Old dog consoles residents in temporary housing in Japan

The Yomiuri ShimbunMarch 9, 2014 


Residents in temporary housing in Otsuchi, Japan gather around Momo, a 15-year-old mixed-breed dog who survived the 2011 earthquake and sunami, and has been a solace to people displaced by the disaster.


Momo, a 15-year-old mixed-breed dog who survived the 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan, has been bringing solace to people in temporary housing in Otsuchi.

Because Momo is old – equivalent to 70s or 80s in human years – she can hardly stand up on her own these days. When residents of the No. 12 temporary housing unit in the town mark the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake on Tuesday, they want to spend the occasion together with the dog, while tending to her as her health has declined.

Soon after Momo’s owner Michiko Miura, 54, left her house in the town following the quake, the tsunami struck her house. A few days later, Momo was found safe, wandering in a mountainous area.

After Miura and Momo moved together into the temporary housing unit in August 2011, the dog became the beloved pet of the unit’s residents, thanks to her gentle and friendly disposition.

“In the beginning, we were very cautious about socializing with neighbors. But Momo became a common interest for us,” said Michiko Ueda, a 54-year-old resident in the temporary housing unit. The residents gradually got together around the dog and began chatting.

“Cheer up, Momo!” one resident after another told Momo, as the dog seemed exhausted while snow fell on Saturday evening. The dog blinked in response.

“You’re my best friend, aren’t you. There there, now,” Kazuko Sasaki, 73, said in a Tohoku dialect, stroking the dog’s fur.

Sasaki survived the quake and tsunami as she went up to the second floor of her house in the municipality. Although her house was repaired a year ago, she still cannot live there. Every time she has returned, the scene of tsunami sweeping away houses and people has resurfaced in her mind, making her feel dizzy and nauseous.

“I still can’t handle it, even today,” Sasaki confessed to the dog, describing the difficulty she felt in living in her own house, a feeling that she could not bring herself to tell her own family members.

Sasaki suffers pain in her right leg, which was injured when she jumped from the second floor of her house during the disaster. Sasaki said she saw herself in the dog, whose legs also are weakening. “Momo is a happy dog that everybody loves,” Miura said.

The residents hope the dog will live as long as possible.

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