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Search and Rescue dogs in Japan

rescue dogThere are many search and rescue dogs trying to find victims in the rubble and debris of northeastern Japan, and many are traveling in with their handlers from foreign countries. Just one is black Labrador named Pearl. This was a dog given up by her owners in 2008, but adopted from the shelter by volunteers from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. She was trained as a search and rescue dog, and went to Haiti in 2010 where she contributed the rescue of numerous people. Now she’s in Japan doing the same thing. Such is the value of a dog some would merely discard.

Maybe the best known story of dogs in Japan so far is that of Towa and Melody — a Sheltie and a Golden Retriever, respectively — from the town of Arahama. When warning of the tsunami came, a man named Masaki Kikuchi left them behind, tied outside to a shed, as he escaped with his twelve year-old daughter. An older daughter (Koya, aged 20) attempted to get to the house to rescue them but was turned back by police. The assumption was that the dogs had been killed, swept away like so many cars, houses and people. Yet, two days later, Mr. Kikuchi managed to walk home to see whether his house was still there. Not only was the house there, but the two dogs had somehow managed to break free of their ropes and had ascended an outdoor staircase of the house, to the second floor, and were barking at him. Kikuchi, who had felt bad about leaving them (one should hope so) was delighted to see they had survived. He and his daughter are now visiting them daily and keeping them fed and watered. They will not bring them to the shelter where they themselves are currently living. As quoted in the WSJ story:

“There are lots of people dead and it’s too much to ask to bring the dogs,” said Mr. Kikuchi. “It would be inconsiderate to other people’s sadness.”

That seems right. And very Japanese too.

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