On Friday June 25th, we prepared for Susan and Selena's departure. Blane and I were to stay back and take care of the animals while they went home to their respective weekend jobs. Selena took Choco and the 3 kittens (who we named Athena, Artemis, and Orion) to the Trap/Neuter/Return clinic in Tokyo for spays and neuters.
Right before they left, however, we received information that a group was going into the 20 km exclusion zone and we may have the opportunity to go with them. So we were frantically trying to plan for this possibility while also taking care of the animals and getting ready for Susan and Selena to leave. It was quite the circus.
We managed to secure a rental van for pick up the next morning and I was to go get the van and drive to the border of the 20km zone. Everything seemed like it was falling into place, so Susan and Selena left and Blane and I got to work around Club LOHAS. While he and I were walking dogs, however, we received calls from Selena frantically trying to tell us that we had to pick up a van tonight in Koriyama because I would have to be out at the border early in the morning.
Now, at this moment, I would like to introduce the reader to the Toppo.
The Toppo is an ancient Mitsubishi car that had been graciously donated to JEARS by a Japanese citizen. However, getting registration for the Toppo was a hassle and for several months the Toppo had alternately functioned as a dog kennel, a chicken coop, and a large laundry basket.
The Toppo was the only vehicle available to Blane and I for going to pick up the rental van that night in the dark in the rain in Koriyama. I had previously been told that the Toppo wasn't to be driven more than 70 km/hr, so I eased onto the expressway towards Koriyama. It seemed to be driving well (except for the horrible grinding noises), but then a few kms down the expressway the windshield wipers stopped. It is rainy season in Japan right now and on that night it was absolutely pouring rain. For some reason a small patch in the windshield still allowed some visibility to I drove to Koriyama (about an hour away from Inawashiro) in the rain with Blane clearly white-knuckled beside me.
We made it alright (though a half an hour later than the rental shop closed, they were super nice and stayed open for us) and got the rental van, but ditched the Toppo at the shop (with permission). We made our way back and managed to get to Club LOHAS without any major problems (though I may have taken away a few years from Blane's life with my driving).
The next day (Saturday June 25th), I got up at 5:30 am in anticipation of going to the 20 km border only to be told that, no, I wouldn't be able to get in and they weren't bringing animals out so don't worry about it. It was very disappointing to say the least. On the plus side, Judy made it up to help out for the weekend and a new volunteer, Pauline, came in that day, as well, so Blane was able to go to the air force base to pick up supplies. Judy, Pauline, and I spent a relaxing day on animal care and eating.
In the late afternoon, another volunteer, Kate, brought by two corgies and a cat whom they had picked up from the Sendai hokenjo.
The female tri-color corgi, Pitan, is a 12 year old girl surrendered to hokenjo because her owners were displaced by the disasters and couldn't care for her. She stayed at hokenjo for two months and during that time an employee connected with her. When it was determined that she should be put down, an employee called JEARS out of desperation trying to save her life. Kate picked her up (along with the other two). She is very sweet, but it was clear that Pitan had been very well-fed, but this overfeeding of table scraps and whatnot has come at a cost to her health. She seems to have pretty bad arthritis in both hips. She is now on a diet here at Club LOHAS.
The younger male corgi, Taro, a 7 year old, had been the pet of an older couple. They went into a hospital and were unable to care for him, so they gave him to their adult children. However, the adult children had been displaced by the earthquake and were also unable to give him proper care so they surrendered him to the hokenjo. Kate saw him at hokenjo when she went to pick up Pitan and took him, as well. Unfortunately, Taro is kind of bitey (why can't we have nice things?) so we have to be wary around him.
Taro trying to figure out if biting me is the best course of action.
Taro deciding against it and instead giving an awkward smile.
The cat, Setsuo, is a 1 year old male. His guardian had been living with him in temporary housing after having to evacuate. However, the neighbors on either side of the guardian told her that they were allergic to the cat and Setsuo was making them break out in hives. Personally, I've never heard of someone breaking out in hives from being in a house adjacent to a cat, much less two people, but the guardian believed them and felt she had no choice but to take Setsuo to hokenjo. Luckily, we became aware of the situation and told the guardian that we would foster Setsuo until she was in more permanent housing or in temporary housing with non-jerk neighbors.
We ended the night fairly early having taken care of all of the animals.
On Sunday June 26th, I woke up early, again, in preparation for a meeting with Fran and Sega-san in Kawamata. Sega-san had been feeding a cat and was worried that it had become sick. She wanted our help diagnosing and possibly removing the cat for veterinary care. Fran came to Inawashiro and we caravanned to Hello Shop where we met up with Sega san. She took us to the house with the cat, but, unfortunately, the cat was nowhere to be seen. We dropped a lot of food and hoped for the best.
Since it was the weekend, I needed to feed the chickens and Fran came along as he hadn't seen them in quite a while. On our way there we stopped in to speak to Amano-san. She was excited to see us and informed us (via Miho translating on my Iphone) that the owner of the dogs we had found on Wednesday was willing to let us take all but one to Inawashiro! At this point it felt serendipitous that we had rented the Hi-ace. Even though we couldn't get into the 20 km zone we were still able to use it to transport a lot of animals.
Amano-san drove with us to the house and we began collecting the animals. First we picked up a super-friendly adult white male cat. He has since been named Nova (for Casanova because he is so sweet and also apparently the father of many kittens).
Next we saw an adult white female cat. I picked her up and noticed that she was lactating. We couldn't immediately take her, so we focused on the dogs. There were 4 dogs barking frantically at us. Amano-san pointed at the big Akita mix closest to the house as being the one we had to leave behind. Supposedly some relatives of the guardians were coming to pick him up before the end of June and he had to be at the house waiting for them. Instead we began systematically loading the other dogs.
The poor dog being left behind.
The first one loaded was a dog with obvious front leg issues. He was the only one not chained and was freely roaming the property with a bizarre limp. I suspected elbow dysplasia because both front legs were abnormally bent at the elbows in the exact same fashion so it probably wasn't from an injury. Despite this, he was very friendly and actually seemed excited to get into the crate for transport.
Until I learned his real name ("Kangaroo") a few days later, I called him Sir-Gimps-A-Lot. He didn't seem to mind as long as I gave him a belly rub.
Next we loaded a female and a male dog, both with shaggy reddish-brown fur and kind of skittish.
You can see the horrible conditions in which they were being kept. Living on broken sheet metal and beside car batteries. I've purposely made a habit of not addressing the poor conditions in which many of these rural animals are kept because I don't want to be disrespectful, but this was so horrendous I can't keep quiet.
Lastly, we followed the white mother cat upstairs into the loft of the barn where we found two of her kittens. We searched far and wide for other kittens, but couldn't find any. We left some wet food in hopes that any left behind kittens would be old enough to eat it. We then got ready to head out.
Just as we were about to leave, Fran happened to hear something in one of the tiny chicken coops in front of the home. He checked inside and found one live chicken and a half dozen weeks-dead corpses. The chicken was so weak we grabbed her with a towel and put her in a dog cage and she could barely hold her head up. We got her some water and feed and she quickly perked up. We have no idea how she managed to survive so many weeks without food or water. The others had clearly died a long time ago. It was so sad considering the guardians had been coming back to feed the dogs and cats occasionally but just left the chickens to languish. We loaded the chicken so that she could go to Fran's home.
We made a quick stop to feed the chickens and dropped by the Hello Shop to check on the cats there. The pregnant mama was still pregnant and I tried to catch her, but to no avail. I resolved to check back soon and try to get permission from the Hello Shop owners to remove the cats because it's just not safe for kittens to be born in an evacuated area.
Back in Inawashiro, Susan and Selena had returned and we got all of the animals settled. I got back early enough that I was even able to vaccinate all of the kittens!