Monday, September 24, 2012


I deeply apologize for being absent for so long, as those who know me personally are most likely aware, there has been some rather terrible drama in my life as of late, and due to that, I vanished. I was raised to not bad mouth those around me, so instead of writing and possibly doing so, I simply stopped.

But in doing so, I also regrettably did not properly document the kitten from the previous posts socialization process, nor did anyone who reads this get introduced to her 3 siblings and mother who have since joined my household.

So, I give you "1st cat" then and now:
In 2 months, this beautiful girl went from having matted fur, a constant wide eyed terror and fleas, to a calm and loving lady who enjoys laying in your lap and is not shy around people or other animals. She is still unnamed though, as we are waiting till their vet trip next week to 100% confirm everyone's gender before the naming begins. So far, all we have decided is that the food theme shall be continued in honor of our other two fosters, Ham and Egg.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Change of Plans

This weekend I had been torn between finally taking a vacation and helping out at the shelter. After a lot of talking, David and I decided that we deserved a trip to Disneyland to clear our minds and just have a good time, but once again, fate had other plans.
We've had a kitten trap set up outside our house for a few weeks now to try and catch the litter that lives here and to socialize them, then adopt them out (or at least do vaccines and TNR), and we have never had any luck with it, so of course luck decided the weekend we were finally going to go on an adventure would be when a kitten would wander in before I could take down the trap.

To make things even more exciting, I had just stepped out of the house to buy some things for tomorrow's trip, so while out shopping, I got a call from David saying "hey, there's a kitten in our bathroom. What should I do?" Well, I quickly went and bought all the supplies we needed, came home and was met with a tiny wet ball of cuteness hiding behind our toilet.

Poor little thing was quite scared and we could hear it's siblings outside the bathroom window crying to him, and while it was sad to see, we knew we couldn't just release him again, because street cats in this country are often killed, so we know this is his best shot at life.

While setting up the new cage, our new little friend found a strange place to hide, which was nice for us because it made transporting him to the cage quite easy. 
they'll never find me here!
well this is new

Needless to say, now we have no clue when Disneyland will be happening, as we are going to try and socialize this cutie and hopefully capture it's litter mates as well.

Bye bye vacation. Hello cute new roommate.

*Better pictures to follow as soon as he settles in*

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New arrival

I am still in no mood to write, but the days keep passing by, and things need to be recorded.

heading out to feed
local dog enjoying a treat

On July 1st I went with JCN into Namie again, and while there we filled 34 feeding bins with food, which took an entire van filled with bags to manage, and also made some side stops to check on local animals that owners don’t want taken out, but still need some good food and love.

We also added a new bin that was created by a wonderful volunteer

We had just gotten a phone call that morning about one of the locals JCN helps, saying his dog had had puppies and we wanted to make sure they were alright and once again try and convince him to get his dogs fixed. Instead, it turned out to just be a rumor, which I personally think he started to get us to come visit him since he had a huge amount of prepared home cooked food and treats from Sendai already waiting when we arrived… if that is true, I certainly cannot blame him, he lives alone in an otherwise empty town, with no one to talk to besides his dogs, it must be a very lonely life. After a 2 hour long chat with him, and me getting tricked into eating fish, my least favorite food, we finally headed out around 8pm, which was great since it was still a 90min trip back to the shelter and then another 2 hours home and I had work in the morning, but fate had other plans for us that night. Instead of heading straight back, we stopped to feed a tiny kitten alongside the road, it became clear very quickly that she was not feral, so we trapped her. She turned out to be incredibly friendly, and not a kitten at all, but instead a recent mother. We have no idea where she had been living though, because where she was found there were no houses or feeding bins in the area. She currently has no name, but all of my students have suggested Yuki (snow).

I also got to check on the cat I trapped last month, who I named Kocha (tea) after myself and because he has a big "T" on his forehead. It's still unclear if he's going to be friendly, but Kocha at least seems to be settling in and fattening up a bit.

 The following week I stopped by for just a day to say goodbye to Kuma, who was leaving for his new foster home in Iwate. I will miss that dog dearly, he is just one of the kindest souls imaginable.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I simply wanted to apologize for not updating about my last 2 trips to the shelter, honestly I have been in a strange depression as of late, and when I am depressed, the motivation to write just does not come. 
For some reason I have had this terrible irrational fear that when I eventually return to the United States, all of my loved ones will have moved on and won't have a place for me in their lives anymore. Irrational, I know, but that does not stop it from creeping up.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No Go

Between working full time, fostering, and volunteering, it’s sometimes hard for me to even find time to sleep, let alone do posts, so I apologize for taking a few days.

I was so happy to get a chance to return into the No Go Zone this weekend, since often we reserve the spaces for volunteers that will only be visiting one time, it’s common for me to stay behind at the shelter instead.
This trip we were lucky enough to have a vet tech who was visiting from Tokyo named Monica. She was very knowledgeable about just about everything you could think to talk about and quite a joy to work with.

With our trusty driver, Takumi, behind the wheel, we headed into the 20-30km area of Namie to refill bins and check on animals in neighborhoods.  Every single bin that we checked that day was empty, or nearly empty (forgot to count, but believe we hit about 20), and it was amazing how quickly we went through an entire van full of food to replenish the many feeding stations in the area. And at almost every single stop, there were animals, waiting for their food to get there. It was not hard to tell that these cats were counting on JCN and the other local helpers for their survival.

that black cat actually lived there before

paw prints
While we were checking the stations and making sure a few owners’ animals were alright, it was sad to see all of the fresh marks that had been left behind, like paw prints in dust, or recent excrement. They were all signs of animals that had been forced to suffer for far too long, animals that were still suffering.

On that note, it’s always important to keep searching the whole time you are in the area, because although it often looks barren, there is commonly an animal hiding very nearby in the overgrown vegetation. There were many times when we would catch a glimpse of an animal, just to see it vanish again, not daring to get too near.

one such cat waiting for us to leave

While we were out feeding, there was one cat that caught us all, it was this gorgeous creature just sitting beside the road, very clearly waiting for food. When we stopped, instead of running, it waited patiently for food to be put down and then approached, this was such an encouraging sign that I asked if we could try and trap it. Within 3 minutes of putting the cage down, this baby was in, and during the rest of our trip, it let me pet it and even gave a kiss. By the time we left though, I did not know if it was a boy or girl, because we want it to get acclimated to the shelter a bit more before we start freaking it out a whole lot more, so the poor thing is still without a name.  I am thinking Kocha though, since it has a giant T on its head.

Video of his/her capture

The last stop we made was to visit a group of dogs that the owner refuses to let anyone take or fix, he believes that things are not bad enough yet, and it is illegal for us to go against him. They were all lovely, and while it was clear their owner frequently returned to give them food, it still broke my heart since they all clearly wanted much more affection in their lives and missed people greatly. 

Update on Nala, our FIV+ baby: She is regaining her strength steadily, and this weekend she had enough in her to hiss at David. While hissing might seem like a bad sign to some, Nala was not a fan of people when she got here and only let us touch her once she got very ill, so it’s actually sort of comforting to see her feeling strong enough to put up some sort of fight.

 Bonus photos from the weekend:
 This buddy tried to hide as a cup noodles to keep from getting her medicine, didn't work too well

 A sign from a family thanking TEPCO for giving them all this extra time to sit around and play pachinko away from home

Warning: Last part includes graphic photos and is depressing.

I wanted to do this part last since I try to keep things as upbeat as possible and as such thought it might be a good idea to write the terrible stuff separate so that people could skip it if they so desired.
Anyways, within the No Go Zone, there are still many animals waiting to be rescued, but there are thousands more that it is too late for. During every trip I have made into the zone, there has been at least one body waiting along our routes, and  this trip was no different. While visiting where the group of 80 chickens we used to feed last year was, we decided to walk over to where some locals had freed baby boars at a farm, and then someone pointed out the small cage to the side, partially hidden. Inside, was a corpse that was nearly only bones by now of a small monkey, a creature that never even had a chance after the disaster. While the boars were released, his cage probably went unnoticed over in that corner, leaving him to waste away, terrified, alone, and in immense pain.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

From Death Row to House Pet

This is the story of Hank, who is not only a Fukushima survivor, but also a hokenjo (public animal shelter) survivor.

Hank was found by Japan Cat Network right before the hokenjo was going to gas him and a group of other animals, most of whom had collars still on, all of whom did nothing to deserve it.

He was a very shy boy, who made a best friend at the shelter while they fought for their lives against a terrible disease known as Parvo. Nearly 70% of cats their age who get it, die, but against all odds, they both pulled through it and became inseparable.Their close nature led us to later rename them Hank and Dean, after the Venture Brothers
Hank is orange, Dean is gray

But neither of them trusted people, and why should they? First they were both left to die on the streets, and one was almost killed in a gas chamber, what had people ever done for them?

Enter my house:
We decided that we were up to the challenge of socializing them, and took them on the 7hr trip home at the end of our visit in October.
It took some getting used to for them, and around a week for them to even emerge from under the couch, but over the course of the 3 months they lived with us, they not only learned to trust people, but both of them would beg and cry for you to scoop them into your arms.

Every night they were curled up in bed with us, and when we got home from work, they were right at the door, waiting.  This was great, but they were still just our fosters, not our pets. We both knew our apartment could never be their forever home, and they could never be ours, and worst of all, we knew come winter break, we would have to return them to JCN.

Enter an old friend in the USA:
Every now and then, I would take a photo of them, and post it to facebook to share with everyone, never thinking anything else of it. Just wanted to share their cuteness.
Then, out of nowhere I get a sort of joking message from a friend back in the states claiming she has simply fallen in love with the boys and wants them for Christmas. We begin to talk in depth, and it becomes more and more obvious to both of us that this isn't really a joke, she has honestly fallen in love with them through the power of those photos.
As luck would have it, we were heading to Virginia for winter vacation, so we talked it over with the shelter and it was agreed, Hank and Dean would go to America! The only catch, ANA, whom we had already purchased tickets through, are terrible with pets, and wanted to charge us 60,000Y ($650) to get them to DC, and my friend simply did not have that kind of money.

Enter, the kindness of strangers:
On a whim, I began a ChipIn page and spread it amongst all our friends and shelter groups, and before even one day had passed, the money was all there.  With messages saying things like "Merry Christmas" and "gambate," there it was.

So come December 22nd 2011, Hank and Dean went with us, from Yamanashi-ken to Narita airport, and then to the other side of the world, Washington DC

bathroom break at Narita

They endured a 4hr bus ride, a vet checkup to be deemed quarantine ready, and a 16hr flight without any food, water or a litter box. But you could never tell by looking at them, the whole time they only cried whenever they couldn't see each other.

At the end of the journey, there was my friend, waiting to pick them up and love them for the rest of their lives. And while it was so wonderful, I could not help but cry, because these two magnificent creatures had not only endured so much their entire lives while waiting for this day to come, but they had done so without either one ever complaining.

If you would like to help animals like Hank and Dean, please go to:

Friday, June 8, 2012


It has taken me a week to decide whether I should talk about this or not, but as it has been a week and it is still bothering me, here goes.

David and I went to the shelter last weekend to volunteer and gather some supplies for a fundraiser we will be doing later in Iwaki, while we were there, I spotted a man kicking his dog. At first I simply assumed that it was my eyes playing tricks on me, as it had already been a long weekend, and who in their right mind would abuse an animal across the street from a shelter? But that's when it happened... this man threw his dog as hard as he could into the ground, in front of his 2 small children.

Without even thinking I just ran over and began shouting at him, I do not know a lot of Japanese so it was mostly English with a bit of me calling him a monster. I scooped up the small poodle to check it for injuries while the man shouted obscenities in Japanese at me and told his children not to worry as I was just a moronic foreigner.
David and a Japanese volunteer came over to talk with him, but he spent his entire time denying it and saying that I had tried to steal his dog and attacked him, our Japanese volunteer even apologized to him for my actions, while I just sobbed.

We were told later that while it was sad, we could do nothing to stop this man since there were no visible wounds on the animal and since I had "attacked" him. In Japan, the foreigner always looses against the native.
 I spent much of the rest of my time that day closed up with some of ours animals, crying.

During the nearly 3 years that I worked with the SPCA back in the US, I saw lots of animals come through that had been badly abused, some had terrible physical scars, others only had mental ones, but all of them had been noticeably effected. I just kept thinking of my time with those cowering animals and how much it had pained me to know they had been hurt by some heartless bastard, and how utterly wrong it was that this man got to walk away with an animal that he will most likely abuse for the rest of its life, or until he gets sick of it and throws it away, like so many other animals in this nation. This incident especially struck me, because while I have worked with abused animals for a long time, I had actually somehow never seen it happen first hand, so seeing someone do it so calmly, and right across the street from our shelter no less, shook me to the core.

Anyways, it still replays through my head over and over again, and I find myself praying for that poor small dog. Now, enough sadness, here is a picture of Chachamaru, who was found over a year into the disaster, covered in parasites, very underweight, with dislocated legs, and a big smile. Animals like him are what keep us going.

Fun fact: We personally spend around $200/month in travel costs to volunteer and rescue.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sheltered life

This weekend I got to take a fellow Iwakian to visit the shelter with me, I met her by mentioning JCN in a facebook group for locals to try and grab some new people. So far I’ve nabbed Wesley (the vet tech from 2 weeks ago) and now Kimberly. Oh, the wonders of the internet.

First we got to meet the new puppies that just came in from the 30km area, Kim fully admitted to not being a dog person, but really, no one can deny the cuteness of tiny puppies; even ones that seem to manage to have poop on themselves at all times. The white girl was my favorite, but she seemed to be a bit of a bully to the others. Either way, all of them were quite adorable and surprisingly patient when it came time to clean their fur, these guys seem like they will be very easy to train in the coming weeks.

Later in the day, Takumi took us to see the kittens that are in a local foster home. No matter how many times I work with babies of any species, it still amazes me how fast they grow, just two weeks ago one of these cuties would fit in the palm of my hand, now it takes 2 hands. We also learned some great news from Takumi, not only have all 3 caught up in their weight, but there are now potential adopters for all of them! The foster parents want the orange and gray tabbies, and an international volunteer wants the black one, which is just superb.

so shiny
Upon coming back to the shelter, which has Club Lohas as its bottom floor, we were shocked to see 3 shiny guests, a 1984 Lotus, 1973 Lotus and a 2010 Alfa Romeo! For whatever reason the Japanese men who drove them requested that Kim and I pose with their cars, but I won’t complain since it meant I got to admire the cars for awhile longer. These guys stuck around for a long time, and were pretty entertaining guests.

For dinner, I made chili for everyone, and Maaya joined us. Sweet little Maaya was found in some debris over a year after the disaster, and she had gotten so used to eating trash to survive that she still often prefers human food and plastic over cat food. While finishing dinner, Yuuko, who runs Club Lohas, invited all of us out to karaoke in town. Was a superb way to end the day, just relaxing with everyone (Kim, Howard, Yuuko, Takumi and Aki), also got to learn that Takumi is an incredible singer and that Cobra Starship is available on machines out in the boonies. 
Maaya sleeping
love you too Joni

Susan, who is the founder of Japan Cat Network, is away in Shiga at the moment handling things at the main shelter with her husband, so I slept in her bed and discovered just how starved for attention the cats in that room have been without Susan there. Around 5am Joni and Dylan woke me up by biting and suckling the blanket I was under, and then Joni decided to sit on my face to make sure I was alive. 

After walking the dogs for the morning (Kim’s first time walking a dog by the way!), we took a trip over to Comya, the coffee shop across the street to get some breakfast. Both their baked goods and drinks were divine, and we made the startling discovery that this small town coffee shop was the origin of all things hipster. Seriously, all things. 
also, they have Gremlins on record.

look at that face!
Once the coffee kicked in, Kim and I took Michitaro, who is quite regal until he gets excited, on a nice trip to a local park. A lot of children proclaimed that he was scary, but there were a few brave little ones that came over to give him love, which was also nice because it gave us a chance to tell people about the shelter. It is really a shame how few people in the area know about our existence, so it’s very helpful to take the animals on trips like this to get them some much needed exposure and hopefully get more adopters coming in, because all of them really deserve a forever home, not just a shelter.

Nala <3
 Update on Nala, our FIV+ girl: she is still nearly a skeleton, but she has been gaining weight and is becoming a lot more interested in cuddling. My current fear about her is that I think she may be losing her fur, but that has not seemed to stop her from enjoying being stroked and brushed all day. Nala is just the sweetest thing, and I seriously wish there was a forever home for her so that she could get the full devotion she deserves.

Dylan loving life
Ah, I nearly forgot! The catillion that Caroline had started for the cats 2 weeks ago has now been finished and everyone just adores the chance to get fresh air. There is no way I can properly thank Caroline for dreaming up and creating this great spot, it’s fantastic. 

I will close this entry out with with one more photo of some of the guys waiting for dinner 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Does not compute

People often ask me why I tend to choose animal companionship over other humans, and today here in Iwaki I was given a good example of just why that is.

There is a colony of cats near one of the preschools I teach English at, so every Monday they get a visit, along with lots of food and attention. This week, while they were all running over to get some food, one of the cats appearances made my jaw simply drop...
not Photoshopped
Someone took one of the cats and painted them! At first I thought he maybe just landed in some wet paint somewhere, but then I noticed this guy also had new injuries since last week, and even though he had been the most friendly before, today he was very timid.
It simply boggles my mind why anyone would want to do this to an animal. Any animal.

the colony last week

My goal is to save up some money and trap these guys so they can get fixed and vaccinated, plus a few of them have eye gunk that I want to treat with lysine, and if I can get them trusting people enough, it'd be awesome to treat them to a grooming session.

Monday, May 14, 2012

JCN Fukushima shelter

My writing skills are terrible, but I suppose that something is better than nothing at all, so here is my first attempt at doing volunteer notes about this last weekend at the Inawashiro shelter.

First, let me give everyone a quick overview of the general structure of a day:
Morning routine begins at 8am, this includes feeding all the animals, cleaning all the rooms, walking the dogs and giving our sick tenants their medications (whether they want it or not)
If there is only one person there, the routine takes from 8am till around lunch.
If there are 2+ people, it is typically over by 10:30am.

After the morning routines are finished with, and if it is not a zone day, volunteers are free to do whatever they please. Be it cleaning, organizing, cuddling animals, sightseeing or simply taking a nap. I personally tend to take the route of keeping busy with cleaning and petting the cuties, but to each their own.

Evening routine begins at 5pm and consists of feeding everyone, cleaning the cages again, walking the dogs and then putting them in their kennels for the night (there are foxes, tanuki and bears in the area, so our boys aren’t allowed to have nights outside), and ensuring everyone has had their medications.
Again, if there is only one person, this takes forever, and depending on how willing the special needs babies are with taking their meds, it can also sometimes end with a few tears.
With 2+ people, it feels like a breeze since you have good conversations and helping hands to burrito kitties and trick animals into swallowing pills.

On a zone day, we typically load up the van with food, cages and emergency equipment the night before and head out around 10am, and return whenever things are done, be that 5pm, or 2am.
While out there, duties consist of refilling feeding stations, scouting for animals, checking on our feral colonies (JCN does TNR as well), talking with locals, and inevitably getting stopped by the police a million times to check our papers. It is immensely hard work and sometimes can be utterly heartbreaking, but every animal out there that is still in need makes it more than worth it.

Anyways, that is a basic run down of the daily happenings at the Japan Cat Network Fukushima shelter, now on to what specifically happened this particular weekend.

Nala <3
Nala, who was quite recently diagnosed with FIV (Feline AIDS), was being a lot friendlier then the last time I got to visit 2 weeks ago. Last time Nala would try to struggle and do her pathetic growls during medicine time, this trip she actually cuddled with Caroline and I on several occasions. She is still practically a walking skeleton and it pains me every time I see this poor little one in such a state, but with the IV drips, high calorie foods and diligent care by our volunteers, she has an infinitely higher chance then she did a month ago when she was still in the 30km. There’s no doubt in my mind that if JCN had not found her, Nala would not be alive today.

Wesley weighing Sam
This weekend was quite busy medically speaking, JCN got a great new volunteer vet tech for the weekend named Wesley, and she gave every cat eye drops several times a day to help them with the cold that spread through C room. Wesley also gave deworming and parasite treatments to all of our dogs, and managed to weigh even our huge Sam on a small bathroom scale. Caroline, who was visiting from Australia, got many cuts from the not so happy cats while helping with the treatments, but she was quite a trooper and just laughed off the scratches and moved on to the next task. She is an amazing woman. 

visiting his deity relatives
Caroline and I also took our newest dog, Chachamaru, on a great adventure in between morning and evening routines. This poor boy was just craving love after a year alone and Caroline wanted to see the area, so we took him to the beach at Lake Inawashiro, a local park and even Aizu castle to run and get loved by lots of excited children. He ate up every minute of it. He even temporarily got renamed (butterfly) because he was so happy.

Caroline also showed off her creative side by designing and beginning to build an outside catilion so that the cats can get some fresh air now that the weather is getting nicer. 

Lastly, I finally got to meet the tiny bundles of joy that one of our local supporters are fostering, these 3 are really active and their foster is seriously their mama. 
ball of cute

Right before I had to leave Sunday, all of us enjoyed a dinner at Club Lohas, which is the restaurant right underneath the shelter. The amazing owner, Yuuko, made me the best ice coco ever.

If you would like to help Japan Cat Network continue their work of helping the animals of the Fukushima exclusion zone, please go here:
Every amount counts, as it costs 5,000Y in tolls alone just to make a single trip to all of the areas JCN helps.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

One Year Too Long

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of when the Japanese government doomed the animals withing the 20km radius of the Fukushima plant to death.
Pets and livestock depended on the people who fed them. While people were not able to enter the no-go zone, countless pets and livestock lost their lives in an unimaginable way. This tragedy is not past but still present.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

さようなら 富士山

Two weeks ago, David and I moved from Minami Alps, Yamanashi to Iwaki, Fukushima to get a pay raise and be closer to volunteering at Japan Cat Network.

Things have certainly not gone as expected since arriving.
David's job fell through last minute, so he went from having his dream job to working part time as a preschool teacher, I discovered my job was not what was originally described to me (still seems fun, but rather bummed), and we have so far not been able to volunteer much.
The worst part though is how much I am missing my students. It feels like there is a big void in my heart without them. I miss teaching them, making lesson plans, seeing Fuji from the classroom window, getting harassed during my down time, and I deeply miss being called 紅茶 先生
Ni-Nensei after closing ceremonies

Thank God I thought about giving the kids my e-mail address before leaving, it really makes the day seem infinitely brighter when a message from them pops into the inbox. Especially when they write in broken English or talk about how sad it is to not have me as their teacher. For a year, I called them "my kids," but I didn't realize how true that was until I had to leave them behind.

P.S. on the plus side, we are fostering cats named Ham and Egg. They're pretty awesome, and sound like cars when they get excited.  

oh and Egg sleeps in a TV