The week after the hokenjo run is best described by the title of the post, a quote from Susan. I don't use this quote to belittle the experiences of soldiers in wartime, but to draw a comparison between what we went through during that week. Absolute exhaustion, fear for our safety, fear for the safety of others, hospital trips. I think our experience can safely be compared to war.
On Saturday June 4th I woke up about 3 hours after I'd fallen asleep. I immediately thought of the kitten with whom I'd fallen asleep. She was still in the towel in the same position as when I'd drifted off, but she was dead. I was too exhausted to be mortified, but looking back on it, that is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a cat lover. We are pretty sure she had a congenital disorder and Susan believes she was hydrocephalic because she has had similar experiences with kittens having eyes far apart suddenly dying. I am at least glad that the kitten got to know the feeling of a full belly and of being cuddled before she passed. We buried her out in the woods marked by a stick with a cat toy tied to it.
I had to take the two LIA volunteers to the train station in Koriyama, about an hour and a half away, because the trains didn't come to the Inawashiro station early enough to get the back in time for appointments that they had. So I spent all morning driving them and coming back.
Fortunately, in the afternoon, we had an influx of volunteers to help out with animal care. One volunteer, Erica was picked up by Miho, Fran and Kambe sensei came for a bit, and four volunteers from an American military base came! They had started a donation drive for JEARS and brought all of the supplies that they had raised. It was great! They unloaded the supplies into our big rental unit and helped me put a collar on one of the terrier-type hokenjo dogs who was trying desperately to bite me. I ended up having to use a pair of plyers to hold onto one end of the collar and a hook to grab the other end and then we got it on that way. So many fun, aggressive animals!
Unfortunately, the volunteers didn't stay very long. Miho and Susan had to go to the pick up in Kawamata that we had rescheduled. The four military base volunteers left after they walked a few dogs. Fran and Kambe sensei only stopped by to pick up the geiger counter. So it was Erica and I left to take care of 57 animals by ourselves. And one of the terrier type dogs got loose from her tie out 3 times. And Erica was mildly bitten by one of the Akita dogs who we learned is food aggressive. And I had to neglect the neonate kittens to take care of the 26 dogs.
Then, as we were putting all of the dogs away into the rental unit and cars and wherever we could find to put them, the dog that I had spent so much time putting a collar on slipped said collar and ran off. She stayed around the hotel and a few minutes afterward Susan and Miho got back (with 2 more cats, yay) after I frantically called them yelling "This is entirely unmanageable!!!!" We sat in the parking lot watching the dog circle the perimeter. She wanted to be with her other terrier-type friend whom Erica and I had put into a cage because she kept getting loose. It was pitiful. The loose dog wouldn't be tempted by any treats and was terrified of us. I knew that the dogs were frightened, but clearly, these two dogs were feral or very near to it. We haven't seen the loose dog since that night.
In addition to the trouble with the dog getting loose and the dog biting, the neonates, having been neglected by me as I tended Erica's bite wound and tried to prevent other dogs from getting loose, had gone downhill. Fran got back late at night and saw that the two runts were probably hours away from dying. He took them with him that night because he's an expert with neonates, but one still passed away.
Sunday June 5th started with a dog fight. Erica and I were tying the dogs out. The food aggressive dog, having gotten a taste for human flesh, was trying to attack me as I attempted to get the slip lead off of him after getting him tied out. I didn't want him to choke himself with the slip lead and he seemed dumb enough to do it, so I was using my same hook to try to get it off. The food aggressive dog's agitation was riling up the big Akita dog next to him. Just as I was successful in getting the slip lead off, the big Akita dog attacked the food aggressive dog. I don't know how he did it because the day before they had been at the exact same spots and it had been far enough away to prevent fights. Regardless, Erica through water on them, but these were two unneutered males so the water did exactly nothing. Luckily, I had recently taught Helping Paws how to break up a dog fight. I grabbed the big Akita dog by the rear legs and did the wheelbarrow move, dodging to avoid getting bitten myself. Unfortunately, I didn't get him away in time and the food aggressive dog was missing a good chunk of his leg.
So that was great. Plus it was Sunday so there were almost no veterinary offices open. We had Miwa call around and she found one office open. I had her tell them that the dog would need sedation and wound care. On the phone, the veterinarian told her that he had the degree and he would be the one to make that call. That should have been our warning. When Miwa and Selena got the dog to the vet the vet turned the away saying he didn't have time that day to sedate a dog and do wound care. And our problems with Fukushima vets continue.
I took Erica and Aya, one of the four volunteers from the base to Kawamata to scout for animals. We didn't catch any, but did find one house with 7 cats that we were worried about even after the owner came home and assured us he was feeding. There were no feeding dishes anywhere. It was very sketchy.
When we got back Susan was frantic. When we brought the neonates to Inawashiro we were so glad that we had picked up the lactating mother cat on Thursday. We removed her almost-weaned 5-week-old kittens and gave her the 10 (now 8) neonates to nurse. She had quickly taken to them and was doing very well in her motherly duties with us supplementing with the bottle. However, while Erica, Aya, and I were gone, the mother had stopped eating and drinking and wouldn't do anything with the kittens. We scrambled to find out what to do. I gave her fluids and oral glucose and I gave the kittens glucose and she still wouldn't do anything. We even toyed with the idea of having Mimii nurse the kittens, but she wouldn't sit still and we didn't trust her to not eat the kittens.
I was sitting in the back of the van after trying to wrangle Mimii so she could nurse kittens when I had a brilliant idea, maybe the best I've ever had. I made a kitten feeding tube out of an Iphone cord. I cut the cord into pieces, removed the inner metal parts, squirted water through it dozens of times until I was relatively sure that there was no metal bits stuck inside, boiled it, and then used it to successfully tube feed some of the kittens. Then the mama cat came back around to feed them and it seemed like things were getting much better. No one had died or gotten lost that day, though Selena had been mildly bitten by the big Akita dog and, you know, there was that horrendous dog fight and an uncared for wound.
The next day we set up a transport for all of the hokenjo dogs except for the emaciated one and all of the adult hokenjo cats. I had successfully loaded (by myself) all of the (very fractious and bitey) cats into carriers and they were sitting out on the deck. Erica was standing on the deck and called down to tell me a cat was on the deck. I asked her if it was one of ours and she said no. But it was one of ours! We lost one of the hokenjo cats, the most aggressive, a skinny calico who I'm fairly certain is feral. We haven't seen her since. Yay!
I set a trap and Selena and Erica got ready to transport, but then we couldn't find the van keys. I would like to point out that when you are taking care of 57 animals there is no time for cleaning, so our room looked worse than a pig sty. And we couldn't find the keys in it. We had to call out a key service and pay a bunch of money to have a key made, but the transport finally got on the road. They keys were eventually found in the back of the van.
On Tuesday June 7 for a while it was just Susan and I. Luckily, a long-time volunteer, Judy came to help. The day was remarkably calm with Susan caring for the neonates and Judy and I caring for the rest of the animals. It was nice that the aggressive hokenjo animals were gone and we were back to having only our normal dogs (and the bajillion cats). We worked late into the night caring for all of the animals. As I was putting up Ryu he was almost attacked by Chiro, Jr. As I was working to calm him down from the attack, a fox came within 10 meters of us. I yelled at it and it ran away, but returned less than a minute later. I threw some leads at it, but it kept returning until I eventually chased it into the woods. I could tell it was still around, though.
Right before we were going to bed, Judy and I noticed that Muku had become very agitated because of the foxes. Since the one fox had come so close to me, we were worried for his safety. We decided that the best thing to do was move him into the dog run beside Club LOHAS so that at least he'd have a 3 ft. barrier protecting him.
Now, I would like to point out that I always tell every volunteer that Muku is aggressive. Not only is Muku an aggressive dog, he is an unpredictably aggressive dog. He has this misguided aggression and he lashes out at whoever is closest to him when he is upset (and many many things upset him). Despite my warnings, most volunteers don't listen to me because when Muku is getting what Muku wants he is a pleasant dog.
So Judy didn't believe me (not her fault, he does seem like a nice dog and she's one of about a dozen people who haven't believed me) when I said to watch out for Muku. We had moved his dog house into the dog run and she was tying him to a post when he started to growl at her. She got nervous and tried to hand me his lead but as she was handing it off he attacked. I watched as his face headed towards hers. She put her arm up to block him and he bit down. She pulled away (a no-no with dog bites) and his teeth scraped against a nerve in her hand. He let go when she had him dangling off of her arm and he ran off while she ran out of the dog run clutching her arm to her to lay on the ground. I had to catch Muku and tie him up and I was screaming for Susan to come out because blood was pooling beneath Judy. I had Muku tied up and he wasn't letting me out of the dog run. He was growling and barking at me so I started screaming at him and finally he backed away. Susan called an ambulance and I ran for compresses to stop the bleeding. I held them against Judy's hand where the worst laceration and puncture were while she spoke on the phone to the operator (Susan was kind of distraught and I don't think her JapEnglish would have sufficed in this situation).
The ambulance arrived quickly and we followed in the car. The hospital was a half an hour away! You'd think Inawashiro, a town famous for skiing, would have a closer hospital. We got there and Judy was rushed inside and taken care of. Susan had been taking care of kittens when the ordeal went down and so they were out of their cages. I had to go back to Club LOHAS to gather everyone and check on the neonates. Then back to the hospital. Judy's bite was patched up and we brought her back to Club LOHAS and turned in for the night but by then it was 5 am.
Wednesday June 8th we had to get up at 7 am so that we could move Muku out of the dog run before anyone tried to use it. I got a slip lead around his neck and dragged him at arm's length. Not going to lie, it was quite scary. By this point Susan and I are near delirium and Judy has to leave. So I take Judy to the train station and when I get back Susan is calling everyone that she knows to see if they can help. No one can help until later so we have to deal with all of the animals by ourselves on 2 hours of sleep (plus the many nights of virtually no sleep prior to that one). We get everyone ok and Miho, her mother, and Selena show up and help. Everything goes fairly smoothly, but Susan clearly needs a break.
We still had to feed the chickens (we feed Wednesdays, Fran feeds weekends), but we didn't have enough people for two of us to go so I headed to Namie by myself. I took the JEARS van and put the JEARS magnets on the side hoping that this would get me some leeway. The drive was uneventful until I got to the blockade which I had to pass to get into the zone that is still open for residents, but not for the general public. A police car was parked on the side of the road near it. I kept driving as if I was supposed to be there and watched as the heads of the two policemen in the car followed me. For some reason they didn't stop me, though! I was so glad because trying to explain to them about the chickens would have been very difficult.
When I got to the coop I began feeding the chickens. When I started to take the buckets down the road to the gutter to fill them up, a truck passed me and stopped. A man got out and came to inquire as to what I was doing. I called Selena on the phone so that she could talk to him in Japanese. She explained to him that I was there because JEARS was taking care of these chickens. Once he figured out that I wasn't some crazy person stealing chickens, he became quite friendly and spoke to me in fairly good English. He helped me to get water in all of the buckets and move them into the coop. Then he asked me to come to his house for coffee.
You can't really decline offers in Japan. It's customary for people to exchange gifts and pleasantries. But I was in the middle of an evacuation area and this older Japanese man wanted me to go to his house for coffee? I had to say yes, but I texted Selena his license plate number in case I didn't return to Inawashiro. He led me up the road a bit to his driveway (a dirt path through the woods). I was really quite scared. When I got to the house I armed myself with my cell phone and the knowledge that I was much larger than this old Japanese man and could easily take him.
He led me around the side of the house and showed me his two dogs, Kuro and Chibi. They were very adorable and friendly. He said he was worried that he would need to evacuate soon and that if he couldn't find housing for them he would call us. He also had been a small dairy farmer, but had to send his cows away because of the radiation. He said he was worried about them because at his home they had many acres on which to roam, but wherever he had sent them were just small stalls. Still, I thought it was great that he had actually moved his cows out instead of leaving them to languish.
Then we went inside and had coffee. It was actually incredibly pleasant. He told me about how he had built the house himself, told me about his grandchildren, and we talked about the differences between Japan and America. I asked him why he hadn't evacuated and he explained that he was 63 and not worried about the radiation. He walked around with no face mask on even though the radiation in his area was quite high (15-20 microsieverts). We talked about the wildlife and I told him about Inawashiro. At the end he gave me some coffee and I told him to be safe and have a good weekend. I drove back to Inawashiro and was never stopped by the police!
Thursday June 9th, Susan leaves for home to take care of her visa and for a rest. Miho has to go to work. So it's Selena, Miho's mother, and myself. Everything is going ok. Miho's mom is on cat duty and Selena and I do dogs. We sit down for tea graciously provided by Yoshikawa san and when we are done Miho's mom goes upstairs. Now the adult cats had been out that day roaming the room and we had been very careful to make sure no one escaped. But this time when Miho's mom opened the door, the mama cat who was nursing the neonates was waiting and shot out the door, knocking her over. Miho's mom is on the floor yelling "Cat, Cat!!!!" and I run alongside the building underneath the balcony because I know exactly what the cat is going to do. She jumps off of the balcony and shoots off into the woods with me chasing after her, but not fast enough to keep up.
So we've lost the mother cat. Selena and I try to trap her with food and with her kittens, but to no avail. I get Miho's mom some ice for her foot and she acts like it's just sprained. Then she calls a taxi to take her to the hospital because the foot hurts so bad. We come to find out later that it is broken.
We have a lost cat and a broken foot for Thursday!
Friday June 10th was spent at a much more leisurely pace because we caught the mother cat overnight in a trap! I cleaned up the new room that we were renting in preparation for the arrival of Sister Michael Marie from Kinship Circle and Miho's mom and Selena did animal care. Miho picked her mother up that night along with the mama cat and neonates. I picked up Sister Michael from the train station and Selena left for Tokyo.
Thus ends the hardest week of my life.