July this year I spent time in Japan, including a week at ARK (Animal Refuge Kansai), where many pets who survived the triple disaster in March, 2011 are now living out their days, unable to ever go ‘home’ with their families.
To assist families, ARK pays air fares and accommodation and flies individual family’s to ARK to spend time with their loved pets. Elizabeth says: “We promise to take care of their pets as long as it takes.”
While at ARK, a disaster-survivor family arrived to be with their dog. It is heart wrenching and unimaginable what emotions must be going thru the people and the animals.
Saying goodbye at the end of the visit must be unbearable. Many of the dogs are elderly and some have aged very fast due to the trauma they suffered; especially those who were abandoned and left to starve in the disaster area, before being rescued and transported to ARK (or other shelters.)
Some dogs whose entire families died in the tsunami are filled with ongoing sadness, despite extra care toward them. Every dog at ARK receives a long daily walk plus an hour of one on one play time with staff, but despite every effort made, some of the dogs still have the trauma etched deep within their eyes.
Sadly, sometimes dogs do not recognise their own families when they arrive because they have already bonded with their foster family. I cannot imagine how shattering that must feel. Yet other disaster survivor dogs have adapted very well. Just like people, each animal copes in a different way.
If dogs are affected so badly, imagine the long term effects on the young children growing up, unable to yet fully verbalise how they feel.
Footnote: ARK housed surviving pets from Kobe earthquake in 1995, for over 10 years and expect to do the same with Fukushima/Tohoku surviving pets as well. ARK is insistent quality of care is paramount above everything else.
Immediately following the disaster: although many groups swooped in to rescue animals and sent them to temporary shelters that popped up all over the place, it’s the long term quality of care that presents real issues, when all the ‘helpers’ and do-gooders have left the area and returned to their own way of living (and their own countries.)
Unknown numbers of Fukushima/Tohoku dogs and cats languished in overcrowded temporary rescue shelters, unequipped and unable to be properly cared for. Warehousing was common, where travel crates were stacked on top of each other as countless dogs and cats were forced to live in them, surrounded by stench and incessant noise from barking and howling as the animals lost their minds.
It is unknown how many dogs and cats who survived the tsunami, fended for themselves against starvation and snow, were later captured, warehoused and ended up thrown into gas chambers to die a cruel death. *sigh* It is frowned upon to say such things, but we know it happened and it should be told.