Saturday, May 14, 2011

Retracing steps

Dr.Takahashi is on my left. look just over his shoulder, you can see the water lines.
As you know by now this trip north was my second. I hoped to pop in and say hi to a few of the four-leggeders I met on my first trip and to touch base with the "two-leggeders" who were STILL on the front lines! On my second day we did an animal pick up run and our final destination was Animal Friends Niigata. This has been the primary stop for animals not only from the nuclear exclusion zone but also from the entire length of the devastated coast. Two American NGO's/NPO's (Kinship Circle and Last Chance for Animals) have been working with three Japanese based no-kill animal rescue groups.( Heart Tokushima, Japan Cat Network, Shiga and Animal Friends Niigata) and all groups have until the last week been bringing their rescues directly to Niigata. Last week saw the first transport of dogs to one of the outer lying shelters to make room for all the incoming pets. I missed their departure by 10 hours and with it I missed Maruko. She now resides in Shikoku. I am hoping to get a picture or two to pass on to Dr. Takahashi. That may take a brief detour onto the pages of this blog:-)
            Speaking of Dr. Takahashi, He and his staff are back to business as almost usual.There is still evidence of water lines around his office. They managed to evacuate all but one of their four legged residents at the time of the tsunami.They just didn't have enough hands. The good news is that the staff had the foresight to put the furbie on the second floor and tales of survival were shared on everyone's return. It gave me great great pleasure to be able to show him the Maruko's story video I created.Just in case you didn't see it the first time, I will shamelessly post it here again        .m(-.-)m    

At Animal Friends I was able to meet up with Fu, Mi and Shuu.The three kitties we took in from a large Rikuzentakata evacuation center. Mi was her usual cute kitten self, Shuu a little unsure of this "new" human and Fu as adorable and loving as ever. I took a lot of photos and some video because I knew the next day I'd be heading out to where their family were.

After a very delayed start, we finally made it to Rikuzentakata, a town frequently featured on the national news here because of the extent of the damage caused.We stuck our heads in the main office and introduced ourselves. I explained I had been here three weeks previously with an animal rescue group and that we were back to see if any one had animal needs.We were told we could set up in the morning, like the last time, but if we liked we could give the supplies in now. Before doing that I had one quick phone call to make. "Moshi Moshi! Konbanwa, Kate desu!", "Where am I? Ehmm, downstairs by the entrance" Waaaaaaaaaaahhhh click! Five seconds later a tracksuit clad lady was tearing down the school hallway in my direction, excitedly repeating my name. She unexpectedly bear hugged me and we got down to cat talk. I showed her all the pictures and videos I had taken the day before and she teared up.Each new photo would see her put her hand over her mouth and whisper her kitty's name. She tickled each kitty photo under the chin or pat them on the head telling them she wouldn't be too long more. She asked them if they were being good and eating well. I told her to take the phone and show the photos and videos to her human family here. She came back 10 minutes later red eyed and puffy faced. We hugged good night and I said I would see her tomorrow.

            We  settled down for the night. 10.30pm, earliest night I have had in a very long time. It was bucketing down and the wind was picking up.The safest, driest place was the shelter of our car. Parked beside the Japanese military trucks we blanketed ourselves up and attempted getting comfortable in 'Hotel Honda Odyssey'. The name sounds so much more luxurious than the experience! We woke several times during the night because we were convinced we were experiencing earthquakes. Nope, just the wind we were told.  Like with any 'camping trip' we woke up with the first light of day, i.e. way too early to feel remotely human without copious amounts of caffeine. Our scheduled start was 9am, it was still before 6. We drove our cars around to the front of the school and watched the world surrounding it wake up. Only two dogs were were still there from the last time. One seemed very depressed and wouldn't let us approach him very unlike our previous meeting. He looked fed up, as I can well imagine he was, at week 9 of bike shed life. Some treats were left within reach and we hoped his owner would show up at our session at 9am.

           The other little fellow, was an energetic little black pomeranian .He had smiles and love to share. Everyone was his friend. He excitedly welcomed us and indeed anyone who came within his range. I didn't see anyone with him last time but this time I saw a lady grooming him as we were leaving. I stopped the car and jumped out to tell her about the possibilities of sheltering her dog if she was having trouble. It wasn't her dog and she didn't know whose dog it was. She just stopped by to make sure his water was fresh and to 'groom' him everyday. Groom him with her fingers. I knew we had a brush in the car. I had brought it 2,600 km from Okinawa. Now the question was"where in the car?' We are talking needle in a haystack here. We had crates, dog food, cat food, human food, beds, shampoos, meds, Sleeping bags, extra clothing for the cold....... the only thing we didn't have was the proverbial kitchen sink!! I dug deep and  found the buried treasure, right next to pet shampoo sheets for small dogs. Perfect!! I went back to the lady and she gladly accepted the donations.

      I wished her the best and gave her a flyer in Japanese about the group's activities. She thanked me and then said wait a moment. Out of her pocket she pulled an origami frog and handed it to me.I have often received paper cranes in my time here but never a frog. The cranes are a symbol of long life, my mind raced, frogs? She explained that the Japanese word for frog is Kaeru which sounds identical to Kaeru meaning 'return' the distinction is that the kanji characters are different. She said she was giving me this in the hopes that the happiness I had just shared with her would be returned to me some day..........................................    
A simple but precious treasure

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