Photo/IllutrationMari Tanimoto, right, is reunited with miniature therapy horse Leaf on July 9 in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture. (Chinami Tajika)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KURASHIKI, Okayama Prefecture--The bizarre sight of a horse standing on the roof of a house here led to a much-needed episode of joy in flood-devastated western Japan.

Leaf, a miniature horse used for animal therapy at the Life Town Mabi long-term health-care facility for the elderly in the Mabicho district here, disappeared on July 6 when torrential rain and swollen rivers inundated the area.

The first floor of the Mabicho branch office was flooded, and the water reached the facility 200 meters to the south. The adjacent farm used for Leaf and therapy goats was under water.

Workers at Life Town Mabi assumed that Leaf, a 9 year-old female that came to the facility from a farm in Osaka, had drowned.

But Mari Tanimoto, a 49-year-old employee who has taken care of Leaf, believed the horse might have swam and escaped the flooding.

She searched for Leaf in the surrounding mountains on July 9.

But Leaf, in fact, had not gone that far nor that high.

She was discovered on the roof of a private house near the branch office. She was covered with mud and had an injured leg.

The horse might have used the rising waters to climb to safety. But perhaps only Leaf knows how she got up on the roof.

Residents fed the rescued and clearly hungry horse cabbages and carrots.

“I was really worried about Leaf because I could not search for her,” Tanimoto said.

She shed tears at the reunion and gently stroked Leaf’s face in front of the Mabicho office.

“I thought that she was already dead, but luckily she seemed to have survived on the roof,” said Masayuki Yoshida, 48, a colleague of Tanimoto. “Leaf is so loved that 40 or 50 people visit on weekends to feed her. She did well over those three days.”