Dogs, Devotion and Japan

Many of you have seen the video below, but for those of you who haven’t, here is a reminder that it is not just the people of Japan who are suffering. I don’t want to break your hearts, and don’t pretend that this is easy to watch, but I hope it does inspire some to do what they can to contribute to aid and rescue efforts in this horrific disaster.

Even as Jim and I have been in New York City, and now Chicago, enjoying, almost guiltily, the stimulation and ridiculously easy access to amazing food, I have been obsessed with information about the disaster in Japan, and can’t seem to tear myself away from the news channels. There is so much to think about here, but one of the things, related to this blog, that comes to mind is the progression of reporting, in disasters like this, from a focus on people and their suffering to including that of non-human animals. It makes all the sense in the world to focus first on people–I do the same myself and can’t  imagine it any other way. But I have to admit, that as soon as we heard about the earthquake and tsunami, I thought oh god, how many thousands, tens of thousands (millions?) of animals died, and how many are left now and are suffering?

I remember watching the news about Katrina, and wondering when the first story about the suffering of non-humans would show up. If I remember right, it was somewhere around day three. So far, the only report I’ve seen about animals in Japan is the now famous video below, but I am sure that’s not all that is out there, and I suspect that the nuclear crisis, which has us all on pins and needles, is dominating the news. Somewhere here there is an interesting issue about our devotion to and relation to all living things around us, but right now, all I want to do is hope and pray, send what help I can and keep the people and animals of Japan in my heart every moment.

I can’t write much now (no internet where I’m staying right now in Chicago), but here are some sources for donations if you are able in any way to help. I have read that donations are relatively low compared to other disasters, perhaps because people see the Japanese as so self-sufficient, but I can tell you that without a doubt this disaster is beyond the means of any one country. If you can contribute, I hope you would consider giving donations for both the people and non-human animals of Japan. Here’s a good source for animals, with 6 different sites listed:

Six ways to help animals in Japan.

And for people you could consider: Mercy  Corps Save the Children or the Red Cross Japan.

And here’s a link to the video, get out your hanky. It’s on Steve Dale’s blog, a good one to check out.

Dogs in Japan

[One additional note: As a scientist, I have to say there are several explanations of why the healthy dog is staying with the injured one, but I’m leaving that for a later discussion. Here’s the good news: the dogs were rescued. Here’s hoping their humans are alive and well, and that they are re-united or find a new, good home.]


  1. says

    I had a hard time watching this the other day until I scanned the article and saw both dogs had already been rescued and were receiving medical care. I look forward to hearing your theories on why the dogs stuck together as I have been thinking about that a great deal.

  2. Beth says

    So touching. I too have trouble tearing myself away from the news, and constantly find myself on the verge of tears.

    Here was more dog news out of Japan, that made it to the Corgi boards. This dog was reunited with his owner. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the expression on this gentleman’s face sums up, for me, all the heartbreak in their beautiful country.

  3. Janice says

    Hi Trisha,
    I am glad that the web site for ways to help the animals in Japan mentioned ARK, because when I was living in Japan for 2 years, I was lucky enough to visit them and stay there for a couple of days. They are a ways south of Tokyo, but hopefully there are some people in the north helping with this. I too was worried about the animals, but I have seen some hopeful signs that things are better regarding animals in a disaster than they were at the time of the Kobe earthquake. First of all, I have seen people in a number of news clips with their dogs with them. One was a clip of two old ladies who were out searching in the devastation–if you look closely, you could see the little dog in one of the lady’s backpacks. I have seen several clips with dogs in the arms of their owners getting checked for radiation exposure. And I saw a clip of an emergency shelter specifically set up for people to be able to stay with their pets (in that news clip, I saw cats as well as dogs).

    I was living in Japan a couple years after the Kobe earthquake and I was told by my Japanese friends (most of whom were also dog lovers) that it was observed that the survivors of the Kobe earthquake who had pets were less likely to commit suicide in the time after the disaster. One can barely comprehend or imagine the crushing depression that these survivors felt–the trauma and terror of fleeing the disaster, then finding out that your home and family and neighborhood and everything familiar were forever gone. But having a pet helped give people the strength to go on. And so you see the changes I have noticed on the news clips–people and their pets are being kept together and animals are being saved. (All of this has changed since the Kobe quake).

    My heart just aches for what Japan is going though right now. I wish there was something I could do to ease their suffering.

  4. Pike says

    The situation in Japan is just sad beyond words and this video seems to condense everything to the only possible reaction… tears from somewhere deep within.

    Tears about so much death and suffering and also about how fragile our own seemingly solid existence really is. I live within half a block of the Pacific in earthquake prone Oregon and it doesn’t take much fantasy to see how this could happen here any time. One picture that has stayed with me for the last few days, was of survivors walking down a road – amid mass destruction – with bed sheets around their front and back that held all their remaining possessions. Life being reduced to just what one can carry – but still, it is life.

    And so, there are the other tears. The tears of hope and survival against all odds. And it is that precious flame of life and hope that we will strengthen by helping now.

  5. Joanna says

    “there are several explanations of why the healthy dog is staying with the injured one, but I’m leaving that for a later discussion.”

    I’m looking forward to that discussion. I’ve seen these kinds of videos before and I always wondered what might be driving the dogs’ actions.

  6. Dee says

    Thank you for posting the video and the links to help animals. I hadn’t seen either. I’ve donated to help humans, but am relieved to know where to donate to help animals. The devastation in Northern Japan is heartbreaking.

    I will be very interested to read a post about why the healthy dog is staying with the injured dog. I broke my right tib/fib ten weeks ago. I’m still not weight-bearing (hopefully that changes on Monday). My English Cocker would not leave my side for the first couple of weeks when I was on bed rest. (She is sleeping next to the injury site as I write.) She got very protective of me and snapped at a couple of my friends, that she knows well, when she felt they got too close.

    My Mini Aussie didn’t seem to need to protect the actual injury, but wouldn’t let people she didn’t know in the room with me. I had to keep her on a leash or have my husband take her out of the room if people she didn’t know came to see me.

    They became much less anxious when I became more mobile.

  7. Beckmann says

    As a Japanese myself, I really would like to say a big THANK YOU for mentioning this in your blog.

    Currently, I am living in Germany; however, I have been supporting numerous channels for animal rescues in Japan. And Japanese people are grateful to have the prompt international rescue support from everywhere.

    As far as I know, there have been a lot of efforts to rescue all animals but then still the situation is very challenging. Even people who are suffering have been having difficulty to access to food, heating system and basic necessities. In the time like this, it is very difficult to care for animals, but I would like to mention here that many people are fighting against the difficulties to save as many living things as humanly possible.

    I and all Japanese people would be more than grateful for all the support we can get at this moment. Thank you very much.

  8. Deanna in OR says

    Another image from Japan that agility people have been sharing is one of the tsunami just before it hits (among other things) an agility practice field:

    It’s a reminder that all that we hold dear, including our beloved pets, can be destroyed in an instant. In this case, the agility club people and dogs who used that field apparently are safe, but it will be a very long time until their lives are back together and they get to play together in agility.

    My local agility club had scheduled (pre-earthquake) a talk just last night by our county’s emergency coordinator on planning for disasters when you have pets. Unfortunately, the Pacific Northwest, where I live, has a 1 in 3 chance to have an earthquake like Japan’s within the next 50 years, and this was a wake-up call for many of us to make plans that will include our dogs and other animals. No more letting the dog food bin get to the bottom before running over to the local animal supply store for more….

  9. says

    Such a touching video. We can only hope for the best for those dogs (wish there was a way to follow-up on them), and the many others who weren’t featured in such widely-viewed footage. As Deanna alluded to, disaster preparation is one of the most important things we, as pet owners, can do to be ready for the unthinkable.

  10. says

    The video reminds me of your story about the dog who chewed the food for the rescue because the rescue had bad teeth and couldn’t chew, therefore couldn’t eat. That story bought tears to my eyes.

    Dogs are such amazing creatures. I wish we could be half the people our dogs think we are.

  11. Reidun (in Spain) says

    Thank you for bringing this up! I too, have been thinking a lot of all the thousands of animals that has suffered and are still suffering in the disaster – I take a small comfort in hoping that at least among the wild animals a lot sensed that the earthquake was coming and fled to safer areas – as happened in the tsunami in Thailand, Indonesia a few year ago. My heart goes out to all the people but also to all the pets who probably were locked up in their homes with no way to escape. I wake up every morning and I am so grateful we are still all here, and our home is safe, dry and the earth is not shaking.

  12. AnneJ says

    Those videos are very touching. My thought is that the dogs stay with their injured friends because they are scared and they just want to be with someone they know.

  13. Steve says

    As Craig mentioned, I too read the dogs have been rescued and are receiving vet care. Last I heard, both are doing fine. I also saw somewhere – I can’t remember where as I’ve been reading and watching a lot about what’s happening also – some owner put money in zip lock bags and attached them to their dogs’ collars in case they were separated and needed vet care when found. I’ll see if I can dig up where I saw that and let you know.

  14. Cathy in NH says

    I wanted to share this link with you. Scott Simon from NPR’s Weekend Edition did a story on the two stranded dogs in Japan and paralleled it with the dog in China that was recently bought for $1.5 million dollars. I had been thinking about that transaction and why it bothered me so much. He was able to put an eloquent and thoughtful voice to my frustration and sorrow.

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