Stephanie Henkel, Global Animal
On March 14, 2011, two loyal dogs captured hearts around the world. Mei-chan, a spotted Brittany spaniel, and Lee-chan, a white English setter, were separated from their guardian during the chaos of Japan’s Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. These canine companions managed to stay together despite the turmoil and disarray in the city streets.
A Fuji TV crew spotted and filmed Mei-chan refusing to leave an injured Lee-chan’s side. This footage of two loyal and lost friends touched the world and became a YouTube sensation. It also created worldwide awareness of the devastation the tsunami caused to animals and pets.
Before the duo’s caretaker, Mr. Hisato Okubo, lost his home to tsunami flood waters, he took Mei-chan and Lee-chan to Arahama Elementary School, one of the only places to take refuge in the city. He stayed with his furry friends until Mr. Okubo had to evacuate via helicopter. He was informed that dogs were not allowed on the helicopter and that the elementary school would provide dog food for the pair. Mei-chan and Lee-chan were both on leashes before Mr. Okubo left.
During this distressing time, Mr. Okubo began working with the volunteer fire department to help others who were suffering from devastation. At this time, he was unaware that Mei-chan and Lee-chan were lost and had been filmed by Fuji TV.
The TV broadcast of the loyal tsunami dogs, also known as the “stay together dogs”, led to a slue of false rescue stories. It was reported that they were saved by an animal rescue group, and another story claimed bikers rescued the pair. However, none of these stories were true and were based on Facebook rumors that were not checked out.
On March 18, 2011, Mr. Okubo returned to the elementary school to find Mei-chan, but there was no sign of Lee-chan. For the past two years, Mr. Okubo has been desperately searching for the white English setter and has been led on wild goose chases throughout the search. Mr. Okubo and his family would like the world to know that Lee-chan is still out there, and they need your help to find her.
Through the rumors, confusion, good news, and bad, we at Global Animal and our readers have truly embraced and connected to this doggy tale since it first unfolded. Furthermore, Global Animals are staying involved and have donated more than $33,000 to help rescue, provide food and housing, and reunite pets with their families. Thanks, Global Animals! Your compassion and sensitivity toward animals and pets devastated by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami have made a world of difference in so many lives.
To share and spread the truth about Lee-chan, visit: http://www48.atwiki.jp/2dogsdemosoft/pages/20.html
For more information on the loyal tsunami dogs: http://www52.atwiki.jp/2dogswiki/pages/1.html
To further help with Japan’s animal rescue efforts: http://www.globalanimal.org/2011/03/22/how-to-help-japan-pets/32243/