Amano san and I set off for Namie together, stopping off at the 100 yen store for raincoats, on the way out. I hadn’t noticed the dark skies when we left the shelter that morning, or I would have brought one along. By the time we had moved the food to Amano san’s van, it had already started to drizzle, and juggling cat food along with an umbrella last time had proven to be a bit dangerous.
Since we had a meeting that evening, with an evacuee at his home in the area, we decided to start inside the restricted zone, as that is of highest priority. We went through the police block, and then to several of our feeding stations, before reaching the home of an evacuee who had to leave one of their cats behind. We kept this family’s dog for several months, until they received pet friendly housing, and we continue to keepone of their cats at our shelter in Shiga. I had become concerned about the one that they were not able to catch on the day that they evacuated, because I hadn’t seen her for quite a long time. However we continued to leave food for the cat, and we finally saw her again several weeks ago. We thought that we saw her dash out of the barn again today, so set a trap. We were surprised to see a young, bright colored calico in the trap when we returned, instead. Perhaps she is a surviving kitten of this family’s cat, that we have never seen before. Not all of the kitties come out to see us when we show up time after time…it is so hard to know how many are still fighting for their survival alone in these areas. The goal of course is to remove as many as possible, and to at least spay or neuter them. We’ll keep going back to the evacuee’s home, and continue trying to trap any remaining cats there, including the one that got left behind.
We continued on for several stations, and then came to the station that a cat missing her front leg had been seen at recently. It’s hard enough for kitties that are strong to survive under these tough conditions, however for those with disabilities, the challenge becomes even greater. We are so glad to see her waiting outside the feeding bin, along with another calico. When we trap her, the calico waits off to the side, soaking wet. We have that moment of wondering what to do. There is only one empty cage remaining at the shelter, given the two that we have already trapped. But there she is waiting patiently for the only food that she will likely get over the next days, despite the cold rain, and we are just too heartbroken to leave her behind. So, she comes along too, back to the shelter.
At the end of our trip we stop in to see the 4 dogs that we regularly care for, at an old incinerator complex. Friendly and eager to see visitors, they come running out at the sound of our van. This is a momentous visit for us, because this is the day that we know they will all soon be coming back with us. The day before, we heard that we finally had been given permission to bring them in to shelter, by the guardian who will not be bringing them out to his new living situation. With the relief that the dogs do not have to spend another cold winter there alone, comes the concern about where we’ll put them at the shelter, and how we will care for more dogs, given the shortage of long term volunteer help. We’ve decided to put out an urgent plea for possible foster homes in the Tokyo area. 3 of the dogs are extremely social and friendly. The 4th is timid, but has responded well to Amano san’s kind spirit, and has recently begun coming out to greet us. Though they have been fed, this has been a hard lonely life that they have led up until now, and they have never known the comfort of a real home. What an opportunity for someone to make a difference in a needy dog’s life! What gratitude these loving dogs will shower on that lucky someone!
We continue on to more stations, and then go to our friend’s home. He has prepared and set out a warm dinner on the table. He brings towels out, when he sees that we are arriving cold and wet from the rain. Over dinner, we talk about the new dog that recently showed up at his home, there, and about our continued work in the area. He tells me that Reo, a dog that we sheltered for a relative of his, is doing well, after her return to her family. At some point he turns and goes through a drawer. He pulls out a file, with an old Japanese note of money inside it. He hands me the old 100 yen paper note, which has not been in use for decades. He tells me that it is special and rare, and that he wants me to have it. After planning to stop in to see him again on our next trip out, we remind him that we have kitties waiting for shelter in the van, and we head off back to Inawashiro. On the way back I think about the new kitty, and what a survivor she is. How she hung in there, finding food and competing for the food with wild animals. We won’t know when she lost that leg, until we see the vet soon, but having only 3 legs didn’t stop her. She’s still standing, and that’s a lesson to us, as well!
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