On Wednesday June 15th, a transport had been arranged by a German man named Axel with whom I'm apparently confused on the JEARS facebook page because Alex and Axel are acronyms (and the Japanese are as bad with western names as I am with eastern ones). So we got up at 7:30 to get dogs and cats ready to go to Shiiga and Heart Tokushima. By the time Axel and his friend arrived, Bill, Mickey, Lucky, Ryu, Mimii and her puppies, the grey litter of kittens from hokenjo, Burrito, and the meowy female calico were almost ready to go.
I have to say I had the hardest time saying goodbye to Bill, Mickey, and Lucky. Those three have hands down been the best dogs we've cared for in Inawashiro. They loved each other, people, treats, walks, everything. I hope that I get to see them again soon. Of course, it was also hard to part with (my) puppies because we've been watched them grow from little newborn lumps of fur to almost normal looking puppies. Before they left, though, we got some pictures!
After the transport left we had only 3 dogs and 15 cats/kittens left. It was such a huge relief! Since there were few(er) animals left, Susan said that it was alright for myself, Sister Michael Marie, and Selena to all go together to Namie to take care of the chickens at the big coop and to scout for animals.
We stopped first in Yamakiya Kawamata at the Hello Shop to check on the cats that we have seen there. There were two dogs chained to the side of the house with no food, but a little bit of water. We fed them treats and saw that some men were at a nearby car repair place. We asked and they said that people were coming by everyday to walk and feed them. So the dogs were ok. However, the cats didn't have any food in their half a dozen bowls and the water was filled with algae. Otherwise, they looked good (though one was severely pregnant and wouldn't let us near her), so we laid down food and cleaned out the water bowl, replacing the water with bottled when we realized that the outside taps had been shut off. We will continue to look in on these cats to ensure they are still being cared for.
Next, we went to check on the house with 7 cats that I'd seen a week and a half before with Erica and Eija and from which Sister and I had taken the two sick kittens. We saw no evidence that anyone was feeding the cats and they were very hungry so we laid down food.
Shortly afterwards, the owner came out and (kindly) berated us for feeding his cats saying that they had been fed earlier in the day. I can understand him being upset because if someone came along and fed my cats (granted, I wouldn't have outdoor cats) because they thought they looked improperly cared for I would be offended, too. However, it just seemed kind of suspicious that the cats didn't have any bowls around and were so hungry and he wouldn't accept any food donations. Maybe he tries to keep them hungry so they will kill the mice in his barn?
Finally, before heading into Namie, we stopped at a shop where Sister Michael had previously (in April) caught an orange tabby that had subsequently gotten loose from a faulty carrier. He was still there, but now very wary of people. However, we also found a very pregnant female cat. I brought out some stinky wet food and she cautiously came up to it to eat. I petted her and she accepted it so then I scruffed her and stuffed her into a carrier. I really know how to make animal friends!
On the way into Namie to feed the chickens we passed by the woman whom we'd met taking care of the wild boars. We met her this time when we were stopping to try to catch an older kitten (ultimately uncatchable). She came out to tell us that she had been feeding strays in the area. We asked if she needed help and she said "yes" so we gave her a couple of bags of pet food and told her we would try to catch any of the strays that we came across. She was very nice and we learned her name is Amano san. She also told us that she was worried about some chickens that she had recently found. We confirmed that they were the same chickens we were going to feed and she was glad to hear that they were being cared for. She followed us to the chicken coop to watch us feed. While we were working she called some of her neighbors and found out the name of the owner of the chickens and where he had evacuated to! She is hoping to figure out his number soon so that we can see about transporting the chickens out.
We had to put on our Tyvek gear before getting out of the car because the radiation was particuarly high that day. However, taking care of the chickens with three people was a breeze and we quickly finished, snapping a few pictures before we left.
After we were done with the chickens we decided that we wanted to see what the border of the 20 km exclusion zone looked like: did it have police guarding it or was it just a road block? Since Sister Michael was with us, now seemed like the perfect time to see how far we could get because, really, who is going to arrest a nun and her friends?
At first we went the wrong way. It initially looked like the right way, but the road ended up going up and around the 20km zone. Also, this highway became a dirt road. Scary. So we backtracked and as we were driving back we were stopped by not one but two police cars! They asked us what we were doing, but were satisfied to hear that we were doing animal rescue work. One of the sets of cops even told us to look out for goats. He had seen two goats roaming with collars on that someone had apparently set free and he was worried for them. We also saw a dog on the road right as we were being pulled over but couldn't get near it. It had a collar on and looked well-fed so it may have just been the dog of someone who hadn't evacuated yet.
We turned around and went back to the road with the wild boars on it. Here we went past a roadblock that said something to the tune of "It is best if you do not enter here." Someone had scrawled 5 km on the top of the sign. This was the entrance to the 25 km zone.
Inside this area we immediately began seeing cats. They were hanging around outside of houses. We saw 3 cats at one house who wouldn't let us near the so we laid down food. Then, at another house, we spotted an orange tabby sitting prettily beside a house. Selena went up to see him and he eagerly came for food. Sister Michael got out of the car and grabbed him and put him into a carrier. Under normal circumstances we wouldn't have taken a healthy looking cat sitting at a house, but this was so close to the 20 km border and it was clear that no one was coming around except animal groups to feed him because a water and light bleached flyer from another group hang out of the mailbox. We left a note on a JEARS flyer for the homeowners that we had taken an orange cat from their property and would keep him until his guardians were found.
We also saw stray cats along the road who wouldn't let us near them. We turned around when we came to a point where a sign said in Japanese that it was forbidden. It was just a roadblock, but the sign was kind of intimidating. I put a pin down on my iphone google map and we later looked up the location to see if it was the 20km border. According to the Japan Crisis google map we were only about a kilometer away from the 20 km border.
Returning through Namie we stopped to try to catch a cat near the wild boars.
After several minutes of handfeeding it, Sister Michael managed to scruff it in a spectacular feat of cat wrangling. The cat was unceremoniously stuffed into a carrier and while we were in the car after the catch we were stopped by yet another police car with police who took our information and told us to be careful. The cop stops get so tiring especially when you know that they are just going to ask for your information for the thousandth time and tell you to go.
So we headed back to Inawashiro and took care of all of the animals, setting up cages for the new ones and thus ended a successful day in Namie.
On Thursday June 16th, Sister Michael Marie left early to get back to Tokyo for her flight out after helping with morning animal care. When Susan and Selena returned from the train station where they had dropped her off, we all went to a bakery across the street from Club LOHAS which Selena had been frequenting. This was a Japanese French bakery and it is absolutely glorious!!! I went a little picture happy so apologies for the excessive images.
Delectable chocolate croissant. #thisiswhyyou'refat
The rest of the day was similarly peaceful with easy animal care, eating at Club LOHAS and drinking wine with Yoshikawa san, and most importantly, we ended the night with Karaoke!
This was my first experience with Japanese-style karaoke where everyone goes into a small room and you sing together instead of in front of a drunken crowd. There was a t.v. that displayed the lyrics and random videos behind the lyrics. It was quite clear that for the English songs the Japanese karaoke maker didn't know what was an appropriate video to match the lyrics so some of the videos were absolutely ridiculous. For example, a super white couple having a picnic and then watching a cow ford a river, a black man repeatedly walking in front of a creepy clown mural, and a sleazy Japanese guy acting like a pimp. Watching the videos made for much hilarity.
And just so those of you who have sung karaoke with me at home know, we started the night with my favorite Cee Lo Green song and whiskey on the rocks (they don't do tequila here). It was epic.
thursday 16- food and karaoke