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Guest Post: An experience I'll always cherish...

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

ARK Animal Refuge, Kansai, Japan

Ahhhh - Japan in Cherry Blossom season - what could possibly be better? Bayside Dog Owners Group members - I think you can guess! Locating a place where there are a multitude of gorgeous, loving dogs to hang out with! That is exactly what we did when we re-visited Japan recently. Understanding the extent the withdrawal symptoms we would have as dog owners and passionate adorers of dogs, my husband was kind enough to find an amazing rescue group within two hours of where we were staying as part of our trip. My husband, our daughter and myself have volunteered for many years with rescue groups at home in Australia - walking, providing enrichment, bathing and temperament testing divine dogs. So we were thrilled to be able to offer our assistance at ARK Animal Refuge in Kansai near Osaka. We didn’t factor in the beauty of our journey to reach this shelter. The countryside we travelled through by train for the majority of the journey, then the taxi ride (it is possible to walk the last 40mins, which would be lovely) was stunningly beautiful, and that alone would be a wonderful day spent. But, for us, the best was yet to come... ARK has been been operating here for almost three decades. The founder of this refuge, which houses 200 dogs, 160 cats, other animals and 1 silver fox, is Elizabeth Oliver. Elizabeth works at the shelter, where she lives, but also does the rounds of business meetings, speaking with them about the refuge and trying to garner donors. ARK is NOT an alternative to a government run shelter as there are none. The only facility to deal with homeless animals is a euthanasia facility. So they receive absolutely no government funding, hence this is a large part of the work this refuge needs to undertake.

We were greeted so warmly upon arrival - shown around the entire facility and introduced with much affection to all resident dogs. And what an amazing array of backgrounds these dogs came from! To mention a few - there are resident dogs which were from the earthquake zone when the nuclear reactors went into meltdown some years ago. There are dogs well-meaning Japanese tourists brought back from Bali and subsequently delivered to this refuge. There are dogs (30 +) that had been living wild and free in the hills, their ancestors having been abandoned some years ago. Dogs whose loving owners had tearfully surrendered as they needed to go into care. On top of the usual suspects - neglected, abandoned, strays. We were shown a video and provided with a most informative print out on how to give the dogs the maximum benefit from our volunteering - something I’d like to see implemented here and will share with our rescue groups here in Victoria - before being allowed to take the dogs out of the facility. And then onto the meeting an greeting of the dogs…. And finally the walking. And the loving! When you see the photos, you will understand why words are not needed to describe how rewarding and heart-warming a day this was, how quickly time evaporated.

The volunteers take lunch with the few staff at this refuge. This time was such fun, such a joy to exchange stories about the dogs. I enjoyed a most informative chat with Elizabeth, founder of the refuge. Small world - she has a brother living in Black Rock whom I have still to meet! Whilst there are many regular volunteers, Japanese, ex-pats and students, volunteers from all countries are most welcome here. I specifically enquired about our amazing group, and any one of you, travelling solo or in a group, are welcome and would indeed be most valued to volunteer for a day or whatever time you have. It is even possible to stay overnight, by arrangement.

I suggest interested people google what is ARK which answers so many questions. If you have a chance, it is a day well spent. I'd recommend any dog lover who has time to do this and would enjoy getting out of the big smoke with a view to see more of the amazing and diverse country that is Japan make their way to this refuge!

(hover your mouse over the images in the slide show for a description of each photo)

This poster is a beauty. The description of the mixed-breed dogs is beautiful and touching. They are some of the actual dogs for adoption, you may recognise some of them if you look closely.

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