Before I left for Korea, I was interested in adopting a new dog. I knew it would be impossible at home because I would be living in an apartment with maybe only one bedroom. All of the dog breeds I was interested in were big dogs that need a lot of room inside, and most of those need a decent amount of attention to keep them occupied.
I watched a few videos and checked out an online forum about fostering animals in Korea. Shelter conditions here are terrible, but I’ll get into that in a few more minutes. I knew that it was the right thing to do if I found myself in the position to have enough time.
Last Saturday, I visited Asan Animal Shelter with my friend Lawrence. It was an experience, let me tell you. I’ve never been to an outdoor shelter before. In Richmond, I visited the SPCA, a clean and air-conditioned place where people find cats, dogs, rabbits, and all kinds of other animals to adopt. The adoption fee was $150 the last time I visited the shelter, and the dogs had all their shots and papers.
At Asan (and many shelters in Korea, to my understanding), they only have enough money and manpower to keep the animals outdoors, sometimes completely unprotected from the weather. The pens are rusty and have large holes that have been “fixed” with chicken wire or pieces of fence that was just lying around. Most of the pens are barren soil with rocks lying around, no grass to be found. When it rains, the entire area becomes a muddy sea of feces. The stench is something you get used to after an hour or so, but it is heartbreaking to see the dogs in this state.
Some dogs are kept in cages above the ground. They are also rusty from being exposed to the elements, and most only have a tiny square of wood for the dog to sit or lay on. Otherwise, their paws have to walk on the bottom of their wire cage.
Many dogs are in the shelters because they have a disability. Skin problems, broken bones, hip displaysia, cancer, tumors, and missing body parts are common ailments at Asan’s shelter. They rarely get walked, and even more rarely get bathed.
There is one dog at Asan animal shelter that I want to foster for sure. (Actually, there are several I wish I could rescue, but this one is definitely the dog for me.) Here’s his picture.
He has no name that I know of. He’s an Alaskan Malamute. This breed is usually known for being extremely large, dominant, and possibly aggressive with small children and dogs. However, if trained properly, the dog can be the sweetest thing. They need a firm leader from their owner and lots of exercise/room to live in. They were originally from colder climates, so they love winter time. Malamutes in general should not be living in Korea, and definitely should not be living in an outdoor shelter in the summer.
Needless to say, I’m going back this Saturday morning to visit the unnamed Malamute again. I want to spend more time with him and see how he behaves around other dogs and people. I’d like to really get to hike with him and bring some extra food… a bone, maybe some shampoo, too. I’m aware that this will limit what I can do and where I can go, but I have to tell you that I’m not crazy. This dog is beautiful inside and out. He has a great personality for his breed. I just want to see him have a better life than what he has now, even if it’s only for a few more weeks.
If you are living in South Korea and are interested in adopting or fostering animals, please visit Animal Rescue Korea’s website.
No matter where you live, please consider adopting your pets. Those that you see at pet shops for sale are animals that have been inbreed several times and will likely have very short lives with an expensive price tag. Save animals that really need saving! Mutts need love too!