Courageous rescue of grandfather
The grandfather of Mari’s family was home alone that day. He lived on the second floor, but suffered from a neurological disorder that made it impossible for him to stand on his feet or climb the stairs unassisted. After the earthquake, the old man was immobilized as he had been trapped beneath a wardrobe. Aftershocks and the total darkness resulting from a power outage pushed him into desperately thinking that death might be around the corner. Just then, Mari appeared in his room on the second floor and looked at him with encouraging eyes. The grandfather had been slipping into unconsciousness, but when he saw Mari he regained awareness although he was still immobilized. Mari then licked him to give him encouragement and went downstairs several times to check on her pups before quickly returning to the man’s room. She ran back and forth many times even though her paws had been injured by the sharp-edged glass and pieces of porcelain that lay all over the floor. Each trip gave her new wounds, but Mari managed to kindle new hope in the grandfather’s heart, and looking at Mari he thought, “I must live on. I cannot give up,” Finally, he pushed at the wardrobe with all his strength, it gave way and he managed to free himself. Then with Mari's encouragement, the grandfather spent two hours climbing down the stairs—a feat he had previously been unable to accomplish without help. Upon reaching the ground floor, he was happy to find that the three puppies were safe and sound.
Before Yamakoshi Village was reconstructed, the villagers remained in temporary housing in a neighboring city. Being in charge of advertising affairs for the village committee, the son was a busy man so he placed Mari and her puppies in the care of another family. When the grandfather was still in the hospital, Mari's caretaker took her to visit him. Thus, after undergoing countless trials, Mari and the old man were finally reunited. Mari was very happy to see the man, who was recuperating and said with quivering lips and tears filling his eyes, "Thank you for saving my life."
Then in April 2005 the grandfather was discharged from the hospital and began living with his son and Mari in an apartment. By that time Mari's three puppies had been adopted by other families and were growing up healthily in their new homes. Today, the grandfather and his family are still living in the apartment but look forward to returning soon to Yamakoshi Village.
Mari’s touching story, which illustrates the mutual trust and love between humans and animals that helps them through ordeals, has frequently been reported in the news media and has also been adapted as an illustrated storybook — Mari of Yamakoshi Village and Her Three Pups. The book has received a huge response in Japan and serves as a great inspiration for disaster victims. The company that published the volume is contributing part of its sales revenues to the reconstruction and relief funds for areas affected by the October 2004 earthquake, and distributes the book free of charge to children in Yamakoshi Village and its thirteen neighboring cities.
On August 2, 2005, the villagers held a fireworks celebration in their city of refuge just as they do in their home town each year, and this year event was entitled “Fireworks for Mari.” While participating in the festivity they wished that Yamakoshi Village could be recovered as quickly as possible. Amid the dazzling light and smoke of the fireworks, Mari's radiant smile seemed to fill the night sky, bringing hope and encouragement to the spectators.