There are three hundred dogs and two hundred cats at ARK (Animal Refuge Kansai). That means there are 500 different stories of how they got here. Some are sadder than others and some more unbelievable. And then there are some that in a nutshell remind of us all of why we care so much about animals.
On the 26th April, 2005, a dog was rescued in heavy rain, on a forest road in Inbanuma, Chiba Prefecture. the rescuer, called the police, the local hokenjo, and the prefectural animal centre, but couldn't find who the dog belonged to.
A–san saw the dog lying in the pouring rain, gazing at passing cars with its wide eyes. As she passed by, she was strongly impressed by its "appealing" stare. She thought the animal might be unable to move so she turned round and drove back to the place. Thus the poor dog was rescued and rushed to a clinic. After examination, A-san was told that the dog's spinal cord had been broken in half. “Even if it survives,” a vet said, “its lower half may stay paralyzed.” Luckily, however, it had no problems with other vital organs. The fact that there was virtually no hair around its neck showed that the dog had been kept in miserable circumstances and abused. The vet said it would soon die if left untreated.
So, three different scenarios were possible:
A-san named the dog Mon Ami and chose a surgical operation on his spinal column. Having endured two operations, the dog managed to escape death, but the lower half of his body remained totally paralyzed.
Then A-san made every effort to find a home for Mon Ami where he could live as happily as any other dog. Of course, it was difficult to find an adopter for the partially palaryzed dog unable to move about. He was not able to discharge urine by himself, which meant he needed a ureteral catheter or expression by hand. It would surely cost the owner quite a lot of money and trouble. Meanwhile, ARK had a call from A-san about Mon Ami's future. We could not give an immediate answer, wondering if we would be able to take good care of him all throughout his life, with limited staff, in addition to caring for the hundreds of other animals at ARK. There was little chance of finding a good home for him, we thought. But we were moved by A-san's love for Mon Ami, and made a decision to accept him. We believed that A-san and her friends who had been taking care of Mon Amie were not irresponsible people trying to evade trouble by passing on the dog to us, but genuine dog lovers.
At last Mon Ami came to ARK. Everyone who welcomed him must have wondered what Mon Ami had seen in his past with his big dark eyes. For the first few days, he looked a little scared of people. But gradually he became friendly and came to enjoy three walks and two meals every day. We wrapped a towel around his waist and helped him walk by holding the towel. As for urination, we made him pee by pressing his bladder, which was not so difficult for most of us to do once we got the knack of it. And then, to our great joy, a wonderful present was given to Mon Amie; someone who had heard about him made a wheelchair for him! A great many people have been concerned about Mon Ami and supported him. We do not know how to thank all of them, but we are most grateful to everyone for showing great kindness to him.
Now, we are very happy to announce that Mon Ami has at last found a loving home. The adopter family promised us that they would look after him to the very end of his life.
by Yoko Ichikawa
Our family first encountered Mon Ami in late September, when it was still a full-blown Indian summer here in Fukuoka. My mother had picked up three stray cats, so I started looking for homes for them over the Internet. Being a dog lover with two dachshunds of my own, I found myself glancing through dog rehome pages as well. That was how I came across a listing entitled “Seeking a home for paraplegic Mon Ami,” accompanied by a photo of a dog with the most beautiful black eyes. I simply couldn’t get those eyes out of my mind, so after a few days I sent an email to the person who’d rescued Monami and put out the listing I’d seen. This was the beginning of our encounter with Monami.
Monami was living at ARK at the time, but I didn’t know that. While waiting for an answer to my email, I started searching the Internet for information about living with a paraplegic dog. I wanted to be ready to meet his special needs, and was looking into wheelchairs for dogs and other such information when I discovered through my browsing that Monami was at ARK. I called ARK the next day. The staff member who answered the phone sounded a little surprised as she said, “You want to adopt Monami?!” It made me realize anew how few people must offer homes to dogs with disabilities.
I suppose people might wonder why it had to be Monami. Our five-year-old daughter has a disease so rare that only three people in Japan have been diagnosed with it. She has never once walked by herself since the day she was born. Not only is she physically disabled, but while she can understand what people say to her, she has trouble expressing herself verbally and uses sign language.
Should being disabled mean you can’t find happiness if you’re a dog? Should disabled dogs be immediate candidates for euthanasia? To be honest, my feelings for Mon Ami may have come from the fact that he and my daughter have similar disabilities. But I sensed right away that he could offer hope to my daughter, and that I myself would learn a great deal from Mon Ami about what life truly means. Also, I felt that since he had had the good fortune of being rescued, escaping euthanasia and coming to ARK, he should be given the opportunity of living his life out in safety and comfort to the end.
And so it was that I realized how much Monami had already given me, even before joining our family. I hope that, upon reading this, people will think about opening their homes to all the sick, elderly and disabled dogs at ARK and elsewhere. Simply by offering a little assistance to them, using the necessary tools and aids, learning to live with their condition, and adjusting yourself to their pace, you can live a normal life together.
Monami has now been with us for a week, and is already a full-fledged member of our family. He has made friends with our two dachshunds, become a wonderful partner for our daughter, and a beloved child to me. I hope to look at the world through Monami’s eyes and learn all kinds of things.
I am so grateful to the person who rescued Monami, and to everyone at ARK who treated him so kindly and lovingly, for making possible our encounter with this special dog. I wish from the bottom of my heart that ever fewer animals will have to suffer because of human selfishness and indifference, and that more and more will be able to find love and happiness...
If you've made it this far and would like to support ARK and its work, please consider ordering one of our 2007 calendars. They will be available from October. If you'd like to become a member of ARK, details are available on the web site. ARK is a registered non-profit organization that operates solely on the contributions of private citizens.
Update: Mon Ami and Ichikawa-san's daughter are both doing well and the whole family paid a visit to ARK this past Golden Week. Mon Ami looked very well indeed and reconfirmed our long held view that the best medicine/therapy for any dog or cat is being a member of a loving, caring family.
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