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:

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