Part 3 – Koro Goes Home!
We wound around the small streets in the mountains of the countryside where a voluntary evacuation was in place, passing Sakura Trees (cherry blossom trees) that were in full bloom and adding so much beauty to an already beautiful landscape. I have never before seen so many different species of cherry blossom trees, nor any as large as they were here. It just didn’t seem possible that this area would be considered ‘dangerous’. Tim would read out the levels as we passed through and although the levels wouldn’t be high in some areas, it was the amount of time spent exposed to those levels that was the danger. The beauty of the landscape was again, a contrast to what lay on the other side of the mountains.
As we headed to Minami Soma, we were blocked from roads that were damaged and impassable. This would add on another 1 ½ hours to our already long trip to try to get to Koro’s home…and we were already running late. We would write down locations and the animals’ health conditions when we would see animals roaming for possible rescues later.
Tim amazed me at how efficient he was with his navigating…intimidating for me to know that I would have to be doing this without him soon. Finding places on addresses alone is NOT the easiest thing to do in Japan. But Tim managed to drive straight up to Koro’s house…to a waiting family!
As transporters, we usually have only a very brief story on the animals. The daughter relayed to us that her mother had decided to move back to her house (outside of the 20 km zone) and was lonely so asked Animal Friends Niigata (AFN), where Koro was being cared for, to please bring him back.
I think Koro was still a bit freaked out and didn’t know what was happening…and then it dawned on him that he was home and here was his family!! I watched as the old woman wiped a tear away and it hit me at that time how much love she has for Koro. The Japanese are very stoic people and I knew I had witnessed something that was impossible to hide. What a thrill to be able to be part of this reunion!
Koro jumped with joy and couldn’t contain his excitement! His mother brought him back to his doghouse with an extra helping of food and water as she welcomed him home! Her daughter tried to greet him, but he was just too excited!
Then I saw something incredible happen…in a span of minutes, now tied to his post outside, a complete change of personality occurred and there he stood tall and proud barking at me…he was back at home doing his job! Although I wanted to go hug him, I stood back as if I was intimidated to give him back his dignity…but don’t tell him that! I couldn’t believe this was the same dog that we just spent 4 ½ hours with! What a thrill!
I realized I have more judgments that I would care to admit to. I always felt that dogs should be able to live in a house and not tied outside within a limited amount of space exposed to the harsh elements. After meeting Koro and his family, I realized that his doghouse and his post was what gave him the most comfort, and that his family loved him as much as I love my animals…just different living conditions and different outlook. He’s not always tied…he goes for his walks and gets to enjoy sniffing every other dogs scents and get a change of scenery…all with his family nearby for him to protect and also feel secure with. Thanks, Koro-chan! You taught me so much!
As I basked in the glory of Koro’s reunion, Tim snapped me out of my reverie with another job we had to do…another contrast…we were to pick up the neighbor’s dog to take back to AFN with us as the owners were not either able to care for him or could not take him with them…I’m assuming it was going to be another temporary stay as was Koro’s case, but we were not told the story and I didn’t feel it was my place to ask.
Many ‘surrender’ their animals to JEARS for temporary care…and some for permanent care in finding another home for them. I quickly realized there was absolutely no room for judgments for the people who had to make the hard, unbearable choice to do what they have to for the best of not only themselves, but for their animals, too. I know I could always assume that I would never give up my animals, but then, I’ve never been directly affected by a triple disaster and who knows if that finding another home for them would be the kindest thing you could do for them? I hope I never find out.
As I took the dog for a walk, I saw a car drive up and a man come out and look at me. I realized this was the father who had driven home to say his “goodbye” to him. We loaded the dog (I didn’t get his name) onto the car and let the mother and father spend their few minutes alone together.
My heart broke. Just a few minutes ago, my heart was leaping with joy…and now this. I knew the parents knew their dog would be okay and that they would see him again, but heartbreaking nonetheless, as no one knows exactly how much time it would be before they see each other again.
So, we said our farewells and started back. We stopped by at a convenience store and as Tim was getting ready for his long trip back (he was dropping me off at a nearby train station so that I could get to our rental home where we were staying in Sendai with Kinship Circle), I called to check in with my Incident Commander and as we stood speaking, the ground beneath me started rolling gently…a reminder of where I was.