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

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