Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Standing with Japan

Four-year old dog
stands with Japan
I can barely stand to watch the news about Japan.  Another aftershock in Sendai (6.5 on the Richter Scale) but fortunately no tsunami. A small consolation. 

Last week, Hank and I attended a walk around the beautiful tidal basin, organised by the American Red Cross and the DC Cherry Blossom festival committee, called Stand With Japan.

The organisers reminded us that many families in Japan are still living in make-shift shelters.  It makes me wonder how I would manage such difficulty.

I know that if anything happened to us, Hank and I would be able to to look after ourselves but without electricity Tock's meat would turn rancid and we would run out within days.  Then what?

I thought about it really hard and then realised something shocking.  In an utterly cataclysmic incident,  I might have to kill my dog or turn him loose and hope that he could fend for himself in the wild until one day he could - and, I hope, would - come home.  

Some commentators have been really outraged at the recent attention that has been turned to saving stranded pets in affected areas of Japan.  Of course people have to come first, and they do, but people have such a close bond with their pets, particularly dogs, that the guilt an owner would feel at abandoning their pet to save themselves could become an additional burden to them.  I think it's really important to capture stray animals as soon as possible, to prevent disease and predation, yes, but also to ensure that the therapeutic benefits of a loving pet are felt by otherwise traumatised owners as soon as possible.

Some charities set out specifically to rescue animals during a crisis.  That's great but I think it's more important that owners have a plan themselves.  In my case, I'm usually home or near enough to the dog to ensure his wellbeing.  But I'll still be stocking up on emergency dog supplies and adding that to my emergency pack.  There are so many things to think about in a crisis, we should not leave it to that moment to realise something is missing. 

Stand with Japan was a moving, cathartic experience, a fitting tribute to the tragedy of recent weeks, but importantly it has also made me think about my own safety.   The Red Cross has placed donation boxes around the Washington Monument and I hope they'll use our money effectively.  

I was delighted to hear from the Japanese Ambassador, who spoke at the event, that 70% of the aid pledged to Japan has come from the USA.  Yet another reason to love this country.  I might even forgive the US Government for all that immigration paperwork they made me do.

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