Tuesday, August 30, 2011

.................Still Waiting..................

So after not seeing any movement or hearing any updates a month down the road for Setsuo, I rang around just to be sure that no one else had been contacted. Numbers can get lost, wires can get crossed and things can go astray.Given the circumstances it wouldn't be too wild a concept to get your head around.Not sight nor sound had been heard about Setsuo. A call to City Hall was in order.

I called. I was put on hold. I was hung up on........ inadvertently....maybe? I called again. I was put on hold again.A voice came back and said "Sorry the person you wish to reach will be back after lunch". Ok, Human to human, a step in the right direction at least. After lunch I went through the same drill and was told the person I wanted to speak to wasn't coming in for the rest of the day and that it would be better to call tomorrow. Alrighty, any particular time? "yes, before lunch". 10 o'clock the next morning......well you get the picture! This went on an entire week. I made 18 long distance phone calls from Okinawa to Iwate. Yup, stubborn, I know. But if you want the job done, you gotta do it yourself, right? By the time call 12 was put on hold, the lady on the recievng end of my stalker-like repetitive calls and I were on first name terms, she also realised I wasn't going to go away.

Finally my lucky day, I got to talk to the vet. He acted surprised that JEARS hadn't heard from the family.  Knowing and understanding their reluctance to give personal details out over the phone, I gave them my personal details and asked the City Hall to please have them contact me directly. They assured me this would happen forthwith. After all they had the documents Setsuo's family had to sign to turn him in right?........right?

A few days later, the groomer lady we had been in touch with before, called me. She said City Hall had called her looking for the contact details of Setsuo's family. As they say here....... eehhhhhhhhhhhhh???
(start your crescendo by the fourth 'h' and you'll sound completely native like!)

 She then took it upon herself to do the contacting. She tried in vain to get in touch.So she determined that they had moved on and away therefore we could re home Setsuo. nnnnnnnnnggggghhhhhhhhh doesn't feel right , does it? I want to hear that from the horse's mouth. I was led to believe Setsuo was given up reluctantly and under duress. Am I naive to think they'd be thrilled to see him again after what they believed they had done? I know how I would feel, but maybe I'm extrapolating again. Every so often I have to remind myself that the average Joe Soap out there isn't as barmy about animals as I. This unfortunately is a 'watch- this-space' kind of story as my 18 phone call legacy will attest, I'm not going away any time soon:-) Gambarimashou!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


And from there he huddled in the back of his carrier, in the back of the car the whole journey back to Sendai. Except for the service area stop.

We pulled off at a plush rest stop that I had used on the  previous two trips. They had the swankiest, dark wood finished, spacious, wheelchair accessible, toilet ROOM, that I have ever seen, let alone at a road side service area. On my first trip in March this place had notices up in all the western-style toilets apologising profusely for the ice-cold unheated toilet seats that their esteemed patrons were  accustomed to. They were of course trying to save electricity when there were rolling power cuts throughout the Northern regions.

My intention, on this warmer night two months later, was to let Setsuo out to stretch his legs, clean out any messes made in the carrier, and play for a teency bit of respite from his cramped quarters. Every cat (9 total thus far , (not all together)) I had given "stretch time" in this room,  had gingerly stepped out of their crate, sniffed the air, approved the interior finishes and come for cuddles.

Naively expecting the same, I lifted the latch on the gridded door, stepped away and waited for Master Setsuo to put in an appearance. He was a no show. My upside down head slowly lowered to  level with the portal he should have peered through. Sure that, I suppose would freak anyone out! my hair and countenance succumbing to gravity, was just too much for the furry fellow and he hissed and lurched at me.......... Ok message heard loud and clear. I`ll just be over here in this corner if you need me. To which his reply was "Enjoy your corner, I'm staying here!".

Again, naiviety reigned supreme in my grey matter and I believed for a second I could out-smart the cat. Note to self: Regardless of Eureka moments and idea bulbs flashing in mind's eye, YOU, a humble human can never "out-smart" a feline. I unclipped the top section of the kennel and removed it. Exposing Setsuo to the full glory of the designer roadside potty stop. He instantanteously took a liking to the gap between the floor and the large ceramic pipe in at the back of the toilet bowl. Rather than try to hoosh him out I went back to my corner of the room to see if curiosity would get the better of him.After all, the chrome finishes had attracted all his other furry predecessors in this joint. I waited, waited and then waited some more. Nope, I was witnessing the first kitty transported with the curiosity switch turned off. No worries, I  knew he had been through a lot so this extra open space was probably not as enticing as I thought it could have been . Time to get Setsuo back into his comfort zone, reclip the carrier, position it as close to the back of the loo as possible and entice Setsuo back in. Looks plain and simple in black and white right? It did in my head too, Setsuo's logic was a tad different. The bend in the toilet piping had a lot more stability to it than the plastic carrier. A lot of epithelial tissue samples from me later, Setsuo was back in the carrier. For the rest of the trip home that is where he stayed because that is where he was somewhat reassured and felt 'protected'. I had wanted to do my best for him and his comfort levels but failed, by expecting him to be like all the other cats I had helped bring back. Instead I think I unintentionally managed to stress him out more.Sorry Setsuo!!

After a night in Sendai, we drove him and the rest of the gang to Inawashiro. He stayed edgy for a while but eventually grew to trust the volunteers there. He has been moved again to the JCN in Shiga where things have gotten a whole lot better for him.

I have just one niggle with regard to his case though. It is a niggle I'm working on but I keep meeting brick walls. It always seems  easier for folks to say 'no' outright as it eases their work burden. Setsuo`s owners don't know he is still alive. They were obliged to hand him in to city hall which, as I have said before, means a one way ticket to the pearly gates. I confirmed with JEARS and told city hall we would keep Setsuo as long as it took the folks to get back on their feet. We just needed to know from them, whether they would like Setsuo back in a year or so, OR should we try to re-home him. City hall said they would be in touch.....................................................................................................................

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In Limbo

There are some stories that have taken me a while to get to because of the 'grrrr' factor they raise within. They just make me want to rant, rant and rant some more. While I promise I won't go ballistic don't judge me if I get a little tetchy around the edges while recounting this one.It is a cat story (sorry they were underrepresented in this trip!)

Setsuo was always in the background, an add-on when it came to the last trip north. Calling the Hokenjyo he was appended to the main conversation as oh, we have a cat too. An after thought because he was shy, fearful and didn't know what on earth was going on. Bounced around from one bizarre situation to another he preferred the simplicity and safety of the back of his carrier.His doting people had been told they could then couldn't be then could be again accepted by the evacuation center as the second floor of their house was still "habitable" but the structure was "unsafe".

Side note here: The earthquake of March 11th produced hundreds of after shocks. In many people's mind an aftershock is just a little readjustment shake after the main event. These rockers were of a magnitude that would be reported in the news as individual full blown earthquakes had they not come in after the big guy. Now there is a science behind it, (as there is everything) but I'm not au courant. Them there scientists can decipher which shake can be dubbed an aftershock and which is an individual seismic event. I just know the earth is moving for me and it is not a joyous event!

This house still had residents

So those who were eventually asked NOT to seek refuge in the community evacuation centers were obliged to go back to their homes that for the most part were gutted bare structure on the first floor and live on the second floor. Possibly an ok temporary solution if it hadn't been for Mother Nature's constant rocking and rolling.

So Setsuo's family were borderline. Accepted into the evacuation center but their permanence there was in limbo until a city official could go around and assess their abode. They managed to keep the second floor relatively sealed so they could keep their Setsuo there. The young lady visited every day and made sure he was doing alright given the circumstances. The family stayed at the center. These living arrangements were endured for 3 months before the family finally got their own prefab in the temporary housing areas. Sighs of relief were issued all around. Finally Setsuo didn't have to live alone in an unsafe,leaky second floor. He could be with his people at last.

When the local authorities were assigining the first groups of people to their new quarters little thought was givent o neighbours sticking with neighbours, pet owners alongside pet owners, old folks neighbouring young children etc. You know, the way neighbourhoods naturally evolve? But it seems these situations became issues for people that were living in each other's pockets. Setsuo ran into the non-pet owners problem.

Neighbours on BOTH sides of Setsuo's prefab developed instantaneous skin reactions to the cat living next to them. A cat that they had no interaction or face to face time with. Suddenly it was imperative that this feline was moved on. Nothing else could be causing this blemish free incessant itching.It could only be a cat as neither unrelated neighbour had had these symptoms before. Setsuo's family fought a losing battle for him and at the end of the day it was how he crossed our path in hokenjyo, a very bewildered and fearful moggie.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Romeo and Juliette

JEARS has conducted their rescue, retrieval and reunion operations in all manner of vehicles from fuel efficient and powerful Hiaces to held together with duct tape and prayers yellow plates (below 660cc engines).Private, rented or donated all the four wheelers have made it possible to achieve so much. Many of these conveyances have seen better days. On the day Jackie, Talles, Nick and I ventured up to Rikuzentakata to get Tufty, we got the plush Honda Odyssey. We could most certainly fit a dog in the back after our food drops and supplies distribution. This was going to be smooth as clockwork.

We were ready to go at 11am but somehow didn't get on the road until 3pm. Between mysterious flashing lights on dashboards, to sudden ferry requests we had a later start than intended. I have already told you some of the story of that night here


Our main purpose as I said above was food drops.When finished we would call into Dr. Takahashi to pass on the yoroshikus of the JEARS team. Then swing by Hokenjyo get the dog and head on back to the Sendai base. So simple, clear and easy yet pretty far from how it all panned out.

We left Rikuzentakata that day with 8 animals instead of the one we had planned for. Two of those sweethearts have just been returned to their human family in the temporary housing, Romeo and Juliette. We had picked them up from the owner's daughter because their real "Mum" was too upset to hand them over. They had been taken care of by their vet since March and had been given free run of his garden on one of the hills above the city.

They were hilarious, It was like they were siamese twins. They ran around the garden seemingly attached to each other. They would instinctively know when the other was turning. It was like they were velcroed together. We decided a soft sided carrier would be the best option to transport them in. They of course had other ideas and I don't think we had rounded the first bend in the road when Romeo had already chewed his way out of one of the mesh walls. They weren't too happy about the concept of enclosed space given their 8 weeks of fresh air and free rein.
One sturdy wire cage later and we hit the road. They were noisy house guests but only because they had no idea who all the strangers were. There were around 10 volunteers sleeping in the Sendai house that night, plus all the animals. That is a whole lot of change for two little bewildered furbs.

We drove them up to Inawashiro the next day where they were warmly welcomed by the Fukushima JEARS team. They have spent 3 months in JEARS care and last week they were returned to their doting family where it was revealed that these two cutie pies not only have the looks but that they are unsung heroes. Sylvia was part of the reunion team so I'll let her fill you in on the dynamic duo. I loaded it as a JPG file so if you click on it it should increase in size........should!;-)