Saturday, April 2, 2011

One human + One fourleggeder = Two Heroes (Part 1)

Today our group of volunteers had several tasks to attend to. We split up to get things accomplished more efficiently. Since people have a tendency to understand my broken Japanese just at the right time I was sent down to city hall with three other volunteers to meet a vet and a couple who had taken on the case of a remarkable soul, Maruko. We were ushered into a second floor city hall office. The door was opened and raised voices hit our ears. First off, let me preface this with Japanese people rarely, rarely RARELY argue or complain "loudly" in public. This situation looked like it was rapidly heading in the wrong direction. The three foreign faced volunteers walked in and the vet politely excused himself from the heated discussion, turned to introduce himself in perfectly enunciated English, greeted us individually with a deep bow and explained very calmly what was happening.

Maruko, a 14 year old medium sized terrier mix, had been trapped in the rubble of a house for 11 days with no food or water. She was miraculously pulled out alive, bruised, bewildered and in a bad mood. She was taken to the local pound where she let her displeasure at having had to wait so long to be found known. She mouthed and snapped at the over worked handlers who tried to get close. This meant
 she earned the label "agressive". By the time the town hall had located her owners in an evacuation center the city officials were feeding her but not walking her for fear of being really bitten.

Ku chan tied up under the shelter of the school's bike shed.
Her owners, having lost everything in the innundation, couldn't deal with a potentially aggressive dog in such a confined living space as the evacuation center. Dogs are not allowed inside and are chained up in the icy parking lot for owners to drop by when they can. The dogs get a lot of visitors during the day both young and old, owner and stranger. Human and canine destressing themselves with their interaction. A snapping dog is a liability. Maruko's people relinquished her future to city hall, a place where she
had made no friends at all and no one was on her side.

Maruko when we first met her
After this careful explanation Dr.Takahashi reengaged the bureaucrat. The young man, was refusing to let the vet see, examine or assess the dog. Today was Maruko's last day and the scheduled gassing was in the afternoon. The wheels of officialdom had been set in motion and as far as this entry level official was concerned this juggernaut could not be stopped. His logic was not making any sense to the vet or the couple who were willing to take Maruko to their home when they had turned their own situation right way up. He was obstinately not budging, asserting the power of the position he was transferring from in 1 month's time. Dr. Takahashi raised his hand in the air and waved to everyone in the room all the while stating in a much louder voice than before who he was, his profession and that he was being treated very irrationally and unfairly by the redfaced junior official. Like I said, making a public scene here is as uncommon as blue moons, and yet here was an overstretched, sleep deprived  individual battling against the bureacratic red tape for one of his long term patients. The fracas was intolerable for the head man in the room and he leapt to his feet to rein in the situation. Junior, Senior and vet huddled and in hushed tones spent 20 minutes hashing out a solution. Maruko could leave and the paperwork would take an hour. Vet and the supporting couple bowed repeatedly at the room at large and thanked the stressed officials effusively. Normality was restored, the city staff accepted their gestures of thanks graciously and the road bump was smoothed out. Now to actually go down and get this "cranky old lady".


  1. Kate, I hope it's not like this for every critter. Please let us know if there's anything we can do from afar. I'm wondering if you are still posting from your phone. This post seems like it would have been very hard to create even from the best of phones.

  2. This was all single finger typed on my phone. I had to take a break to recharge the battery:-)

  3. This is beautiful. Wow, typed on your phone. Crazy.

  4. Doesn't this remind you of OZATO? The times we cried to save a pet from gassing!!! I love your updates. I will give Miyahira san the name of the group you are working with. Okinawans are getting donations to send.