Yesterday was the absolute most exciting day I've had so far. I woke up in the JEARS house in Inuwashima, Fukushima for the last day of our stay there. I had to take pictures because it is located in the mountains and is a vacation house that was built by hand by the owner and is absolutely gorgeous. They were letting the JEARS volunteers stay there at a deeply discounted rate and it's a nice house despite the draftiness and the nosy caretaker lady.
Here's the view of the front of the house.
Our first item of business for the day was to find the woman who owned the hoarding house at her evacuation center and show her pictures of the dogs and talk to her about her situation. Luckily, the illustrious Miwa was with us again to help translate and navigate.
The first center we stopped out was a gorgeous hotel off of Lake Inawashiro. Displaced seniors are being housed here and I was mildly jealous because of their view.
Unfortunately, the woman wasn't there and was at a different center than we had thought so instead we headed out to Hirona to pick up 7 cats that a guardian was temporarily surrendering because they were unable to continue to care for them.
We had no idea what we were in for.
The drive to Hirona was gorgeous and mountainous with stunning views of rural Japan. When we got to Hirona we found what was basically a huge industrial park right off the coast. It's also apparently a big soccer town, per Miwa. We had a really difficult time finding the place where we were to pick up the cats. We had anticipated that we would be just going to someone's house, but actually the cats were being housed at a warehouse where small parts for machinery were manufactured. When the guardians got to the warehouse they talked us through getting there and we arrived to find a gigantic building with two elderly people waiting for us.
Miwa and the two guardians spoke and we found out that the cats had been in the warehouse for two months. The guardians were actually the parents of the true guardians of the cats. They had lost their house in the tsunami and were able to take two of the cats, but were forced to house 5 wherever they could find and this warehouse was where they could find. So luckily we only had 5 cats to catch, but we truly had to catch them.
The cats were being kept in an office and kitchen area in the warehouse. When the couple showing us around opened the door the smell of ammonia almost knocked us off our feet. One sweet kitty proceeded to waltz right out and beg to be picked up so he was first to go in the carrier.
The rest of the cats weren't going to come so willingly. They were all hidden amongst the poop covered shelves in the office and we had to step over poop to get to them in the poops shelves. I've literally never seen so much poop in my life. We had come in not anticipating any difficulty so we weren't wearing masks or gloves and we immediately regretted it.
The next cat to be caught was a gorgeous solid white cat with sort of turquoise eyes. I tricked her out of her hiding place with food and then bare-handedly scruffed her.
Next I caught a tiny dilute tortoiseshell in much the same manner as I had caught the white lady.
Here's where things got tricky. We were at a standstill with the cats until the father came in with rubber gloves on (we didn't have any cat catching gloves!) and he went in and grabbed a beautiful, but sneezy, tortoiseshell.
But the last cat was the most difficult to wrangle. He is a medium sized solid grey cat who is apparently pure muscle. We had him darting around the room and into the kitchen (the room with the most poop of all!) where he hid behind the fridge, the propane tank, on top of the fridge, anywhere he could get to. We managed to catch him twice, but he got away each time. He then bit the father as he was trying to help catch. Try explaining to an elderly Japanese man that he needs to go to the hospital for a tetanus shot and antibiotics when he thinks he just has a little scratch and puncture wound on his hand. It was not pleasant. We finally managed to corral the cat into a small area and then wedge a piece of mirror behind him until he went into the carrier. It was a great feat of teamwork and I don't know that I've ever felt so jubilant (or nauseous). We came out of the poop rooms waving victory signs and holding up our capture.
So we had managed to catch all the cats. We took down their information: 3 boys, 2 girls, 5, 3, and 1 year old, two spayed the rest intact, names, etc. We were covered in old and fresh (grey cat is a fear pooper) excrement and I've never felt so gross in my life even after working at a veterinary clinic. But we were victorious over that room in the warehouse!
From there we had to drive to the evacuation center where the hoarding woman was actually staying and also pick up another volunteer. Once we picked up the new volunteer, and our soon-to-be next incident commander, we traveled the long road to the evac center. The woman came down to meet us and she was a kindly elderly Japanese lady. We showed her the pictures of her dogs, a beagle and a shiba, and she started to tear up and kept circling their faces on the page with her hands and calling out their names (Momo and Nana). She told us that she had left them chained up because when she was evacuated they didn't give her any information about when she could return and made her leave immediately. She thought she would only be gone for a few hours, but it ended up being months. The cats were neighborhood cats she had been feeding who were multiplying so it's understandable that there were so many. Her story made us all cry and it felt good to have resolution and to know that she wasn't actually hoarding animals or abandoning them, she was just doing the best she could with what she knew. We reassured her that the dogs could stay at the shelter for as long as she needed and that we would find placement for the cats we could catch.
We ended the day by returning to the JEARS house to get our stuff to move to the Sendai house along with ALL of the cats that had been housed in Fukushima (11 in total!). It was a long long day and night and we didn't get to sleep until around 3 am, but at least we were able to sleep fairly well knowing that all of our cats were safe.