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.