderful supporters are truly national champions for the furbies that cross their path. Thank you for doing what you do and doing it so well!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Round 4 :-)

Yup, I'm heading North again. This time to HEART Tokushima where many many of the animals that were rescued have found warm hearts and plenty of belly rubs. The official "disaster period" as declared by the Govt. will end on September 11th, 6 months after the tragedy. It makes sense to move on and look to the future but with some of the tiny isolated communities only seeing the START of clean up work it is hard to fathom such a final statement.There are regular Face Book calls from many of the established groups for hands to help in the clean up operations.

I`m getting asked one question with more and more frequency lately. It is, "Is there still stuff to be done?" You wouldn`t believe how much `stuff` there still is to be done on all levels. I'm only really dealing with the animal side of things here so that's what I'll stick to.

For the animals affected by these events it has been nothing short of a nightmare, especially in the Fukushima area. A brief recap: Folks were told to evacuate and not to take their pets, they'd be back in a few days. They weren't allowed back. Then restrictions started to ease, people started to go back to either continue to feed their animals OR let them loose. Then the evacuation area became mandatory and people were shipped in in buses (one person per household) and they were given two hours to 'raid ' their own house for important documents. NO pets allowed to be taken back. Then the 20km exclusion zone was calcified and apart from a few stalwarts the area became off limits to everyone.It has been that way since May.There have been some  "official" vet team trips in to assess the animal situation, some trips not allowing animal retrieval AT ALL. In June there was talk of extending the radius to 30km but the plan was successfully argued down given that radiation does not infact actually travel in concentric circles like the founders of the 20km zone seemed to believe. Air had been monitored and it was discovered that particles had traveled in a tear shape pattern to the North West. Since the beginning of the Summer some residents outside the 20km zone but directly under the radiation graphic have started to voluntarily evacuate and many times the animals don't go with.What JEARS are facing now are ghost villages, and because spay neuter was never really a big thing here to begin with they are getting inundated with litters of kittens and puppies. It is heartbreaking to watch unfold, there are so many 'if only's'about the whole situation. I don't want to look back and have those thoughts about my own actions, so I'm still here and still standing up to be counted.

I come bearing donations :-)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

.................Still Waiting..................

So after not seeing any movement or hearing any updates a month down the road for Setsuo, I rang around just to be sure that no one else had been contacted. Numbers can get lost, wires can get crossed and things can go astray.Given the circumstances it wouldn't be too wild a concept to get your head around.Not sight nor sound had been heard about Setsuo. A call to City Hall was in order.

I called. I was put on hold. I was hung up on........ inadvertently....maybe? I called again. I was put on hold again.A voice came back and said "Sorry the person you wish to reach will be back after lunch". Ok, Human to human, a step in the right direction at least. After lunch I went through the same drill and was told the person I wanted to speak to wasn't coming in for the rest of the day and that it would be better to call tomorrow. Alrighty, any particular time? "yes, before lunch". 10 o'clock the next morning......well you get the picture! This went on an entire week. I made 18 long distance phone calls from Okinawa to Iwate. Yup, stubborn, I know. But if you want the job done, you gotta do it yourself, right? By the time call 12 was put on hold, the lady on the recievng end of my stalker-like repetitive calls and I were on first name terms, she also realised I wasn't going to go away.

Finally my lucky day, I got to talk to the vet. He acted surprised that JEARS hadn't heard from the family.  Knowing and understanding their reluctance to give personal details out over the phone, I gave them my personal details and asked the City Hall to please have them contact me directly. They assured me this would happen forthwith. After all they had the documents Setsuo's family had to sign to turn him in right?........right?

A few days later, the groomer lady we had been in touch with before, called me. She said City Hall had called her looking for the contact details of Setsuo's family. As they say here....... eehhhhhhhhhhhhh???
(start your crescendo by the fourth 'h' and you'll sound completely native like!)

 She then took it upon herself to do the contacting. She tried in vain to get in touch.So she determined that they had moved on and away therefore we could re home Setsuo. nnnnnnnnnggggghhhhhhhhh doesn't feel right , does it? I want to hear that from the horse's mouth. I was led to believe Setsuo was given up reluctantly and under duress. Am I naive to think they'd be thrilled to see him again after what they believed they had done? I know how I would feel, but maybe I'm extrapolating again. Every so often I have to remind myself that the average Joe Soap out there isn't as barmy about animals as I. This unfortunately is a 'watch- this-space' kind of story as my 18 phone call legacy will attest, I'm not going away any time soon:-) Gambarimashou!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


And from there he huddled in the back of his carrier, in the back of the car the whole journey back to Sendai. Except for the service area stop.

We pulled off at a plush rest stop that I had used on the  previous two trips. They had the swankiest, dark wood finished, spacious, wheelchair accessible, toilet ROOM, that I have ever seen, let alone at a road side service area. On my first trip in March this place had notices up in all the western-style toilets apologising profusely for the ice-cold unheated toilet seats that their esteemed patrons were  accustomed to. They were of course trying to save electricity when there were rolling power cuts throughout the Northern regions.

My intention, on this warmer night two months later, was to let Setsuo out to stretch his legs, clean out any messes made in the carrier, and play for a teency bit of respite from his cramped quarters. Every cat (9 total thus far , (not all together)) I had given "stretch time" in this room,  had gingerly stepped out of their crate, sniffed the air, approved the interior finishes and come for cuddles.

Naively expecting the same, I lifted the latch on the gridded door, stepped away and waited for Master Setsuo to put in an appearance. He was a no show. My upside down head slowly lowered to  level with the portal he should have peered through. Sure that, I suppose would freak anyone out! my hair and countenance succumbing to gravity, was just too much for the furry fellow and he hissed and lurched at me.......... Ok message heard loud and clear. I`ll just be over here in this corner if you need me. To which his reply was "Enjoy your corner, I'm staying here!".

Again, naiviety reigned supreme in my grey matter and I believed for a second I could out-smart the cat. Note to self: Regardless of Eureka moments and idea bulbs flashing in mind's eye, YOU, a humble human can never "out-smart" a feline. I unclipped the top section of the kennel and removed it. Exposing Setsuo to the full glory of the designer roadside potty stop. He instantanteously took a liking to the gap between the floor and the large ceramic pipe in at the back of the toilet bowl. Rather than try to hoosh him out I went back to my corner of the room to see if curiosity would get the better of him.After all, the chrome finishes had attracted all his other furry predecessors in this joint. I waited, waited and then waited some more. Nope, I was witnessing the first kitty transported with the curiosity switch turned off. No worries, I  knew he had been through a lot so this extra open space was probably not as enticing as I thought it could have been . Time to get Setsuo back into his comfort zone, reclip the carrier, position it as close to the back of the loo as possible and entice Setsuo back in. Looks plain and simple in black and white right? It did in my head too, Setsuo's logic was a tad different. The bend in the toilet piping had a lot more stability to it than the plastic carrier. A lot of epithelial tissue samples from me later, Setsuo was back in the carrier. For the rest of the trip home that is where he stayed because that is where he was somewhat reassured and felt 'protected'. I had wanted to do my best for him and his comfort levels but failed, by expecting him to be like all the other cats I had helped bring back. Instead I think I unintentionally managed to stress him out more.Sorry Setsuo!!

After a night in Sendai, we drove him and the rest of the gang to Inawashiro. He stayed edgy for a while but eventually grew to trust the volunteers there. He has been moved again to the JCN in Shiga where things have gotten a whole lot better for him.

I have just one niggle with regard to his case though. It is a niggle I'm working on but I keep meeting brick walls. It always seems  easier for folks to say 'no' outright as it eases their work burden. Setsuo`s owners don't know he is still alive. They were obliged to hand him in to city hall which, as I have said before, means a one way ticket to the pearly gates. I confirmed with JEARS and told city hall we would keep Setsuo as long as it took the folks to get back on their feet. We just needed to know from them, whether they would like Setsuo back in a year or so, OR should we try to re-home him. City hall said they would be in touch.....................................................................................................................

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In Limbo

There are some stories that have taken me a while to get to because of the 'grrrr' factor they raise within. They just make me want to rant, rant and rant some more. While I promise I won't go ballistic don't judge me if I get a little tetchy around the edges while recounting this one.It is a cat story (sorry they were underrepresented in this trip!)

Setsuo was always in the background, an add-on when it came to the last trip north. Calling the Hokenjyo he was appended to the main conversation as oh, we have a cat too. An after thought because he was shy, fearful and didn't know what on earth was going on. Bounced around from one bizarre situation to another he preferred the simplicity and safety of the back of his carrier.His doting people had been told they could then couldn't be then could be again accepted by the evacuation center as the second floor of their house was still "habitable" but the structure was "unsafe".

Side note here: The earthquake of March 11th produced hundreds of after shocks. In many people's mind an aftershock is just a little readjustment shake after the main event. These rockers were of a magnitude that would be reported in the news as individual full blown earthquakes had they not come in after the big guy. Now there is a science behind it, (as there is everything) but I'm not au courant. Them there scientists can decipher which shake can be dubbed an aftershock and which is an individual seismic event. I just know the earth is moving for me and it is not a joyous event!

This house still had residents

So those who were eventually asked NOT to seek refuge in the community evacuation centers were obliged to go back to their homes that for the most part were gutted bare structure on the first floor and live on the second floor. Possibly an ok temporary solution if it hadn't been for Mother Nature's constant rocking and rolling.

So Setsuo's family were borderline. Accepted into the evacuation center but their permanence there was in limbo until a city official could go around and assess their abode. They managed to keep the second floor relatively sealed so they could keep their Setsuo there. The young lady visited every day and made sure he was doing alright given the circumstances. The family stayed at the center. These living arrangements were endured for 3 months before the family finally got their own prefab in the temporary housing areas. Sighs of relief were issued all around. Finally Setsuo didn't have to live alone in an unsafe,leaky second floor. He could be with his people at last.

When the local authorities were assigining the first groups of people to their new quarters little thought was givent o neighbours sticking with neighbours, pet owners alongside pet owners, old folks neighbouring young children etc. You know, the way neighbourhoods naturally evolve? But it seems these situations became issues for people that were living in each other's pockets. Setsuo ran into the non-pet owners problem.

Neighbours on BOTH sides of Setsuo's prefab developed instantaneous skin reactions to the cat living next to them. A cat that they had no interaction or face to face time with. Suddenly it was imperative that this feline was moved on. Nothing else could be causing this blemish free incessant itching.It could only be a cat as neither unrelated neighbour had had these symptoms before. Setsuo's family fought a losing battle for him and at the end of the day it was how he crossed our path in hokenjyo, a very bewildered and fearful moggie.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Romeo and Juliette

JEARS has conducted their rescue, retrieval and reunion operations in all manner of vehicles from fuel efficient and powerful Hiaces to held together with duct tape and prayers yellow plates (below 660cc engines).Private, rented or donated all the four wheelers have made it possible to achieve so much. Many of these conveyances have seen better days. On the day Jackie, Talles, Nick and I ventured up to Rikuzentakata to get Tufty, we got the plush Honda Odyssey. We could most certainly fit a dog in the back after our food drops and supplies distribution. This was going to be smooth as clockwork.

We were ready to go at 11am but somehow didn't get on the road until 3pm. Between mysterious flashing lights on dashboards, to sudden ferry requests we had a later start than intended. I have already told you some of the story of that night here

Our main purpose as I said above was food drops.When finished we would call into Dr. Takahashi to pass on the yoroshikus of the JEARS team. Then swing by Hokenjyo get the dog and head on back to the Sendai base. So simple, clear and easy yet pretty far from how it all panned out.

We left Rikuzentakata that day with 8 animals instead of the one we had planned for. Two of those sweethearts have just been returned to their human family in the temporary housing, Romeo and Juliette. We had picked them up from the owner's daughter because their real "Mum" was too upset to hand them over. They had been taken care of by their vet since March and had been given free run of his garden on one of the hills above the city.

They were hilarious, It was like they were siamese twins. They ran around the garden seemingly attached to each other. They would instinctively know when the other was turning. It was like they were velcroed together. We decided a soft sided carrier would be the best option to transport them in. They of course had other ideas and I don't think we had rounded the first bend in the road when Romeo had already chewed his way out of one of the mesh walls. They weren't too happy about the concept of enclosed space given their 8 weeks of fresh air and free rein.
One sturdy wire cage later and we hit the road. They were noisy house guests but only because they had no idea who all the strangers were. There were around 10 volunteers sleeping in the Sendai house that night, plus all the animals. That is a whole lot of change for two little bewildered furbs.

We drove them up to Inawashiro the next day where they were warmly welcomed by the Fukushima JEARS team. They have spent 3 months in JEARS care and last week they were returned to their doting family where it was revealed that these two cutie pies not only have the looks but that they are unsung heroes. Sylvia was part of the reunion team so I'll let her fill you in on the dynamic duo. I loaded it as a JPG file so if you click on it it should increase in size........should!;-)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Thank you's

You can never say these two words enough. Sometimes events are so overwhelming that these two little words seem minuscule in comparison to the experience lived through. I know I have said it before but I want to thank you again for the messages of support, financial donations and basically the outpouring of belief that I have been on the receiving end of since choosing this amazing, heartbreaking, heart warming, depressing, uplifting, upsetting, enriching,frustrating, mind blowing path.

THANK YOU, Thank YOU, THANK you for helping me to help!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pet products

I am a sucker for those info-mercials. I know......... any modicum of respect you previously haboured for me is now out the window! I don't instantly pick up the phone and dial. I just ponder, mull and ruminate about how flat my abs could be and how under my bed would be the perfect place to stow the latest, muscle enhancing, must-have, cheap, plastic contraption from the sweat shops of Asia. I scour the local sports shops,locate the object of my desire and then start the pondering, mulling and ruminating process all over again. The argument rages for days inside my head, I need it, I'll don a bikini this summer if I get it,
It is a waste of money, It'll just gather dust right alongside all the other unused fitness equipment.
No, no, this time it will be different I'll really use it,
gadget graveyard!!
skinny thigh magic thighs!
clothes horse!
flat abdominator abs!
buns of steel.... and so it continues. Sometimes reason wins, sometimes my perceived needs get the better of me.Reason is always right of course, if it doesn't win round one, the purchase, it always wins round two, the inevitable elevation to dust collector status.

So how does this have anything to do with pets? well you know the pet industry has boomed in the last 2 or 3 decades, right? And by boom I mean you can pretty much purchase the pet version of anything human. From Chaise longues beds to brand name poop bags there is something for even the most discerning pet.(or owner) Going to buy a new bowl or leash is not a choice between two colours it is a choice between two aisles of the same product. Some of the stuff is definitely really brilliant, inventive and actually useful. But boy oh boy is there a lot of crap out there.Like the TV ads, I get all psyched up about the latest craze in pet toys and weirdly devised treat dispensers. I spent a fortune on all types of canine "add-ons" when I adopted the first pooch after the second I discovered cats had a completely different set of needs so off to the shops with me again!!

One of my own dogs Snuffy has the bejaysus scared out of him every time we have violent weather. There is no consoling him. Once the skies light up he paws and paws and paws any part of your body he can see.I have spent ages on line trying to find something, anything, that will allay his fears and save my sleeping head from abrupt arousal. As with the bowls there are many solutions to the one problem. Fear of thunder remedies are a lot more costly though. Add to the retail price shipping fees to Japan and you are already through the roof.

One product stood out, the Thundershirt. Its premise was simple, a swaddled dog. I imitated it and the concept seemed to work somewhat. Then I started volunteering up north. One of the awesome volunteers from the States, Lexie, had contacted a few pet related businesses before leaving and let them know what she was doing. One of the many generous donations she received was a package of Thundershirts.

Eight with his Mum.

The third time I went up, I saw some still left and was thrilled because I knew the dogs we were going to meet the next day and I knew at least two of them NEEDED stress relief. I would take a few more of the smaller ones just in case. If these coats could help anyone then the little Shizu Eight, that Jackie and I met the last time would be a prime candidate. We met him again and his owner was thrilled that we had remembered her and her little boy, Eight, who was nine years old. He was quite used to being dressed up and took to the coat immediately.We distributed 5 coats that day and the turnaround that was the most precious to see happened to Puru.

Puru is short for Puru puru, it means tremble in Japanese. The owner had adopted this dog from the pound only a few months before the tsunami. He had seen him there sitting in the middle of the room not making eye contact with any of the workers, not budging from his spot, just shaking. What possessed this man to save this dog instead of the others was pity. He said he looked lonely. So he took him home to meet his other Shiba,Leon. They didn't get along..... at all .....for the first month. I don't know how many people who read this are involved in animal re-homing but the average family who decides it isn't working out for whatever reason, never gives it a month. Miraculously somehow the dogs reached a truce and they then resorted to tolerating each other with the odd spat here and there.Puru was still shy and a bit skittish and never seemed to relax like he was in his own home.

Then the tsunami came and their lives were re-prioritised. Like a lot of other souls who survived, they took stock of what they had left and decided it was much more important to them than they had given it credit for before. Puru and Leon became inseparable. Puru was still the more reticent of the two but at least Leon was there to catch his back. You met them in an earlier post but this time we came bearing a gift of a different nature, one of the Thundershirts. I was excited as I had seen instant calm on Eight's demeanour when we strapped him in. I was completely and utterly unprepared for what Puru did once we had him all kitted out.He fell asleep. He fell asleep standing up! Yes, upright on four paws this dog closed his eyes, relaxed his mouth and fell asleep in front of all present! My photos only look like I caught him at a bad moment with his eyes closed but there wasn't a bad moment he was just so chilled out he took forty winks.His owner nudged him, he opened his eyes, the owner had nothing else to say to him, so realising he wasn't really needed, Puru slipped back into his oblivion.The owner nudged again. Puru opened his eyes again, moved towards his person got petted and was about to return to the land of nod when his "dad" decided that this was too freaky. He took the coat off, and Puru resumed position a little further back from the goings on.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Taro's teeth. (part 3)

By the time we stopped at a convenience store 2 hours later the smell was gone. Not gone gone, we had just become accustomed to it and had probably absorbed a lot of it! Like garlic it was probably going to be coming out our pores for a few days afterwards. A quick leg stretch and inside with us to join the other volunteers from other groups from other prefectures in the line for the toilets. This convenience store was the last stop shop before the expressway and business had never been better. We parked outside for 30 minutes to walk the dogs, eat our food and confuse our sat. nav. lady.

When we had pulled into the parking area there was an older man with his two dogs just hanging out. After we had dealt with nature's wishes we approached them with Pitan. Yup, she wasn't a dog's dog she simply said "oh" and turned and walked away. Taro was curious, slightly assertive but passed the encounter with flying colours. It turned out this man was the father of one of the ladies working in the shop. We swopped dog stories and then nature's call resounded in the dogs' ears so we humans wished each other luck whilst the fourleggeder at the end of my leash set his sights on the far end of the lot. When the staff of the store weren't too busy, the daughter came out, took her break and shared a bag of chicken nuggets with her Dad and the dogs. Dad passed along our story and she came over to talk and say hi. There were no customers in the shop so the other staff member came out too. A staffless convenience store...

We talked for a little bit, they petted the dogs and then Taro, mid petting session, did what he had done before except this time I didn't have the benefit of daylight and I missed the signals. The lady was thankfully fast enough and it turned the conversation into "whoaaaaaaaaa that was lucky!! did you see that? wow! No, no I'm fine, all ok, promise" We Gomen nasai-ed (apologised) as much as was humanly possible before they made their retreat back to the safe zone behind the cash register. Obviously the universe's cue to hit the road!! We were packing everyone back up and making sure they were all watered, wee-ed and secure in the back when one of the shop ladies approached with two cups of piping hot coffee as a "help" for our drive back to Sendai. So she had nearly lost a right arm to one of our charges and yet here she was gifting us coffee? These folks can certainly teach you a thing or two about humanity!!

Ok Taro that is a score of almost two, you sort of need to give us a bigger window when you are planning that.A fairly uneventful long drive back to Sendai saw us pull in after midnight. Everyone was tired it had been a long day. We unloaded the car and set everyone up inside the house. This is when Pitan decided to start up her bark-a-thon.We tried all the tricks in the book and just when we thought we had cracked it she would start up again. From pee time, to more walks to draping the cage with a towel to being in the same room with her all worked well for the initial 10 seconds. We broke down and gave her more treats and if she is getting one Taro needs to get one too. Treat went in, both dogs were calm, next to fill up their water bowls and bed. Tiffany put the water bowl in Taro's cage and bammm Taro left his signature on her arm.

I'm in awe of Tiffany, she didn't even curse! I most certainly would have been a motormouth at the universe in the same situation. We cleaned, washed and disinfected. Tiffany assured me she had had worse and this was a walk in the park. I wasn't so sure and kept proffering more sanitizer, disinfectant, salve, bandages and anything remotely medical.It was close to 1am nowhere would be open. We'd deal with it on the morrow.

She was right, in the light of day things didn't look as angry as they had before. A trip to the drug store and she was sorted out.Taro on the other hand had a little secret that he didn't let us in on. Something he hid away under his matted fur that hadn't seen a brush in a very long time. His coat was a dust laden grey where it should have been snow white, it was dense where it should have been smooth and dull when it should have been sleek and shiny.

Taro's elderly Dad similarly to Pitan's , had been taken to hospital. Taro had always been kind of nippy but Mum knew how to deal with his idiosyncrasies. But Mum needed to attend to Dad and all the turmoil that came with having a natural disaster on her doorstep.She asked her adult children if they could keep Taro for the time being. One agreed. Taro was kept in the garden on a chain and treated gingerly. Then, by the looks of things, not treated much at all. It is easy to get haughty-taughty about this, but this family had also suffered their losses in the destructive tsunami. They were granting their Mum a huge favour. Taro unfortunately didn't win any friends in all his changing, unfamiliar, uncomfortable circumstances and it was finally decided that this 7 year old should be relinquished to the pound. In Japan, owner turn ins, 9 times out of 10, means only one thing. Taro would be meeting his maker.

Enter JEARS, and sure you know what we did. Amn't I after telling you?:-) I didn't tell you his secret though, I didn't know it at the time we picked him up, nobody did.I'll let you google it because it and its images make your skin crawl with the hebegeebees: Blowfly.Taro must have had a cut somewhere and that cut wasn't tended to. It most likely would have been hard to find in his thick tufty coat. It is not known how the original skin break happened but the blowfly took advantage of it. Slowly and steadfastly they made their advances on Taro's body invisible under the cover of his hair.The fact that he still had a twinkle in his eye through what these guys were doing to him was a testimony to the fortitude of animals.Taro had their eggs and maggots everywhere and for emphasis I'll say EVERYWHERE again so you get the picture. He must have been in an unbelievable amount of pain and by rights he should not have been letting anybody within 10ft of him. But he craved the petting and the tickles and it was presumably those brushes with the sore points that triggered his outbursts.

Taro is not the first and definitely won't be the last to come to us with pre-existing conditions. These animals have been through and survived more than most of us at the other end of the newsreel can imagine. My heart goes out to them and it is what keeps me returning.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Taro (part 2)

Japan gets hot in the summer. Not just hot but humid too. The number on the thermometer really doesn't make it unbearable, it is the humidity that takes care of the discomfort department. Despite its northerly coordinates Tohoku was on a par with Okinawa in the temperature stakes.I would wager though that the humidity wouldn't have been noticeable if it weren't for the deluge sandwiched sunshine. Once the heat was turned back on the moisture could be seen visibly rising from puddles.

We had been flitting between rain showers all week and Hokenjyo-day was no exception. We just seemed to time things well. Random stops at random places when showers subsided or in the short lull between downpours, we managed the storms :-). We lucked out at Ofunato; a fairly long dry spell in which to do our picking up. After getting Taro we had intended to see if a groomer, who I had been in touch with on my last trip, would spruce up Pitan given her matted derrière. The boy kitty we picked up, Setsuo, had come in a carrier that was hers so it was a perfect excuse to stop by. We were to follow the pound worker to the groomer's house.

We bade our farewells to the vet and were pulling out of the pound gate with windows down and arms waving vigorous goodbyes. [Side note-In Japan, departures have a tendency to be lengthy with those staying behind energetically waving until the departing are out of view]. So we were heading down the street rolling up the windows with the remaining officials still enthusiastically sending us off in the rear-view mirror. And just as the window reached its resting place at the top of the frame IT hit us.
MOTHER OF &^%*@#!!
The smell!!!!!
The smell....... the smell..... the Smmmmmmellllllll! Quick down with the windows. One last wave, and a frantic rush to get those vitreous protectors DOWN for the love of God.....DOWN!!!!! OH Taro, you come with more baggage than bargained for in this packed to the gills vehicle. So Pitan, you are forgiven, if this groomer says yes, Taro my friend, YOU. ARE. UP!! A few twisty windy tiny well ventilated roads later we arrived at the groomer's salon. The flat-packed wire cage we thought we had spare turned out to be missing a door when we de-flat packed it. We ended up not making a carrier drop off but rather asking permission to borrow one. Ok hopefully we'll be more successful in quest two.
-We have seriously pungent dogs in the car, would it be at all possible to use your facilities to wash them or even just one?
-Sorry, I'm heading out.
-Oh.... ok.......:-( Gambarimasu!! (we will endure!)

So our fragrant companion infused his odour so deeply in the car's air system on our way home that for the duration of our subsequent long distance trips we would have wafts of his presence each time we turned on the air conditioner even though he had been safely transported to the Bandai shelter. I apologise profusely to the next lot of customers that car serves, I just hope they smoke!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

And then there was Taro...(part 1)

You know sometimes I have so much to write I end up writing nothing because I don't know which story I should go with next!! Is there a word for that? I know writer's block is one side of that coin, how do they refer to the other?

Pitan chillin` at the vets!

I had to make sure I had the telephone number correct. Another corgi? I never see corgis here and now there are two in hokenjyos miles apart that need picking up? You met Pitan briefly earlier on. Remember? the sweet, very well-fed, rotund in the nether regions, 12 year old, cardigan corgi.She loved her people and their food scraps, in fact people = food scraps. So much so that whenever we were about to put food into our own mouths we had a backdrop of an urgent Pitan bark "Me too, me too!" "Hey guys! over here" Admittedly we were overly generous with the treats when we had to get her into the travel crate but the buck stopped when the latch was fastened. She was fine with that until any type of food appeared on the scene outside her reach, then she would noisily assert her claim to it.

Sheesh! when did steps get so high? You are going to lift me right?

We got to the Ofunato pound and the familiar friendly faces I had met the last time were there to greet us. The wonderful new, initiative taking vet and his equally positive thinking assistant. Enter Taro, a Pembrooke corgi. He is 7 in dog years which makes him 49 in ours, but like all in their forties and beyond, he was in complete denial. I knew we were going to bond! He strutted his puffed up chest once out of the pound's cage and promptly took the official for a walk, even though the original intention had been the other way around. He was raring to go, glad of his taste of fresh air.

The vet told us he had a bite history that was sketchy.Hmmmmmmm,...."sketchy" ...doh-yu imi? (what does that mean?) Well, A-PAR-ENT-LYYyyyyy he had snapped at a family member and since they weren't Taro's direct owners they decided to lighten their burden and send him to the pound.
-Ok, so "snapping" or actual biting? through play? teasing? out of the blue? food related?
-"Ehhhhhhmm... don't know for sure"
-Do you know if it is with Kids or adults? males or females?
-"Ehhhhhhmm... don't know for sure"
-Ok so the history is "sketchy" right?
"Yeah, yeah that is right, sketchy" :-D
Sometimes you just have to give up when you are ahead. Knowing that there was potential for teethiness was our "ahead" in this instance. Our taking him or not taking him did not depend on how many oral/dental infractions Taro had tallied up beside his name but rather on what we could avoid doing to make him feel the urge. It wasn't other dogs. He met Pitan in the carpark, they checked out each others calling cards and then pretty much ignored each other. Ok one common cause off the checklist.

We had taken ages to get to Ofunato, much longer than expected. I have a deep distrust of the digital navigation systems that come with rental cars. To compound matters, up in Tohoku, there wasn't always a road where these machines said there should be one. My Google maps was great but it was on the iphone which of course meant mood swings between full signal and "no service" while pulled over and stationary trying to get back on track. 2 Electronic mapping devices, one paper kanji map, and a tsunami razed coastline were all the ingredients needed to get me utterly lost on the way down. We practically "handbrake turned" into the parking lot of the pound, to meet at our appointed time.

We cut it so finely. The desk warriors were punching out and leaving. A few young ladies were the last of the trickle as Taro was handed over to us. We'd had the "sketchy" conversation at this stage and now had moved on to his family's story. The ladies were mesmerized by his beautiful eyes and his enthusiasm to be petted. We paused our conversation and watched the three ladies interact with a dog that was clearly loving the attention. Then his movements changed. It was so very minor but there was a pause in his little hind leg happy dance. He remained motionless for a split second. He had stopped the raspy dog laugh and now his mouth was slightly closed over. It takes longer to put into words what actually happened there and would be totally imperceptible to people who haven't seen it a few times. It happens in the blink of an eye.I saw it and pulled him back, just as he had decided 'snack time'. Not far back, just out of reach, back. Normally there is a pre-launch growl or teeth baring moment but Taro gave us a very little window of time to work with. Ok, so note to self, triggers could be crowding, females or that one of them touched a sore spot. Something to work on.

We also picked up Setsuo, the one year kitty who I'll tell you about in another post. And that was us: two corgis one cat and two volunteers hitting the road for the trip back to overnight in Sendai before the next day's trip to Bandai near lake Inawashiro.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

This is what it is all about

This is a short video made by Kinship Circle, the US group that had some of their brilliant volunteers come over and volunteer with JEARS. KC has firsthand disaster experience having assisted in the Chile earthquake, Brazilian mudslides, and hurricane Katrina animal rescue efforts. JEARS' volunteers had the Japan knowledge and extensive sheltering experience in this country. Both groups' strong points complemented each other and they have built up a working relationship since March. I volunteered first with JEARS, then with Kinship Circle then with JEARS again.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The full circle

You remember those two dogs? You know the one who wouldn't leave his injured friend? The heart-string tugging video broadcast about a week after the tsunami? Well, for about a month after on all the animal sites and pages I've "like-d" or become a member of since airing day, regardless of original topic, conversations would somehow revert back to "So does anyone know what happened to those two dogs?" It seemed the world could only rest easy knowing that those two sweethearts had been taken care of. While I would roll my eyes and say "again?" I'd fervently scroll down to see if any of the comments held the answer.I heard a happy ending and I was content. That was until I read a completely different happy ending and then another and not hours later another. Not even similar versions of the endings. I, like every other follower of this tragedy was looking for something positive in the rubble left behind.

When I went up the first time, it was only going to be once. Then a second time fell neatly into place when I discovered my university gave its staff "volunteer leave". Attach that to Golden Week and hey presto! a pretty sizable chunk of volunteering time. I couldn't use all those unique leave days on the second trip and since you don't let leave like that fall through the cracks,I managed to wedge the remaining days between a national holiday, a weekend, a lecture free day and magically came up with one more week of volunteering. Coming from Okinawa (2,600km away) I had to try and do longer stints since it takes 12 hours of travel time door to door and longer again if the highly unreliable Skymark airlines is being used. Having the extended stay up there meant I'd repeatedly be driving the same long routes. I have had the great fortune to meet many of the animals and people on these routes more than once. Like I said in the post before this, "follow-ups are the bee's knees":-)

One story that warranted a follow-up on my third visit north, although I was not part of the original contact team, was the skinny dogs story. Twitter had been ablaze with pictures of these two rib visible miserable looking animals. When the initial meager details hit the "tweet set" in the early evening one of the later days during my second trip one of our teams was heading back from Fukushima the other was coming in from the Ishinomaki area. It would have to be added to tomorrow's "To do List". I was going to be doing food drops, with the Canadian vet tech,Jackie and a local lady, Miyuki, so that ruled us out. The other team seized the opportunity to investigate.

They found, as the photos depict, two skinny dogs. A 15 year old Mum and her 12 year old offspring, except her son looked a lot more haggard and emaciated than she did. What unfolded was a sad human story as well as a sad dog story.The volunteers' offer of help was gratefully accepted and the pups were brought to the vet. They were given meds and sent on their way.

Last week, a month after the initial contact, we dropped in unannounced. We found slender uber-friendly dogs with bright eyes and wagging tails. We called the owner and asked if we could see them close up. She brought us around the back and the dogs were ecstatic for the human company. They were in much better condition than the previous pictures I had seen and did not look sorry for themselves at all.

Now if the dogs are happy, I'm happy. I may not like that they stay outside BUT it is what they are used to and that is one thing that has been brought home to me time and time again on these trips. No dog I am caring for is ever ever EVER going to be tied to a stake and left outside to entertain themselves, well........ unless they've rolled in something! but even then it is only until the bath water is ready.

All over Japan you see dogs tethered on short ropes or chains to their dog house out in front of their people's residence. I always felt pity for those animals because they aren't in the company of their humans. Twice now, I have been on teams that have picked up animals, dogs in particular, who have just not been comfortable when we brought them back to the Sendai house and kept them overnight inside. Sure how can they do their job of protection if they are lounging around on the inside? Two dogs Tuftie and Taro who didn't meet but both displayed a similar easing of tension when we put them outside in the shade. In fact Tuftie made himself right at home in a box that donations came in!

Anyway, now I'm doing what I do best, getting off track! These two dogs in Sendai were looking much healthier had a lot of food and sufficient supplies. I asked the owner if there was anything else she needed and she said no all was good. I asked about the flea routine and she said there was none. OH!! well things aren't so "good" then. One thing that I have learned here, is that you can't come over all opinionated and bulldoze anyone who you think is doing the wrong thing by their animals.Japanese folks respect authority but are skeptical of random foreigners descending upon them preaching about the right way to do things. Reverse the situation, I'm sure you would be too.There are options and alternatives but flea meds, being a fundamental part of pet care especially outdoor pets, make me preachy. Gomen ne?! She figured because there was no grass and they were living in the suburbs that fleas wouldn't be a problem. I told her some of the not so happy flea related stories I had encountered in animal rescue and appended them with the offer of medication.I said I didn't have any at the moment but would send her some if she wished, that way I built in an escape route for her should she think that me sending it to her was too much hassle. She accepted.

Before leaving Okinawa a great friend, (hey Deanna!!:-)) set up an appeal for funds for car rental. It amassed to $600: enough to send 160kilos of donations north and rent a car for the week we were there.There was enough left over to buy one box of frontline plus. I didn't want the other dog getting jealous because of preferential treatment so When I returned to Okinawa I went ahead and bought her a 3 month supply too.At least these pups will have a flea free summer and my fellow happy ending addicts can rest easy.:-)

Photos: Lexie (In Joy photography), Tiffany and Kate

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Revisiting a tale or three

Follow ups are the bee's knees:-) We were able to stop off in Rikuzentakata, kasestsu Jyutaku and we got to visit Fu Mi and Shou's new abode. Just in case you didn't read their story the first time around here is the start:

Here is my trip two follow up: (a little ways down the post)

And here is the ending........ for the time being:

I mentioned that I got a very effervescent phone call before trip three. Fu, Mi and Shou's human Mum had finally received her Kasestu room, and she was heading straight to Animal Friends Niigata to pick them up. She was nervous about whether or not they would recognise her. By all accounts they did. She was thrilled when we stopped by on our way back to Sendai. She and her three teenage to adult children with one spouse and one baby and the three cats squished over and made us some room at the low coffee table in the cramped living room. I had brought her some butter salt cookies from Okinawa as a house warming gift. One that will be consumed quickly symbolic for a short stay in the new lodgings. Mi was in great form and quickly had a go on every seated lap just to try it out for size.

A very astute little kitty, it wasn't long before the cat presents from Okinawa were discovered, broken into and consumed. Having the way paved for them Shou and Fu soon joined in.
Shou was clearly much more relaxed than when I met him before and Fu was as adorable as ever, finding his new diaper to be a great aid to his sliding power.
The family will stay in these living arrangements for a year or more. Obviously they hope to get out sooner but there are many things to be sorted out first. They have their privacy, their family and their cherished four-leggeders and that is a huge first step.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kasetsu Jyutaku

From the moment we got off the train in Izumi-chuo to the second before the taxi to take us back there arrived, we were wet, very wet. Okinawa's rainy season finished earlier than usual and we were smug with ourselves for having got off lightly. The week in Tohoku most definitely balanced my rain rations out. In fact I may even be over my rain quota for the year after the last few days. It sure knows how to do weather up there! Still, I had my trusty JEARS emblazoned jacket and was ready to face the elements:-)

We visited kasetsu jyutaku, the accommodations people move out of general evacuation centers to. Rows and rows and then more rows of prefabs. They are small with a mini-miniature-kitchens, a living room, a stand up bathroom and sometimes one more room off the living room. Most are connected to a distribution center. These are not all equally equipped so while the residences are exact replicas of each other the received items are very different. One of the locations we visited was not getting regular supplies of pet food and once the word was out that there were pet volunteers in the vicinity, heads kept popping around corners.

Earlier on in the allocation process people were randomly assigned their new abode. This has given rise to pet owners living next to non-animal friendly types and in a later tale I'll fill you in on one owner's dilemma. The venue we stopped off at today had already got their ducks in a row in this regard and many of the fur parents were off to the back of the facility. This was where we met Kelly. An almost one year old German Shepherd. There was some serious adoration going on for this young boy.His family had decided the flooding gravel pathway was not suitable for their pooch and they laid down teracotta tiles for him. They were living in the last row of the prefabs so they were able to stretch them across to the fence. The fence, now there is a good idea,they attached his name plate so passersby could call to him and a tarp was run from the roof to the fence to protect Mr.Sociable from the sun and the rain. Under which they placed his kennel/carrier.

He was and is ADORED. The husband came out of the house when they heard us and positioned himself at Kelly's side and proceeded to show us all the tricks the young fella had been practicing. For his reward he got a raw hide stick which every so often he would drop so anyone could pick up and he could gently take. He was a very sweet boy.The family told us of their other dog who didn't make it, a collie who was Kelly's best friend and mentor.

The family evacuated when the sirens went off and left their dogs behind. They weren't allowed back to their home until the next day when the waters had subsided. They found Kelly a good bit away from their home trapped up to his shoulders in a pile of debris, they took hours to dig him out but they managed. He had a badly gashed back leg and even though the fur has grown back over it, it has grown back discoloured.His people said his overall behaviour hasn't changed since the tsunami and that he is still a puppy in an adult's body.They went back everyday they could to search for his buddy but to no avail.Kelly is now getting double the love as his people are getting over their heart-breaking decision. Kelly is going to be just fine.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sweet & Sour

Remember me?

Hmmmmmmmm today was .....great....kind of. I'm on the fence. It was truly wonderful to conduct follow ups with animals and their people and to see progress and change. However we also came across resignation which by rights we should have seen more of and most likely would have had this happened in a different country.Japan's 'pleasant' veneer of tatemae (public face ) and honmae (true/ private face) has its pluses and its minuses. Belle's owners dropped their public face and succumbed to their honmae in public. They can't continue to take care of her.They don't want to take her to temporary housing because everyone lives in everyone else's pockets. Belle has taken to barking quite alot recently and they don't want to be the cause of aggravation to the neighbours who reside in the same pocket they do. Her people have asked their 'before the tsunami' neighbours to watch her. Two families take it in turns to feed and walk Belle each day. I told them what JEARS can offer but they insisted they could manage. My heart went out to Belle. I didn't want the neighbours to simply "manage to" take care of her like an extra chore. I want them to give her the love and attention any dog deserves especially in their twilight years. Just in case you didn't read the earlier post Madame Belle is 11 years old and an up to the neck in water tsunami survivor. I wish the absolute best for any fourleggeder that crosses my path, but the ones getting on in years have a special place reserved for them. We left the JEARS contact information should the neighbours decide that their Belle chore is too much for them. Had her coat not had loose tufts attached to it or her bed not been muddy and damp from the rain I'd have left a happier camper but who am I to swan in and demand my ideals be upheld when I'm not there to pull my weight in the whole equation? I did all that I could there and then. I've been in touch with a different neighbour san between my trips up north, I'll be the fly on Belle's kennel wall for JEARS.

Belle receiving Tony's donation

Sunday, June 26, 2011

No, no technological miracle will be happening in this space anytime soon! So until this body gets to a real internet facility photos in the blog will be wishful thinking. This is my third time up here and each time I have remembered one more thing that I longed for the last trip up. I was brimming with confidence about having all my bases well and truly covered, counted and included. The only spanner in the works is the lack of an internet connection.iPhones have the capacity to be great and when they work I can do stuff like this, posts to blogs.Fingers crossed it stays in a good mood.

We traveled North to Miyako city Iwate prefecture.It was a long trip. We had a rendez-vous with an elderly lady who had for some reason evaded the city hall rule that all owner relinquishments get gassed. She had managed to persuade the folks there that she was a life worth saving and had been in residence for two months. That is rare in city pounds, very rare indeed! The bright side was that she'd circumnavigated the rules, the darker side was that she hadn't been well taken care of during her time "inside". She had a pretty goopy eye infection and a rather matted tail end.I won't get graphic but I'll give you three guesses what her TAIL end was matted with.... Oh, and the first two guesses don't count:-(

Pitan a 12 year old Cardigan Corgi had been surrendered by her elderly owners because her 'Dad' had been hospitalized in a bigger hospital in another city. Okaasan (his wife) was having trouble with the long commute and couldn't care for their short furry family member. So she turned her over to city hall. Pitan must have lived the life of Reilly at home. She was one of the lucky ones and didn't spend her days tied up outside the front of her house. She was an indoor dog, rare in the countryside, and quite possibly a well-table scrapped dog.

In polite company you do not mention a lady's weight, well she is out of earshot now so between you and me, this girl was FAT! She was 14.6kg and anytime their was a lull in activity she plonked herself down, splaying her back legs out at unnatural 45 degree angles either side.She'd look up sweetly and say "Are we done yet? Did I do well? Treat please" Apparently she was down a kilo since entering the pound but her distinct waddle told us she needed to lose more - a lot more! City hall had me fill out all the paperwork and within the hour Pitan was ours. The staff were kind enough to let us know her vet's name and upon leaving the pound we made a beeline for their offices.
Pitan getting vet checked before heading to the JEARS Fukushima base
Another great vet. I haven't had much dealings with vets at home in Ireland so I can't comment on standards there but here it can be a very 'luck of the draw' affair. Pitan had drawn the lucky straw with this country clinic. Albeit, a bit all over the place, her vet was great, to the point and was clearly excited for her when he learned what her future held.These kind of vets are a great source of motivation.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Handsome strangers

What a long day! it started at 04.20am in Tokyo and will end in about 10 minutes at 22.00. Since Skymark (Japanese Ryanair equivalent)were their usual reliable selves yesterday we managed to miss all subsequent Tokyo reservations and had to spend the night there, (unfinanced by skymark I might add).We caught the first bullet train up this morning and reached the JEARS house by midday after picking up our rent-a-car..... PAUSE[][]... HOLY MOLEY You guys are amazing!!! You utterly floored me with your EXTREMELY generous donations!! I can't check the amounts on my phone but when I opened the page on this public computer in this public place let me just say that everyone here thought I was a lunatic!:-)

After we had de-bagged ourselves in Sendai we went on a blind date. Two dogs had been tweeted in the last time I was up here and when the other team went to see them at that time they found two very underweight, unstable unhealthy dogs. They brought them to the vet for the family who had recently evacuated from the coast.They were given medicine, advice and fluids to set them right. I hadn't been with the first team but I saw the photos and heard the story firsthand. Today we found them again. Aside from the usual marks life leaves on 10 year old and 14 year old dog these two were well on the road to good health, no ribs showing, bright eyes and wagging tails.Hopefully by some electronic and digital miracle I will be able to add the before and after photos here. Watch this space:-)