He was the very first "meeter and greeter" at the Junior high school evacuation center for me and he gladly showed me around his cardboard box. (pictured on top). His caretaker was a densely clad young man in his mid thirties. I met him at 6.30am before people were 'supposed' to be up and when the temperatures were still attempting to freeze the words leaving the mouths of speakers by clouding them in wisps of vapour. He was just checking that Ryu had made it through the overnight low temperatures and was feeding him his meagre breakfast. He was the very first owner on the pet scene (by a long shot) that day. The volunteers approached enthusiastically looking for some good to do but Ryu's guardian refused help on all levels, even to change out his dog's cardboard box for a proper kennel. Hmmmmm, head scratching and doushiyoh doushiyoh? (What to do? what to do?) Our naive expectations of everyone who (clearly) needed help (by our standards), actually wanting help was a bubble bursting experience. Putting my basic communicative Japanese to the test I talked to the guardian about Ryu's uncanny likeness to the cell phone dog. Yes, he admitted, Ryu got that a lot. but he didn't let it go to his ego:-) Ahhhhh good, a dog with a sound head on his shoulders. Gradually I came to the conclusion that Ryu actually shared his quirky personality with his person.
In most coastal towns where the tsunami hit there were warning sirens that went off, alerting citizens to the imminent danger. This man had heard them too. He told me he grabbed Ryu put him in the car and then went to get his parents. As politely as possible I asked were his parents ok. Once I received an affirmative answer I nudged him on the elbow and said "So you got Ryu first, are your parents still talking to you? " He almost bust a gut laughing, then sheepishly said they hadn't realised yet and made the gesture of "shhhhhhh" It was our secret. Swear you won't tell him I told you?:-)
Later in the day I saw Ryu had moved house to a newer more densely padded soft sided carrier case. I'm glad the owner accepted help. That is what we were there for and will continue to be as long as there are animals in need.What we as enthusiastic volunteers have to take from this experience is not "Yes, yes yes, we were right all along" but rather a lesson in communication. Build bonds, become another PERSON to the recipient not just a "swoop- in-giver". Even though he refused help outright at the start, eventually he accepted a bag of food and a new kennel for Ryu-chan. We are thrilled at the outcome, we only hope we tread softly enough over his pride that he is too.