Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Abandonment- a first hand account

Two wonderful volunteers from Tokyo, Anna Vieste and Etsuko Hori, recently spent time at the JEARS shelter in Inawashiro, Fukushima prefecture. A formerly popular ski area. I say "formerly" because the name Fukushima is now internationally synonymous with the sentiment `Danger Keep Out` and the droves of visitors who sought out Fukushima's natural beauty are thin on the ground these days. The JEARS shelter is located about 130km away from the TEPCO plant. The shelter offers sanctuary to abandoned animals from all over Tohoku and peace of mind to pet guardians who temporarily place their animals in JEARS care while they get the rest of their lives up and running again. Anna penned the following account of her recent volunteer experiences with the human Angels of Inawashiro. Her trip to Namie, a town 30km away from the nuclear plant. 
A surreal story of the forgotten fourleggeders of Fukushima.
 On Saturday we (Etsuko and I ) went with Alex to Namie town in Fukushima to do some food drops. After showing the appropriate passes we entered the abandoned town, geiger counter on lap and face masks uncomfortably in place. Alex said we should put them on when the counter hits 2.0 which it did well before the entrance to the ghost town. At first it seemed a li...ttle surreal how the counter started climbing up 2 - 5- 10 -12 -13 -20 finally up to 30 .The strangest most unsettling part of the trip was the totally abandoned town..houses unlocked with slippers neatly arranged at the entrance. Deserted businesses, machinery left to rust , a little van left neatly at the side of the road ivy creeping up over the windshield and doors, grass covering the foot paths on the side of the roads .

As we stopped to leave yet more food at a designated spot 2 young cats came running up right in the middle of the road seemingly unaware of what a road should be. We left food near houses were their feline occupants had been left to fend for themselves and saw kittens born well after the quake growing up in a world devoid of humans. Alex told us of a recent trip where she had spotted wild boars and babies which had now started breeding.

Please take me with you!

We went to visit and feed a poor dog that had been left chained up by a sad little dirty filthy kennel........its only shelter. JEARS had been in contact with his owner begging to take the dog and care for him assuring the owners that they could visit whenever they liked but they refused and said they go twice a week to leave food.(as if that was more than enough) They warned that there were now wild boar and he wouldnt stand a chance. Their warnings falling on deaf ears. We saw animal footprints near his kennel out of reach from his leash so he is being visited by others who may want to take his food. He fell in love with Etsuko and we started sobbing at having to walk away from him praying his owners would come to their senses before it was too late.
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 Then the eeriest of all ... the spiders! They were simply everywhere spinning their webs from power lines on sign posts over almost everything...The absence of movement and human vibrations creating their ideal environment. Even a trio of wasps nests that had taken over the eaves of a house didn't deter them . At first we marveled at their bright lime coloured bodies and strong webs but the further in we went and the more spiders we saw the admiration turned to an uneasy nervousness. There were just so many and they were simply everywhere that we wondered how many may be there in a few months time.

When and if the inhabitants of these deserted towns ever go back what will they find? How will the animal inhabitants cope with their return? How will the animals cope with the coming winter?
JEARS does amazing work leaving food, capturing cats to spay and neuter, caring for any sick animals they find. And all WITHOUT government assistance! There is no animal fund no money coming to help these poor creatures or assist their owners to be able to take them to temporary housing. Its so sad and seems actually barbaric that they can just be treated like the rest of the abandoned objects left to rot and rust.

The girls at the inawashiro shelter do the drops twice a week rain, hail, shine and radiation . It takes about 6~7 hours to drive there do the drops and get back. Sometimes Alex Susan or Selena have to do this alone if there is no one else available to help! AMAZING!

I had a lift back to Tokyo the next day new family member Sophi in her carrier (and her complaining meows) on my lap appreciating my life all the more and as always in complete admiration and gratitude of the important selfless work JEARS does!
— at Tokyo, Japan.

For those animals who didn't make it,  those who were rescued and those who are still holding on in the hopes of being rescued.
World Animal Day .October 4th 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Catching up with old friends

While up in HEART I had the privilege to reconnect with a few rescues from Iwate ken. Pitan and Taro the two corgis Tiffany and I pulled from Miyako pound and Ofunato pound.

Pitan, while still a little on the corpulent side, had definitely slimmed down. The butt waddle wasn't nearly as pronounced and she didn't need to rest every five steps.In fact she was quite chipper and was well able to keep up with her companions on the walks. The only thing that would stop her dead in her tracks was the remotest inclination that we may have possibly walked through the teeniest split second waft of something edible.She was a machine when it came to all things food.The volunteers ate lunch down in the lower office with the four legged inhabitants who resided there. Although Pitan had only just joined the pre-fab gang she had already gently asserted herself as "Chief Lunch Implorer" by simply being persistent. The others would soon realise they were onto a loser begging for tidbits from ravenous volunteers but Pitan's resilience remained undeterred.Her furry companions would drift off into their afternoon siesta while Pitan remained ever vigilant in the presence food. She was a hoot. Second place on Pitan's list of 'likes' was petting. This lady likes her shoulders rubbed and ears scratched and sure, if we weren't useful for getting food out of, at least we could bestow that upon her, right?:-) She was in great spirits and it was wonderful to see her doing so well now all this lovely lady needs is a home to call her own.

On her way to becoming a super model:-)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Maruko's happy ending

Maruko,last week at HEART  6 months on
This lucky lady certainly has a guardian angel or two shining down on her. In brief, she was trapped under rubble left in the wake of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. She was stuck for 11 days. When she got out she was surrendered to the city pound and was due to be gassed the day we met her. Along with a local vet, a local couple and our three Japanese speaking volunteers, we argued, beseeched and plagued the city hall officials to show mercy in her case. Begrudgingly they did. Maruko spent time in the Niigata shelter and the Heart Tokushima shelter where The video I made of her and her story was posted on their blog. Her owners found the site and got in touch.Today she was flown up to Sendai where her owners met her for the first time in 6 months. Local TV were there to report it.

Long version: (because you know I don't do short very well;-))
SO for the background of all the original shenanigans at the city hall you can read these blog entries. walls of bureaucracy that we kept coming up against had no right to be there given later information. Maruko should never have been in such a precarious situation.

It turns out that Maruko's owners had indeed handed her over to city hall on account of having nowhere to keep her after she was retrieved. She was handed over to be taken care of. Yes, you read right, TAKEN CARE of. They never signed any paperwork to relinquish their dog as is the case when someone does not want their pet any more. They believed Maruko was going to be held so they could sort things out and then they could come and get her. They returned to get her and the city hall would not divulge any information as to Maruko's whereabouts. The only thing they were told was that Maruko was still alive. The college age daughter pursued as many avenues as she possibly could to find their dog and find her she did. HEART has a blog and they wrote up Maruko's story and added the video I made. About 6 weeks ago Heart got a phone call from Sendai that ended in tears.The Maruko in HEART's care was indeed the Maruko they had been looking for. Since then all the angel's in charge of fourleggeders have been setting things in motion for her to be back where she belongs. Today was the culmination of those efforts and Miss Maruko has gone home.... FINALLY ;-)

Maruko at Sendai this morning

Friday, September 16, 2011

Beating the heat!

We lucked out! There was a typhoon on the horizon a few days before we headed up to Tokushima. It miraculously dissipated before we got there. We had a rain free, hot and sunny week to work under and we just did a handbrake skid in sideways arrival back to Okinawa before typhoon 15's presence started to be felt.

Our week was HOT. without a drop of rain from the heavens but we had sound counsel on how to keep our cool.

1. Only walk in shaded areas.

2.When close to a natural water source, get in.

3.If no natural water source is available but there is water provided, get in.

4.Try to drink plenty of fluids even if a friend is IN the water source.       

5.Don't take no for an answer when it comes to getting your fluids despite obstacles.
 We had a teency tiny glimpse of everyday life at Heart Tokushima and were humbled at the fantastic things being achieved there.Susan, Hitoshi, Yamada san, and Tamura san and their wonderful supporters are truly national champions for the furbies that cross their path. Thank you for doing what you do and doing it so well!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Round 4 :-)

Yup, I'm heading North again. This time to HEART Tokushima where many many of the animals that were rescued have found warm hearts and plenty of belly rubs. The official "disaster period" as declared by the Govt. will end on September 11th, 6 months after the tragedy. It makes sense to move on and look to the future but with some of the tiny isolated communities only seeing the START of clean up work it is hard to fathom such a final statement.There are regular Face Book calls from many of the established groups for hands to help in the clean up operations.

I`m getting asked one question with more and more frequency lately. It is, "Is there still stuff to be done?" You wouldn`t believe how much `stuff` there still is to be done on all levels. I'm only really dealing with the animal side of things here so that's what I'll stick to.

For the animals affected by these events it has been nothing short of a nightmare, especially in the Fukushima area. A brief recap: Folks were told to evacuate and not to take their pets, they'd be back in a few days. They weren't allowed back. Then restrictions started to ease, people started to go back to either continue to feed their animals OR let them loose. Then the evacuation area became mandatory and people were shipped in in buses (one person per household) and they were given two hours to 'raid ' their own house for important documents. NO pets allowed to be taken back. Then the 20km exclusion zone was calcified and apart from a few stalwarts the area became off limits to everyone.It has been that way since May.There have been some  "official" vet team trips in to assess the animal situation, some trips not allowing animal retrieval AT ALL. In June there was talk of extending the radius to 30km but the plan was successfully argued down given that radiation does not infact actually travel in concentric circles like the founders of the 20km zone seemed to believe. Air had been monitored and it was discovered that particles had traveled in a tear shape pattern to the North West. Since the beginning of the Summer some residents outside the 20km zone but directly under the radiation graphic have started to voluntarily evacuate and many times the animals don't go with.What JEARS are facing now are ghost villages, and because spay neuter was never really a big thing here to begin with they are getting inundated with litters of kittens and puppies. It is heartbreaking to watch unfold, there are so many 'if only's'about the whole situation. I don't want to look back and have those thoughts about my own actions, so I'm still here and still standing up to be counted.

I come bearing donations :-)