SCOTT SIMON, host:
A news crew from Fuji TV saw a couple of dogs this week, lying in the wreckage of Mito, Japan. A dog with brown and white splotches seemed to hover over one with gray, black and white splotches. Both dogs looked grimy. The second dog didn't seem to move. The dog with brown and white splotches came toward the crew. They thought it was warning them to stay away, but it returned to the other dog and put a paw on its head. Then they understood: The dog was sticking by his friend, and asking for help.
Japan is a nation of pet lovers. Most families have a dog or cat, birds, a rabbit or other pets in their apartments. When I covered Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi, it seemed that the commonest reason people who stayed through the storm gave for refusing to evacuate was: I couldn't leave my pet. But earthquakes strike suddenly. People can get stuck at work, school, or in panicked transit, leaving pets to fend for themselves.
Among the thousands of volunteers who have been mining the rubble of the earthquake are Japanese Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support, who look and listen for dogs and cats among the ruins. To those who might find such relief work frivolous when so many people are hungry and homeless, Animal Rescue and Support says helping the pets in Japan is to help people. All of us who are animal lovers can relate to what it would feel like to be reunited with a pet after a disaster.
The dog with brown and white splotches and his friend with gray, black and white splotches were rescued and are in a veterinary clinic in the Ibaraki Prefecture. Kenn Sakurai, the president of a dog food company, who's been among the volunteers, says on Facebook: The one which came close to the camera is in the better condition; the other was weak. But please know that those two were just the tip of the iceberg. There are more, and we need help.
I noticed another, smaller story this week. An 11-month-old Tibetan mastiff puppy named Hong Dong - or Big Splash - went for $1.5 million U.S. in China. Tibetan mastiffs are massive, fluffy status symbols there. Hong Dong has been raised on beef, chicken, abalone and sea cucumber. His breeder told Britain's Telegraph: He is a perfect specimen.
The million-dollar puppy that's been fattened with abalone, or the grimy dog with brown and white splotches who stood over his friend until he found help - which do you think of as a perfect specimen?
(Soundbite of music "The Moon over the Ruined Castle")
SIMON: A Sendai folk song: "The Moon over the Ruined Castle." And you're listening to NPR News.