Friday, May 20, 2011

Dogs can smile too

Today's post is a demonstration of team work and coordination by several animal rescue groups. Every one is there under a different organisation sporting different colours and sometimes using different techniques but the underlying goal is the same, to remove as many animals out of harm's way as possible. Today Last Chance for Animals caught, Kinship Circle transported and JEARS sheltered. Those tasks rotate depending on the calls received, that was the way the cookie crumbled today.

It was to be a 5.30am start but we slept late, so it turned out to be a 6am start instead. From just north of Sendai to Iwaki city via the expressway under normal circumstances should take about 3 hours when abiding by the speed limit. However this was Golden Week, a period of 3 consecutive national holidays when the entire populace of Japan gets time off from work and school simultaneously . No one wants to sit at home, so everyone moves and they move in their droves by any form of transport that will take them elsewhere. Public transport is usually choc-a-bloc, with seats being reserved weeks in advance. And roads? well, don't mention the roads! Nightly news broadcasts the record breaking traffic jams from around the country. Over the years the best approach I have learned to getting out and about in Golden Week is to leave early, crack of dawn early, hence our scheduled departure time.I added an extra hour to the journey length calculations and figured we'd hit the 10am kitty rendez-vous in front of Iwaki station on the nose.....despite it being Golden Week.

The plan was over-cautious to say the least. Speed limits were 'kind of' adhered to in some places and carefully considered in others ;-) My "Leave Early" motto worked like a charm, the roads were empty as empty can be.And that is what had us sitting in front of Iwaki station an hour before our meeting time. Chance to get some Java and find an ATM that works for overseas credit cards. Four banks later we were cashless but caffeinated.

7 cats 2 to go.
The reason we had driven to this location was to pick up 3 cats and a dog Throughout the journey there numbers had increased into 5 cats and a dog. When we met our contact  they had 9 cats and a dog. Sure was going to be a squeeze but we could make it work..... somehow.The kitties we picked up that day were primarily found wandering. They were in various states of health and with it, in various moods. They had all been picked up around the border of the exclusion zone and brought to us here down in Iwaki so were going to need their radiation levels checked upon arrival. While traveling up to Niigata they launched into several rounds of kitty choruses. This usually pre-empted a feline organic deposit.We would find a service area on the express way and stop off in the disabled toilets. Giving the kitties cage by cage 'stretch time' and us 'eliminate source of foul odour time'. With everything wiped down and the cuddlies all tickled up we would set off again.Reaching Animal Friends all the furbies passed the radiation level checks. They did not have to proceed to segregated quarantine.A good wash to make them feel better, a vet assessment and as much food as they could dream of in the "incoming" quarters. Then when they were sporting their new do's a photo to post on the "Found" website so hopefully their people will recognise them and they can be re-united.

Re-united. There are so many wonderful wonderful stories of reunions. Everyone loves a happy ending they are so emotionally contagious. Happy endings in the animal rescue world are the highs that keep the volunteers coming back to help out again and again. We landed in on an unexpected high that morning in Iwaki.
Chappy when we met.
Everyone's focus was on how the 5 cats had morphed into 9 and how the cages were going to be arranged in the car. Off to the side was Chappy, a 15 year old Shiba who was clearly unimpressed with all the goings on. In fact she was positively withdrawn. She didn't wag her tail when we got down to her level to say hi. She didn't recoil, she didn't look away, look down, look scared she just looked blue. She sat passively by as the cat shenanigans were happening all around her.She seemed to enjoy getting her chin rubbed as she would proffer it up just a little as you were scratching it. When you stopped she just resumed her depressed posture.

She had escaped the tsunami but her family's house had not. It lay in rubble. Her owner had been evacuated to a no pets evacuation center.When he and Chappy found each other again rather than cause hassle at the center he brought her 'home'. He visited her and fed her every day. But then he and his wife were moved to Government housing in Chiba. Government housing the length and breadth of the country does not allow pets in any shape or form. He asked family members to care for Chappy but she escaped and went back to the pile of rubble she had called home. For a few days the son and daughter-in-law tried to catch her. Chappy wasn't having any of it and she wasn't going anywhere with anyone who weren't her 'direct family'. Home is where the heart is right? The family members got in touch with Animal Friends (JEARS) and through a group AF were working with, Last Chance for Animals, Chappy was finally caught. And now here she was sitting in front of Iwaki station with 9 cats and a whole group of people she didn't know. No wonder things weren't thrilling.

What Chappy didn't know was that her people were in transit to see her, ALL her people. We got the call that they had arrived. She spotted them coming from across the taxi rank.She stood up, she squinted and if she could have spoken she'd probably have said "What the......?!AAAHAHAHAHAHHAHHHH"
The grandchild arrived first with his mother, then a Dad. With each new arrival Chappy's elation reached new levels. I thought if a dog could burst then this was where it was going to happen. We watched as this previous bundle of sadness turned into an overjoyed firecracker of excitedness. Circling, jumping, tail wagging licking and dog laughing*,. When she calmed a bit she only had eyes for her family. She wouldn't move away from them for anything, she gave velcro a run for its money.Then joy would well up in her again and she'd have to do her happy jumpy circle dance.
 But I hadn't seen anything yet Chappy's Dad was yet to come.About 15 minutes later an older man and his wife traversed the taxi lot.The son holding Chappy let her leash go. All the volunteers gasped, one made a lunge for the leash. Chappy was only going one place. She beelined for Dad. He dropped his bag got down on his knees and wrestled with her while trying to get the treats he had brought her out of his backpack. Chappy only wanted him and his pettings. Ok then, when she saw the treats she wanted those too but just to take and put to the side for later.Right now it was all about contact, contact and more contact. She was oblivious to the world around her. She greeted and played with the man's wife but she was a true blue Daddy's girl and she had no qualms about showing it.Whoever coined the phrase jumping for joy did so because they were at a dog reunion. This 15 year old was hitting the high spots and she was over the moon.

Things quieted down as Yoshiko explained what was going to happen from here on. Chappy was coming with us and not going with her people. Her people weren't back on their feet yet and had no place for Chappy and where they were staying had a steadfast nationwide no animal policy. Where they were staying 235km, 3 and a half hours away. Today they had traveled that distance to say hi to Chappy for 20 minutes and their next train back was soon, too soon. The older man teared up and gave the bag of treats to the nearest volunteer. He got close to her face and talked softly to her. She listened attentively. He gave her the final ear scratch and picked up his bag. They all walked away, turning every so often to wave. Chappy's eyes followed them in bewilderment. When they were out of view we gave her some more of the treats her person had brought.Comfort food.She was the last passenger to load into the car and the quietest the whole way to Niigata. We had a crate for her but she needed some extra care and love on the way back so she nestled on the volunteer's lap wondering if what had just happened had been real or just a dream.

*Dog laughing:

Chappy getting some love after her emotional roller coaster


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. OMG, that story literally choked me up! Anyone who thinks that pets don't have emotions knows nothing. Their emotions can be just as strong as humans. I hope that Chappy, mom and dad are reunited forever very soon! Keep up the good work.

  3. Thank you for your wondeful blog posts and all the amazing work you are doing. Your blog posts have come to be a much needed positive ray of sunshine.

  4.'s hoping for a not too distant reunion.