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Journey with Jinjja

jjUnlike Travels with Ace, which documented my year-long trip retracing the route John Steinbeck took across America with his poodle Charley, this project involves a different dog, Jinjja, and a different kind of journey.

Journey with Jinjja chronicles his life (until either his or mine ends), starting with his rescue in 2016 by animal welfare advocates from a farm in South Korea where dogs were raised to become meat.

These posts are presented chronologically here, as they first appeared on my website, ohmidog!

It’s a journey, in the more figurative sense of the word, of one Korean dog’s transition from facing a future as meat (if that can be called a future) to life as an American pet.

On this page, you’ll read about his development and socialization, and find links to stories we’ve done about the cruel and inhumane Korean dog meat trade, which most of the world would like to see permanently abolished.

Jinjja, unlike Ace, probably won’t be going on a trip across America. I’m a little too old for that. He, I can only guess, after the travels he has already taken, is content to be in one safe place.

Still, it’s a journey we’re taking together – in baby steps.

Where I first encountered that face …

jindolThe four new arrivals at the Watauga Humane Society, a no-kill shelter nestled in the hills outside Boone, N.C., started adapting to their new lives not long after they were removed from a farm south of Seoul, Korea.

They continued to grow a little less timid and fearful of humans while they were quarantined in a sanctuary there, flown to the U.S., driven hundreds of miles to five different shelters and quarantined again.

Soon, they’ll be making the final step on the way to becoming pets, instead of meat.

The four are among 31 dogs from Korea who arrived at no-kill shelters in North Carolina last week to be put up for adoption.

And those 31 are among 525 who have come to the U.S. and Canada since the beginning of last year, when Humane Society International added a new strategy to its campaign to bring an end to dog farms in Korea — closing them down one farm at a time.

Representatives of HSI, working with local animal activists in South Korea, have succeeded in shutting down five farms since then — usually by negotiating deals with the farmers and persuading them to pursue new, less brutal livelihoods.

One dog farm became a blueberry farm. Another switched from raising dogs to growing chili peppers. One dog farmer agreed to stop dog farming and, with help from HSI, started a water delivery business.

It’s only a small dent, given there are thousands of dog farms in South Korea, some with 1,000 dogs or more, all being raised to be sold for their meat.They are commonly abused and neglected and spend their lives in crates before being sold to markets, where things get even crueler.

Farm dogs are sometimes boiled alive, sometimes beaten before slaughter under the belief that it makes their meat more flavorful. Their meat is sold to individuals and restaurants at open air markets, where you can pick a live one for butchering.

It’s all a perfectly legal tradition under laws in Korea, where a minority of the population still eats dogs, and many believe the meat offers health benefits, particularly in the summer months.

That minority is shrinking more as younger Koreans turn away from the practice, a fledgling animal welfare movement grows and the perception of dogs as family members becomes more widespread.

Perhaps, South Korea will, in time, outgrow the practice. Perhaps the Olympics coming to Seoul in 2018 — as it did in 1988 — will lead government officials, who did their best to hide it then, to take more meaningful steps.

Until then, animal activists — locally and globally — do what they can.

My first exposure to dog farms was seven years ago, when I went to South Korea to research a book I was writing on dog cloning. On the road to achieving that “feat,” researchers regularly bought and borrowed meat dogs from farms, using them for experiments, to help clone the first canine and to clone the dogs of pet-owning customers once the practice hit the marketplace.

I ended up at Moran Market — and quickly wished I hadn’t.

Images of what I saw then still pop up in my head, unasked. I’ll spare you the graphic details.

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It is estimated that more than 2 million dogs are slaughtered for human consumption in South Korea each year.

Add in those consumed in China, Vietnam and other Asian countries, and as many as 30 million dogs a year are killed for their meat.

South Korea is the only country where the practice has been industrialized. The New York Times reported in May that government data show there are more than 17,000 dog farms.

The Humane Society program is an attempt to shine a light on the issue, while also giving at least a few of the dogs a chance. On top of that, it strives to show that farm dogs, stigmatized in Korea and often perceived as different from pet dogs, are one and the same.

In one of the largest agreements brokered so far, this past May, a dog farmer in Wonju turned over all 260 of the dogs he was raising — mostly on discarded scraps he collected from restaurants — in exchange for certain considerations.

The particulars of the deal weren’t announced, but HSI offers incentives to farmers — $2,000 to $60,000 depending on the number of dogs involved — who agree to forfeit their dogs and get out of the business.

That farmer, Gong In-young, told the New York Times that many of the dogs were just weeks away from being sent to the slaughterhouse.

Gong, in addition to his farm dogs, had a pet dog, too. Asked about the difference in the lives of his farm dogs and his own dog, a spitz named Snow White, he described it as “the difference between heaven and hell.”

The most recent batch of dogs transported to the U.S. by HSI was small by comparison.

The dogs lived on a small farm in Jeonju, about 120 miles south of Seoul. A Canadian organization, Free Korean Dogs, was tipped off about it by local activists and, upon further investigation, learned it was an illegal operation.

While dog farms are legal, this farmer and his dogs were squatters, occupying land that didn’t belong to him. Law enforcement authorities were contacted and ordered the farmer and the dogs off the land.

That left the farmer willing to negotiate, and he eventually agreed to turn all 30-plus dogs over to a sanctuary at the end of July.

HSI, working with Free Korean Dogs, then took steps to have them shipped to the U.S., making arrangements for them to be taken in and adopted out by no-kill shelters who participate in the Humane Society’s Emergency Placement Partners program.

Those who participate in the program accept dogs the Humane Society has rescued — from everything from puppy mills to natural disasters.

All 31 farm dogs, after their flight and a few days in Maryland, were brought to shelters in North Carolina.

In the parking lot of a shopping center in Cary, the dogs were turned over to volunteers from local humane societies and shelters in the state, the News & Observer reported.

Those shelters included Cashiers Highlands Humane Society, Paws of Bryson City, Moore Humane Society in Carthage, Outer Banks SPCA in Manteo, and the Watauga Humane Society in Boone.

I visited the four who went to Boone last week.

I wanted to take some photos. I wanted to see how anti-social and fearful of humans they might be, or if that resilience dogs are famous for was already becoming apparent.

I wanted to understand how hard it might be for them to shake the past. Many who have adopted them say they’ve gone on to make greats pets — as has been the case with many of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs, puppy mill dogs and other dogs who have seen and suffered from the worst in humans.

And in the back of my head, which is also where those images of meat market dogs linger, I was thinking I might like to have one.

Jinnja — then Jindol — takes some hesitant steps …

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Their eyes said yes, their feet said no.

All four of the dogs at the Watauga Humane Society — each being held in individual quarantined kennels after their trip from Korea — initially reacted the same when I stepped inside.

They’d take one step forward, their bright eyes shining with what seemed to be excitement, anticipation or maybe curiosity; then they’d take three steps back.

It was understandable. They’d come from a farm in South Korea — one of more than 1,000 such farms there where dogs are raised as livestock and sold as meat, where they’re often mistreated and neglected and have little human contact.

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Murphy

In the weeks since they were rescued from a farm in Jongju, quarantined and, along with 27 others, shipped to the U.S., the four dogs have grown a little more sociable by the day.

Yet clearly, they were still torn between the fear they had learned from experience and that innate something — call it resilience, goodness of spirit, or that seemingly limitless and often unexplainable love for our species — that all dogs are born with.

With dogs, that innate something, given a chance, almost always wins out.

That has been the case with rescued fighting dogs, puppy mill dogs, and those raised as meat. They’re willing, despite whatever mistreatment they endured at our hands, to give our species a second chance.

We sometimes return the favor.

Since the beginning of 2015, Humane Society International has worked with Korean animal activists to remove 525 dogs from Korean dog farms and ship them to the U.S. and Canada to find new homes as pets.

The organization works to persuade dog farmers to forfeit their canine livestock and move on to new careers, often providing financial incentives for them to do so.

The latest shipment was a smaller one — 31 dogs from Jonju, and they’ve been distributed among five different North Carolina humane societies and shelters that serve as emergency placement partners for HSI and HSUS.

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Lucy

All four of the dogs who came to Watauga Humane Society were Jindos, a breed known for their loyalty that originated on the island of Jindo, off the southern coast of South Korea.

The breed has been designated by the Korean government as a national treasure.

Yet they — especially the white and yellow ones — are commonly seen in cages at outdoor meat markets, waiting to be sold, slaughtered and butchered.

At the farms, the dogs spend most of their lives in cages, treated like livestock, at best — and sometimes worse than that.

How does a dog raised in those conditions go on to be a family pet?

In small and hesitant steps, not overnight, and not without some work and patience.

But the proven fact is, they do.

That has been the case with the the four previous batches of farm dogs who have been rescued from Korea and gone on to find adoptive homes in the U.S. and Canada.

“I can give you hundreds of stories of wonderful adoptions that have taken place with them,” said Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for HSI.

The four Korean dogs that came to the Watauga Humane Society had been there three days when I visited. In the quarantine area, I walked into each of their kennels and took a seat on the floor.

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Princess

One sat in the outside section of his kennel and — no matter how much I gently coaxed — would take more than a step or two inside.

Another trembled in the corner, venturing a little closer after 10 minutes passed, but only close enough for a quick sniff.

One came within a few feet of me and retreated, before lingering long enough to allow herself to be petted.

The fourth would come close, then fall back, finally coming close enough to sniff my hand, and allow it to pet him. He decided he liked it.

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Jindol

“Every day gets a little better,” said the HSI’s O’Meara. “You’ll hear from the shelters, ‘He gets closer, he sniffed me today.’ It’s a big deal for a dog that wouldn’t come within five feet, and now its coming up and licking your hands.

“Some take months but they do get there and when they do, they’re wonderful companion dogs,” she added.

The four are expected to get out of quarantine next week. Then they’ll be taken to Asheville to be spayed and neutered. Depending on how the dogs react to that, the Watauga Humane Society could start taking applications from people interested in adopting them the last week in October.

Details will be announced on their Facebook page.

At the Cashiers Highlands Humane Society, applications are already being taken for the 11 Korean dogs they took in, though the dogs won’t be able to be taken home until after Nov. 7 when they are spayed or neutered.

Other dogs that were rescued from the farm in Jonju — an illegal one because the farmer didn’t own the land he was using — are at Paws of Bryson City, Moore Humane Society in Carthage, and Outer Banks SPCA in Manteo

Laurie Vierheller, executive director of the Watauga Humane Society, said helping the dogs find a home is rewarding in itself, but the benefits to a shelter go beyond that.

Taking in the dogs strikes a chord with the dog-loving community members whose contributions keep local humane societies afloat. It brings traffic to a shelter, and often those who come to see the dogs rescued in a high-profile case end up going home with one, or adopting another resident of the shelter.

The HSI’s O’Meara says some shelters and humane societies avoid getting involved as emergency placement partners because they want to focus on finding homes for local dogs in need.

But those who do take part, she said, have noted “a spike in adoptions, for all dogs, when they receive these dogs…One shelter, within two weeks of the dogs arriving, every dog in facility was adopted out.”

“It highlights the work they do in their communities. These homeless animals come with an incredible story. That brings in traffic, and brings in people who would provide wonderful homes.”

Bringing Jinjja home

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Meet … Jinjja???

Yes, Jinjja!

It’s a Korean word — sort of the equivalent to our “Really???”

He’s a Jindo, or more likely a Jindo mix, rescued from a dog farm in South Korea and transported to the U.S., where he ended up at the Watauga Humane Society — one of five humane societies in North Carolina that recently accepted 31 dogs that were saved from ending up as meat.

The shipment was the latest in a continuing series by Humane Society International, which works with animal welfare groups in Korea to obtain the dogs by persuading the farmers to forfeit them and go into a new line of work.

jindolJinjja, who is the color of ginger, will be the new mascot for ohmidog!

He came home with me Thursday, and has becoming a little more sociable and playful everyday since.

He spent the first day pacing, and giving me wary sideways looks. The second day he began approaching me without too much hesitation. Saturday was the first day he sat down — at least within my view. Sunday was the first day I actually saw him lay down.

As his shyness recedes, his personality comes forth — playful, loving (once he gets used to you), ultra alert, and I suspect, once he comes entirely out of his shell, highly energetic.

Several times I tried to sneak into the room he has chosen to sleep in — he has opted not to bed down with me so far — but he always hears me coming, gets up and meets me as I enter.

He is fearful of sudden movements and unexpected noises, and seems unfamiliar with things like TV sets and running water — but each day, less so.

The humane society in Boone sent two of the four Korean dogs they accepted home with new owners Thursday. A third is awaiting adoption. And a fourth will stay there a little longer for additional training through the shelter’s Diamond Dogs program.

A video of the turning over of the leashes — it was live streamed on Good Morning America as part of its Mission PAWsible series — is at the bottom of this post.

The woman in charge of the shelter’s Diamond Dog program gave me a few pieces of parting advice — give him a couple of weeks just to get accustomed to his new surroundings, always bring my hand up to pet him from beneath his line of vision, not from above, and don’t try to manipulate or maneuver him. He has shown he doesn’t like that.

gettingboone1He’s now in a period of just getting used to things, so for a couple of weeks I won’t attempt anything much discipline-wise other than politely informing him where not to pee.

(I did look up the Korean word for “sit,” just to see if he’d respond. He didn’t.)

He has shown no destructive tendencies so far, and has declined, even when invited, to jump up on the sofa or bed. He has emitted only a few barks — usually only upon seeing squirrel or cat out the window. He has been good with the handful of people and dogs he has met.

I do my best not to have Ace expectations. It would be unfair to him, especially given his background, to hold him to the standard of Ace, the gentle giant I traversed the country with.

Could Jinnja become a therapy dog, like Ace did, despite Ace’s being the size of a small pony and made up of four breeds commonly labeled “dangerous” — Rottweiler, pit bull, Akita and chow? I think there’s a good chance of that.

Just as I found Ace while reporting a story, I met Jinnja (then Jindol) when I went to Boone to meet the dogs who had arrived from Korea. You can find those stories here and here.

The shelter let me spend 15 minutes inside the kennel of each one, even though they were still under quarantine at the time. One came nowhere close to me; two got close enough to give me a sniff. The fourth, Jinnja, was the only one to let me pet him.

Underneath all the fear, I saw something in him, as I did with Ace when I bumped into him at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care. Don’t ask me to put my finger on it, but it was enough for me to apply to adopt him.

My hope is that just as Ace became an ambassador for pit bulls and all wrongly labeled “dangerous” breeds, Jinjja will show that “farm dogs” despite all the cruel treatment they are subjected to and the cruel fates they usually face, can be great pets, too.

Jinjja has a ways to go to become the traveling dog Ace was. Leaving the shelter, he refused to jump into the back of my Jeep. Picking him up, it was decided, should be avoided. So the shelter loaned me a crate. Once inside it, we lifted him aboard, and he was calm and quiet for the whole 90-minute ride home.

Of the four Korean dogs at the shelter, Lucy went home with a Raleigh woman, Jindol (his shelter name) went home with me. Princess is still available, and Murphy will stay a little longer to work on his socialization skills.

Jinjja was supposed to be neutered the day before I picked him up, but when the shelter brought him to the vet it was discovered he already had been. It’s not likely that happened at a dog farm, so speculation is that before that he was someone’s pet and was either stolen or strayed before ending up at the dog farm in Jongju.

It is taking him some time to get used to my house. He gets startled when he sees his reflection in the sliding glass doors, the fireplace doors or the front of the oven.

For three days he avoided being in a room when the television was on.

Based on our time together so far, though, I have the highest of hopes. He still has sides to his personality I haven’t seen, I’m sure, but he’s doing a great job of adjusting — and those who freed and sheltered him deserve all of the credit for that.

Let’s get that part straight right from the start. He’s a rescued dog, but if you ever hear me say I “rescued” him, slap me in the face.

As is the case in any dog adoption, the human is getting far more out of the deal. And any truly noble acts took place before he came to me — by the activists who made efforts to get the dogs off the farm, by Humane Society International, which transported them, by the shelters in the U.S. that took them in.

Those were the noble deeds. Me? I’m just getting a dog, though I do admit to feeling good that I’m a small part of getting one dog off a dog farm.

It was while I was in Korea, researching my book on dog cloning, that I first saw in person some sides of the dog meat trade. I visited an outdoor market where they were on display, packed together in crowded crates, while alive, and butchered on site. One can’t see that sight and not want to do something about it.

So expect more reporting about the campaign to end the practice in the months ahead on this website, and expect more photos and stories about Jinjja’s adjustment.

Given he’s a dog with a story to tell, I will assist in that.

One more thing I cannot take credit for — his name. Looking for something that sounded a little like Jindol — but didn’t remind me of the Louisiana politician I’m not a fan of — I contacted a friend from Korea, who presented the matter to her family.

Among those they came up with were Ginger, which perfectly describes his color (not to mention the way he walks) and Jinjja.

Really??? It’s the reaction most common among those with whom I’ve shared some of his story. Astonishment. Disbelief. Not entirely unlike the phrase “ohmigod!” from which this website derives its name.

So it will be Jinjja, with an optional question mark or exclamation point.

Jinjja?

Jinjja!

Oh there he is, laying at my feet as I type, just like Ace used to do.

Even though the TV is on.

Fourteen more dogs arrive in U.S.

Fourteen more farm dogs from South Korea have arrived in the U.S. and are bound for the Richmond SPCA for eventual adoption. Read more here.

Jinjja bells, Jinja bells

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On the first day of Jinjja, he came home in a crate with me, from the Watauga Humane Society.

On the second day of Jinjja, he peed twice in the house, still was very fearful, but otherwise he acted quite friendly.

On the third day of Jinjja, I left him home alone, only for an hour, he didn’t cower, and he didn’t destroy anything.

dsc05557On the fourth day of Jinjja, I gave him his new name. Jinjja’s Korean. It seemed to fit him. That’s where he came from. Translated, it means “Really!”

On the fifth day of Jinjja, he was still shaking his past: Raised on a dog farm, tied up or crated, little human contact, headed for slaughter, and destined to end up as meat.

On the sixth day of Jinjja, he started coming to me, not when I called him, of his own volition, just for affection, maybe a butt scratch, gave me some face licks, and not only when I dangled yummy treats.

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On the seventh day of Jinjja, he faced another test. It was Thanksgiving, I left him for two hours, stuffed myself with turkey, made off with leftovers, came home and found him, despite all my worries, behaving absolutely perfectly.

On the eighth day of Jinjja, I tried once again, to get him in my car. He can’t be lifted, try and he’ll nip ya, bribed him with turkey, made a little headway, he put his front paws there, didn’t make the leap though, still apparently not quite ready.

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On the ninth day of Jinjja, he spent the night in my room. First time he’s done it, not in my bed though, won’t jump there either, or up on sofas, I know he can do it, seen him in in my courtyard, when he thinks I’m not looking, gets up pretty high too, every time he sees or hears a squirrel.

On the tenth day of Jinjja, this Jindo dog of mine, continues to impress me, no inside peeing, tearing up nothing, stopped fearing TV, eating much more neatly, barking somewhat less-ly, mellow for the most part, friendly to strangers, be they dogs or humans, or anything other than squirrels.

On the eleventh day of Jinjja, he’s much better on the leash, much much less tugging, stops when I tell him, still trips me up some, but fewer collisions, and he finally got into my Jeep, with help from a stepstool, and lots more turkey, enjoyed a short ride. It’s a very, very major victory!

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On the twelfth day of Jinjja, as I composed this piece, I realized it goes on … just a little too long … sure the song’s beloved … but the beats a little humdrum … keeps on repeating … makes me quite sleepy … Jinjja, too, I thinky … He’s dozing at my feet, see … Still, there’s a meaning … in this song that I’m singing … about a dog who would’ve been eaten … My point is every day with him’s a gift.

A big “Amen” for this amenity

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Mention the words “homeowner’s association” and my muscles, sphincters included, tighten right up.

Something bad is bound to follow, because such groups are generally pretty uptight, notoriously rigid with their rules, and they take matters like what breed your dog is, or what color your shutters are, way too seriously.

So I was pleased to hear that the one I’m now a part of (which shall go nameless) recently consented, informally at least, to letting people use the fenced in tennis courts as a dog park.

It’s not the sort of thing your typical homeowner’s association does — showing that kind of flexibility — but it came just in time for my new dog Jinjja and me. (Read more here.)

When Jinjja met Roscoe

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Jinjja met Roscoe this week, and it was a mostly peaceful exchange.

In what was his first real outing since learning to jump in the car by himself, with help from a family heirloom, Jinjja had his first meeting with my brother’s dog at Winston-Salem’s Leinbach Park — neutral ground as neither had been there before.

They touched noses, sniffed each other out, and did well together — at least for the first 30 minutes.

dsc05619-2So far, despite his unusual background — Jinjja was rescued from a farm in South Korea where dogs were being raised for slaughter — he has gotten along with every dog he has met, from the flirtatious basset hound who lives across the street to rambunctious poodle (one of five) who live next door.

We haven’t tried a real dog park yet, but I think he is ready for that. (And I almost am.)

Leinbach Park is semi dog friendly. Leashed dogs are allowed in the park. But dogs, leashed or unleashed, are not allowed on the hiking trail.

“Dogs are not allowed on the sandstone walking trail at any time. The reason should be obvious,” the city’s director of Parks and Recreation told the local paper a couple of years ago.

(Sorry, but the reason isn’t obvious to me.)

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Still, we mostly heeded the warning, staying to the side of the path as much as possible, Jinjja sniffing for squirrels and Roscoe barking without provocation, which he’s prone to doing.

It wasn’t until we stopped walking and took a seat on a bench that, for no apparent reason, there were snarls and growls exchanged, followed by another brief confrontation. There was no real contact, and they seemed to make up afterwards.

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Ace (my previous dog) and Roscoe never became the best of friends. They reached a certain detente after a confrontation that also seemed to have erupted out of nowhere, and left both a little bloody.

On the way back to our cars Jinjja and Roscoe got along fine. I was a little worried about getting him back in my Jeep. I was advised by shelter he came from that it wasn’t a good idea to try to move his body or pick him up. Even though he has almost totally let down his defenses with me, I still haven’t tried to lift him up yet.

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Instead, to get him loaded, I used an ottoman from my living room, which my mother passed on to me. It has a cushion that was embroidered by a great aunt we all called “Tan.” When I back my car up to curb, the ottoman, along with a dangled piece of bologna, makes it easy for Jinjja to step up and jump in.

This was our first time without a curb. He hesitated a bit, but on the third try, just as the bologna ran out, he went for it, back paws getting a good grip on the carpet-like embroidery, and made it.

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I’ve been leaving the footstool in my car, until I buy some kind of sturdy box to replace it.

(That will probably be about the time he realizes he doesn’t even need it.)

I still have Ace’s old ramp, but it’s pretty cumbersome, and Jinjja might resist climbing up it even more than he has jumping in.

Once Jinjja masters the leap into the back seat — with or without a step up — the footstool will return to the inside of the house, and I will continue to prop my own feet up on it, even if it is a work of art.

“No feet on the footstool” would be a stupid rule, much like “no dogs on the trail.”

tanTan, whose real name was Kathleen Hall, was a teacher for many years and later a principal. There’s a school nearby that is named after her. She died in 1983. But I’m guessing what she shared with students lives on in them, their children and their children’s children.

The same can be said of her embroidered footstool, which is helping a South Korean dog who had no future hop into a car and see a little more of the world.

It’s one of those gifts that keep on giving.

Jinjja meets his new vet

dsc05655-2Other than providing a urine and stool sample nearly as soon as he entered the exam room — neither of which had been requested — Jinjja’s first trip to the vet went more smoothly than I expected.

Despite all the fears I’d managed to come up with beforehand, we got in, we got out, we got microchipped (well, he did), and all with relative ease.

I’d worried, because of where he comes from — a dog farm in South Korea where dogs were raised for their meat — whether he would go in willingly. Would he react poorly to being poked and probed? Would he revert to the skittish and fearful dog he was when I got him nearly a month ago, or be the more sociable creature he has become when he met the veterinary staff?

And, given I’ve been warned not to pick him up, how would he react when lifted to the exam table?

Based on how he did, I can conclude he is in good health, he is continuing to become more social, and I worry too much.

The purpose of our visit was to have his microchip installed, and get a basic check-up. I’m still not certain — if he ever got out of the house without me — whether he’d hang around or take off on a perpetual squirrel hunting quest.

I adopted Jinjja from the Watauga Humane Society last month. I was advised to give him a couple of weeks just to get used to his new surroundings, and to not try to lift or move him around for a while.

It took two weeks to get him to jump in the back of my Jeep, but once he mastered that, I scheduled a visit with a vet.

Much as I liked Ace’s vet, I opted to go to a new one, and sidestep the painful memories of Ace being put down last year.

I’d been to Mt. Tabor Animal Hospital with a friend’s dogs and was impressed. On top of that, it’s right down the street from where I live now, and has separate entrances and lobbies for dog people and cat people.

I haven’t a clue on how Jinjja is with cats yet, but from afar they seem to drive him almost as bonkers as squirrels do.

Jinjja was a little excited in the waiting room, especially when he heard other dogs in the background. Once in the exam room, he immediately peed, then held off until the vet came in to present a healthy-sized poop.

He was friendly to both the vet tech and the vet, but both thought it best, given his background, to muzzle him while his temperature was taken (he didn’t like that at all) and when his microchip was inserted.

That was another thing I had worried about. Might being muzzled stress him out more, make him regress? But, once we got it on, it had the opposite effect, calming him at least for a while.

After weighing in at nearly 50 pounds, and posting a normal temperature, Jinjja met the vet, Jenny Bolden.

I’d requested a female veterinarian, because Jinjja seems less skittish around, and quicker to make friends with, that gender.

They hit if off and, with the push of a button, the vet sent the platform Jinjja was standing on rising into the air. (So much for my worry about lifting him.)

We decided to hold off on a heartworm test until his next visit, he was up on all the important vaccinations.

Dr. Bolden agreed with my opinion that, judging from his teeth, he looked a little older than just one, the age listed for him at the shelter. She guessed he could be as old as three, but pointed out that the less than pristine condition of his teeth could also be a result of whatever he was fed or foraged on while in captivity.

We also talked about his weight. He is stockier than the average Jindo, but my suspicion is that he has some chow in him, and that accounts for the bulkier torso he carries on his relatively spindly legs.

She suggested his ideal weight might be about five pounds lighter.

Dr. Bolden asked a lot of questions — always a good sign in a vet — about his background, the campaign to save dogs in Korean farms. And she patiently answered mine.

We remuzzled Jinjja for insertion of the microchip. During that process, which didn’t seem too bothersome to him, I squirmed much more than he did.

By the time we got home, he was exhausted and I was covered in shed hair, something he hasn’t seemed to do to excess. I guess stress can accelerate the hair shedding process.

Once I assured myself it wasn’t mine, I decided not to worry about it.

Dog meat trade banned at Moran Market

In what we hope is a death knell for the dog meat trade in South Korea, the killing and butchering of dogs has been banned in the country’s most infamous dog-meat market. Read more here.

Dogs coming to U.S. need escorts

wapo2We don’t expect Donald Trump to like this (so don’t anyone let him know) but if you’re returning from a trip to some exotic locale — Mexico, Thailand, South Korea, India, Turkey, Colombia, and the Carribean to name a few — you can bring someone back with you to live in the good old USA forever.

And you don’t even have to marry them — or even ever see them again.

Yes, we’re talking about dogs. (Aren’t we almost always?)

But we’re also talking about an easy-lifting way to accomplish a good deed and play a small role in making a dog and a family happy.

Our country’s incoming new leadership may no longer wants those tired, poor and hungry humans we once welcomed from other countries, but the door is still pretty open for dogs (my dog included) that have been saved from horrific conditions in other countries.

Many of them have gotten here thanks to Americans returning from vacations, who are willing to take a little extra time to serve as their official escorts.

Read more here.

What does it mean when your dog pees on you?

dsc05666Christmas was kind to me this year. I got some gift cards, some underwear, some cookies, a hummingbird feeder and a drill.

And from my dog, I got peed on.

This was actually the day after Christmas. Out for the afternoon walk, we saw some neighbors and their dogs, all of whom we’d met before, approaching.

With Jinjja being the new guy on the block the other dogs were pretty excited to see him.

So three of my neighbor’s poodles, and the giant schnauzer down the street swarmed around him, barking and sniffing.

That was when Jinjja — either because he was stressed out or wanted to show all those other dogs that I belonged to him — lifted his leg and enjoyed a nice long pee on my pants leg.

I didn’t notice until the neighbor shouted, “Hey he’s peeing on you,” which was about the same time my leg started getting warm.

dsc05447I’ve been on the lookout for strange behaviors in the dog I’ve had about a month now. He was rescued from a dog meat farm in South Korea, so I expected to face some unique behavior, in addition to all the other new dog issues.

Other than his initial skittishness and getting accustomed to new surroundings and what seemed, to him, novel things like television, there haven’t been that many.

Other than one small pee the first night home, his record is spotless, and so are my carpets.

But this one surfaced over the weekend — first when I, against my better judgment, brought him over to a party at my neighbor’s house. The one with the five dogs.

He’d met a couple of them by then, and they all greeted him in a friendly manner. But it wasn’t long before Jinjja decided he should leave a mark, or 20, on this new home he was visiting.

He’d been well drained before we entered, but peed by the door anyway. Then about five more times he started to lift his leg, but stopped when I yelled at him. When all five dogs went out on the back patio, Jinjja went into a peeing frenzy, dashing from spot to spot and, if not actually peeing, going through the motions.

He’d also peed a week earlier in the exam room at the vet’s office — despite having peed repeatedly outside before entering.

Whether it’s stress, or turf-marking, I can’t say for sure.

My kindest interpretation, though, is that he was passing on information to the other dogs — for in one good squirt of urine a dog reveals much of himself, to other dogs at least.

It’s like, “sure you can smell my butt, but that is ephemeral, a quickly passing pleasure.” By peeing in the home of five dogs, though, he could have figured, “I’ll just leave this and you can get to know me better after I leave.”

dsc05464That’s the generous view, and one that’s hard to see when you’ve just been peed on.

The more immediate reaction is more like, “Dammit, you peed on me!”

(I’m sure I’ll laugh about it later. My neighbors laughed about it right away.)

Many experts will tell you a dog who pees is marking his territory, and when he pees on a person, there may be some dominance issues involved.

With Jinjja, I think the bigger issue is insecurity, and that he is still figuring out his place in the social order. (Happily, it is no longer as meat.)

I’m, in a way, doing the same thing, being new to the townhome neighborhood. On my street there are 20 homes, and 26 dogs. I am pretty sure the dogs outnumber the people. Part of the reason I moved here was because it seemed so dog friendly, and because I thought it would be a good place for my previous dog, Ace, and myself, to enjoy our golden years.

He died before I made the move, and six months later, I met Jinjja.

The neighbors have welcomed Jinjja with open arms. My neighbor Trish with the five dogs was even smiling as she mopped us his pee from her entryway Friday night — in the middle of her retirement party.

I’m glad I’m on a street of dog lovers. I’m glad to be among all those dogs. I’m glad Jinjja is now one of them.

I’m not so glad about being peed on, or the prospect that whenever Jinjja visits someone’s house, he will feel the need to christen it.

Oh well, something to work in the New Year.

Another rescue underway in South Korea

reuters2

Another massive rescue of Korean farm dogs is underway.

Activists on Tuesday freed 10 more dogs from a 200-dog farm in Wonju, 55 miles outside of Seoul, Reuters reported.

Dogs on such farms are raised to be slaughtered for their meat.

reuters1Humane Society International estimates it will take weeks for all the dogs on the farm to be removed, after which they will be transported to the U.S. for adoption at local animal shelters.

The farm, once it closes, will become the sixth shut down by local advocates and activists from HSI, who negotiate with dog farmers and assist them in getting started in different occupations.

HSI estimates there are 17,000 dog-meat farms in the country.

The removal of the dogs follows six months of negotiations, medical examinations and vaccinations. Because airline flights can only carry a limited number of dogs a day, it will take a couple of weeks for HSI to rescue all 200 of the dogs at the farm.

You can see a Reuters slideshow of the operation here.

reutersThe owner of this farm cited his poor health as the reason he was getting out of the business.

HSI officials expected the dogs will be quickly adopted once they arrive at shelters in the U.S.

“As soon as they’re ready for adoption, we find that there are line-ups of people – literally people would line up at shelters – in the U.S. to adopt these dogs because people are so engaged by their sad and compelling stories,” said Andrew Plumbly, another campaign manager for the HSI.

Plumbly said hygiene at the dog farm was “non-existent,” and that dogs spent most of their lives outside in rusty cages.

A minority of Koreans consume dog, and the consumption of dog meat is declining.

Humane Society International hopes bringing more attention to the issue will lead the government ban the breeding of meat dogs in South Korea, where the 2018 Winter Olympics are being held.

(Photos: Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Rescued Korean dog learns how to sleep

The 200 dogs freed in the latest closure of a Korean dog farm continue to arrive in the U.S. — and for one of them, it has meant learning a new way of sleeping.

Harriet is one of more than a dozen dogs brought to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, where the staff quickly noticed she never laid down — not even to sleep.

Apparently, having spent her life in a cage too small to lay down in, she’d learned and grown accustomed to sleeping in a sitting position.

“Harriet had no idea what a bed was,” Sherry Silk, CEO of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, told WFLA.

Harriet was one of about two dozen dogs to arrive in Florida from Korea recently. In the weeks and months ahead, more will be arriving in other cities in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

They’re coming from the sixth farm that Humane Society International has closed by cutting deals with their operators to release the dogs and find other occupations.

The dogs — raised, like livestock, to be slaughtered for their meat — are being relocated to other countries for adoption in part because there is little interest in them in Korea, where many prefer small dogs and have the misconception that “meat dogs” don’t make good pets.

Additionally, HSI hopes the program will raise awareness about the dog meat trade and increase pressure on Korea to ban it.

The dogs most recently shipped will likely be up for adoption in the next few weeks.

About a week ago, after 14 of them arrived in Orlando, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay posted a video on its Facebook page of Harriet falling asleep while in the sitting position, which they theorized was because she’d never had the space to lay down.

They’ve also learned that one of the Korean arrivals is pregnant.

Staff worked to show Harriet how to get in a laying down position, and she now regularly curls up on her bed.

harriet

South Korea’s impeached president abandons her nine Jindos when she leaves office

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Impeached South Korean president Park Geun-hye apparently left all nine of her dogs behind when she vacated the presidential palace over the weekend.

Park, named as a suspect in a wide-ranging corruption scandal, vacated the palace and moved into her house in an affluent district of Seoul after her impeachment was upheld Friday by a constitutional court.

A palace spokesman told Reuters that the dogs were left at the palace partly because it would not be good for them to be uprooted from their home.

parkanddogs“She told… staff to take good care of the dogs and to find good foster homes for the puppies if necessary,” said the spokesman.

The nine dogs are all Jindos, a breed known for their loyalty and devotion, and one that the South Korean government has proclaimed a national treasure.

She brought two Jindos with her — both of them gifts — when she took office in 2013.

The pair later produced several puppies, some of whom she kept while others were adopted.

The Busan Korea Alliance for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Busan Kapca) says Park could have violated animal protection laws by leaving the dogs behind.

parksdogsAnother animal welfare group, Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (Care), claimed she had abandoned her pets. Both organizations offered to find new homes for the dogs.

South Korea has been run by prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn since parliament voted to impeach Park in December. The country will hold its presidential election on May 9.

Park’s troubles center around a corruption scandal involving presidential aide Choi Soon-sil.

Park is accused of colluding with Choi to extort money and favors from conglomerates. Choi is charged with using her presidential connections to pressure companies to give millions of dollars in donations to non-profit foundations she controlled.

(Photos: Reuters and Facebook)


Eating dog banned in Taiwan

yulin

In a landmark piece of legislation, Taiwan has outlawed the consumption of dog and cat meat.

The island’s legislature yesterday passed an amendment to its animal protection laws, imposing longer prison sentences and stiffer fines for harming animals, and explicitly banning the slaughter, sale and consumption of dogs.

The island’s official Central News Agency (CNA) said the new law reflects the transition of Taiwan “from a society in which dog meat was regularly consumed” to one where “many people treat pet cats and dogs as valued members of their families.”

The amendment also bans “walking” pets on leashes pulled by cars and motorcycles.

The amendment comes after a series of animal abuse cases, and a strong push by animal lovers and the animal welfare movement.

Last year, a group of military personnel beat and strangled a dog and tossed its body into the ocean, an assault that was captured on video.

The amended act calls for fines between $1,640 to $8,200 for people who eat or sell dog meat, and up to $65,000 for deliberately harming an animal.

Violators of the new law may also see their names, photos and crimes publicized, Taiwan’s Central News Agency said.

Previously, the Animal Protection Act, passed in 2001, only covered the slaughter and sale of dog and cat meat, and not individual consumption.

The new law makes Taiwan the first Asian state to impose a full ban on both the marketing of dog meat and its consumption.

The amendment’s sponsor, Kuomintang Legislator Wang Yu-min, said that while some localities already had measures banning dog and cat meat consumption, national legislation was needed, according to the China Post.

China has long been criticized for its annual dog meat festival in Yulin, where as many as 10,000 dogs are slaughtered and served as meals.

Opposition to the consumption of dog is growing in China, and in South Korea, where some are pushing the government to impose restrictions on the dog meat trade before the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul.

Jinjja escapes, and superheroes emerge

jin4

For the third time since I adopted my Korean “meat dog,” he decided to run off and explore more of the world than his leash normally permits.

On Sunday afternoon, Jinjja and I went on what has become our abbreviated walk, due to health issues (mine, not his).

We went down to the the grassy area at the end of my street, where he does his business and we sit for a while on a bench before heading back.

He sat on the ground on the side of the bench and I was absent-mindedly scratching his head with one hand, holding his leash with the other.

jin3Somehow, the clasp on the leash mysteriously opened up and I looked up to see him standing, unhooked, a few feet in front of me. I called him, trying to sound casual and playful and upbeat and using the high-pitched voice his obedience class teacher recommends.

He took a few more steps away. I stood up and called him again. He playfully scooted a few more feet away. I lied about having a treat. (He hasn’t mastered the “come” command without bribes.) He didn’t fall for it. I took a few steps in the opposite direction. He didn’t follow.

Then I stepped in his direction and he was off to the races, and I followed trying to keep up. (I’m not setting any speed records these days.) He stopped to poop, then lengthened his lead on me by trotting at a faster clip, down one street, then another.

Jinjja was heading in the direction he’d gone the two earlier times he has scooted — down to a creek that leads into some woods, that lead to busier roads and other neighborhoods.

The first time was entirely my fault. I was stupid. We’d been up to the tennis courts many of us use as a dog park, and he had exhausted himself running with some other dogs from my block. On the way home, he was walking in lockstep with them, right in stride with the pack. I unleashed him to see if he’d keep doing that in the short distance back to my door.

He didn’t, and I should have known better, given his past and given what I’ve read about his breed (Jindo) — namely, that some of them never are able to be off leash because of their hunting, exploring, wandering tendencies.

That time, my neighbor Trish took off after him with a couple of her dogs. I lagged behind.

Fortunately that first time, Jinjja stopped in the shallow creek, and once I caught up with Trish, who had caught up with him, he obeyed my stay command until I was able to go down the bank, attach his leash, and haul him out.

I vowed then it would be years before I tried letting him off the leash again — if ever.

A few weeks later, back at the tennis court, he managed to slip through the gate as other dogs were coming in and out. Again he took off. Again Trish pitched in for the chase, as did two other neighbors, Nick and Margaret.

They managed to corner him down near where he was the first time and get a leash around him — which is no easy task.

jin1Jinjja is still shy and skittish around strangers, still might run the other way when called. On Sunday, as I was pursuing him, and his trail, on foot and in car, knowing he was that way — not likely to approach anyone for longer than the times it takes to snag any treat they might be offering — I was feeling less hopeful with every passing minute.

When he disappeared behind a row of homes that backs up to the creek and woods, I stopped to make my first plea for help.

I’d met Victor a couple of months ago, while I was walking Jinjja and he was walking his new dog, Gracie, a Belgian Malinois. We ended up enrolled in the same dog obedience class. Victor — in his lower 60s, like me — has a bad back, and had to get up from his heating pad to answer the door.

But he sprang into action, pressed Gracie into service and we followed Jinjja down the poison ivy-filled path that runs into the woods behind his house. Jinjja had crossed the creek and was zig-zagging toward a briar-filled meadow at the end of the path. Unfortunately, Victor was wearing shorts, and we both ended up bloody by the time we spotted Jinjja in the clearing ahead.

Jinjja spotted Gracie and came running in our direction. He greeted Gracie and I was within three feet of him. That was as close as I got, and he took off again. Jinjja disappeared into the horizon and the briars became a little too much for both of us.

We headed back to the neighborhood, and I went home to get my car and head over to the adjoining neighborhood whose direction Jinjja seemed headed for. I grabbed a pack of bologna, an extra leash and my cell phone. I stopped to inform Trish what had happened and took off. I told Victor, who had changed into some long pants, my plan. I gave him a piece of bologna, which he stuffed in his pocket. With Gracie at his side, he walked back down the path to the meadow where we had last seen Jinjja.

Victor went back to the clearing, saw no sight of Jinjja, and headed back home, but not before rubbing bologna on his shoes. He dropped little pieces of it along the trail back to his house.

I pulled out for my car search, and Victor walked all the way back to the meadow, and into the next neighborhood. Trish, meanwhile, had hopped into her car and was heading there, too. All three of us were stopping to ask anyone we saw to see if they had sighted him and hand out phone numbers.

Victor found one home where Jinjja had stopped for a while. And Trish ran into a couple who said Jinjja stopped to play with their dog, and the dogs next door, but scooted off when they tried to beckon him.

About 30 minutes later, riding around back in my own neighborhood, a friend said she had seen him, just minutes earlier, walking through her front yard and stopping to poop.

(Pretty much everyone who had sighted him, in either neighborhood, mentioned he had stopped to poop in their yard.)

For the next hour I drove through one neighborhood then the other, then a couple of other nearby ones, periodically checking back home to see if he had returned.

I told my across-the-street neighbor Rita what had happened. I informed neighbor Nick (who helped snag Jinjja during Escape No. 2) what had happened and he took off on foot — roaming our neighborhood and then hopping a fence into the adjacent one that, while right next door, is more than a mile away by road.

I kept driving around, spotting Rita on patrol in her car, Trish on patrol in hers’, and picking up a sweat-soaked Victor and a panting Gracie from the other neighborhood and taking them home.

Stopping at my house again, I ran into a sweat-soaked Nick, who had hopped back over the fence and was going to get in his car and go check out a nearby apartment complex that sits across the creek.

We were both headed out again when, down the main road into our townhome development, came a woman with Jinjja, on a four-foot purple lead.

I didn’t recognize her, though she lives just around the corner, but she was the same woman whose dog had escaped (and was recovered) a couple of weeks ago. One of my recruits, or maybe it was me, had stopped her earlier and asked if she’d seen a medium sized yellow-white dog with a curly tail. She hadn’t.

But apparently this complete stranger got in her car and drove to the area where her dog had been found. She spotted Jinjja, got out of her car and called him. He went the other way. She followed on foot. Another person saw her trying to catch Jinjja and lent a hand. Between the two of them, they managed to get Jinjja to accept a treat and get that purple lead around his collar.

Victory? Not quite yet. She tried to get Jinjja into her car, but he snapped at her when touched, as he’s prone to do when a hand reaches out to him, especially when he’s not on a leash. Thinking the better of it, she decided to walk him the mile-plus back to our neighborhood.

So, if you’re counting, that’s seven superheroes — Victor, Gracie, Trish, Nick, Rita, the anonymous supplier of the purple lead, and the neighbor who, while I hugged and thanked her profusely, I still don’t know her name.

Back home, Jinjja drank a gallon of water and, as I write this, has been sleeping now for about 12 straight hours.

Which is good, because we have lots of work ahead.

While he excelled at his first obedience class, yet-to-be-resolved health issues have prevented my return. Let’s just say I’m in that whole-lot-of-testing phase that precedes doctors taking their best guess at what the problem is, or (hopefully better yet) was.

If Sunday was anything, it was a lesson in hope, and a reminder that —
in good times and bad — friends and family and superhero neighbors are good to have.

***

murphy(Jinjja — then Jindol — was one of four dogs that ended up at Watauga Humane Society in October after being saved from a Korean meat farm by Humane Society International. We’re pleased to report that all four have now been adopted — most recently Murphy who went to a new home last week. Murphy took a little longer to become social than the others, but after lots of work and time, he started gaining trust in humans, and bonded with one visiting couple who wanted him but were unable to take him. Later, that couple came back, and they’re now his parents.)

(Top photos of Jinjja by John Woestendiek, bottom photo of Murphy courtesy of Watauga Humane Society)

Dog meat sales banned at Yulin, kind of

festival

It might not be permanent, and it might not be too strictly enforced, but Chinese authorities have banned dog meat sales at this year’s upcoming Yulin dog-eating festival, according to two U.S. nonprofit organizations.

Thousands of dogs are slaughtered, cooked and served each year at the annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival festival in Yulin to mark the summer solstice.

This year, though, amid growing protests and international opposition, the Yulin government has, at least reportedly, banned the city’s dog meat vendors from selling the meat for one week starting June 15.

That’s according to several animal welfare organizations who say they’ve received “word” — if not documentation — of the ban.

The 10-day festival is slated to begin on June 21.

The Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project and Humane Society International (HSI), both based in the U.S., said in a joint statement that they’d confirmed the ban through unidentified local contacts.

“Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade,” Andrea Gung, executive director of the Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, said in the statement.

The organizations attributed the change to Yulin’s new Communist Party secretary, Mo Gongming, who reportedly wants to improve Yulin’s national and international image.

The ban will carry penalties, with fines of up to $14,500 and jail time for violators.

Yulin officials are not verifying the report, but they say they’ve never officially sanctioned the festival in the first place, and some apparently decline to acknowledge it exists.

“There’s never been a dog meat festival in Yulin,” the Los Angeles Times quoted a municipal official as saying this week.

While some media outlets are reporting the festival has been cancelled, that doesn’t appear to be the case, National Geographic reports.

“The Yulin dog meat festival is not over just yet,” Peter Li, a China policy specialist at Humane Society International, said in a statement. “But if this news is true as we hope, it is a really big nail in the coffin for a gruesome event that has come to symbolize China’s crime-fueled dog meat trade.”

People in parts of China, as well as other Asian countries, have prized dog meat for centuries, though its consumption has been on the decline as pets become more popular, especially among younger people. Some older residents still consider it a delicacy with health benefits.

The dog meat festival, on the other hand, is relatively new, having started in 2010 and quickly become an object of international scorn.

The festival’s dog meat sales have dropped each year since 2014, according to Li. He expects, even with the ban, such sales will be going on during the festival.

“It won’t be public resistance … they’ll probably do it secretly,” he said. “They’ll probably sell it at night, or they’ll supply dog meat to restaurants. They just won’t sell it at the market.”

While he hadn’t seen anything documenting the ban, the organization heard about it from local dog meat traders, as well as three visitors to a local market, he said.

Most Chinese people would like to see an end to the festival, according to a survey cited by China’s official New China News Agency.

“It is embarrassing to us that the world wrongly believes that the brutally cruel Yulin festival is part of Chinese culture,” Qin Xiaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association charity, a Chinese animal welfare group, told the agency. “It isn’t.”

Jinjja gets temporarily rehomed

DSC06491 (2)By the time you read this — our last post for what will likely be a while — I will have parted ways with one dog and one kidney.

The kidney, which doctors suspect contains a cancerous mass, is being removed in a surgery today and will be gone for good.

Jinjja, the Korean dog I adopted five months ago, will be staying with a friend who has offered to care for him for as long as it takes, which could be a while, between the hospital stay, a six-week recovery period, and whatever other treatment may follow.

So the purpose of this post is to inform those of you who may be following Jinjja’s story of this latest twist in the life of a dog who was rescued from a meat farm in South Korea, transported to the U.S. for adoption, and has been making progress — slow as it sometimes seems — in becoming social, and trusting, and having the kind of life a dog deserves.

And to let you know that there won’t be any new reports on ohmidog! for a bit.

I dropped Jinjja off Sunday at the home of the Kirkeengs. It was his second visit there, and during both he seemed to enjoy everything about it — from the spacious fenced back yard to the pack he’ll be sharing it with: a small and playful dog named Luigi, and Olivia, a lab mix.

DSC06464

He immediately hit if off with Darla, who is director of development for the Forsyth Humane Society, and with her daughter Katie, who I best remember as the person inside the humane society’s mascot’s suit during various fund raising events.

I’d already informed Darla’s husband, Eric, that Jinjja would be slower to warm up to him, as he’s skittish around men he hasn’t gotten to know.

DSC06479But, all in all, the situation — disregarding the medical stuff — couldn’t be more ideal. The yard seems pretty escape proof, and Jinjja has shown a tendency to get free, take off, and resist efforts — even with treats involved — to recapture him.

It will be interesting to hear how Jinjja handles being one of three dogs in a house. Upon entering it, his first inclination was to make his mark. It’s something he never felt much need to do inside my home, but did when he visited the home of my neighbor and her five dogs.

The Kirkeengs had three dogs, but recently lost one of them, Oreo. The other two seemed happy to welcome a new member.

As an added bonus, Darla has arranged for the humane society’s trainer to drop by from time to time to work with her dogs and Jinjja.

DSC06460And Jinjja does still need some work, especially in learning to come when he is called — something he’ll do inside. Outside, asking him to come often has the opposite effect.

We’d managed to complete one class together at the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club (during which he performed magnificently) before I started ailing in April.

The progress he has made, the progress he still needs to make, the need for him to get more exercise than my small courtyard provides, and the lengthy recovery period I’m facing made figuring what to do with him during all this a huge stress producer.

I’m told that, after getting out of the hospital, I shouldn’t lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for six weeks, which also means I shouldn’t be tugged by a dog who sees a squirrel and can’t help but lunge in that direction.

I contemplated returning him, for his own good, to the Watauga Humane Society, where I adopted him after his arrival from Korea. But then I heard from Darla. I knew she was a friend, but how good a friend she turned out to be left me kind of stunned. And highly relieved.

Now I suppose we should get back, just briefly, to my right kidney. (I plan to keep the left one). All of it will be removed, as well as a hunk of my renal artery, as the mass appears to have made inroads up into it.

After that, what they’ve removed will be tested, allowing them to make a definitive diagnosis and have a better idea where all this is going.

DSC06438

I apologize for the details.

Ironically, it was just last week that I complained about surgical details, scar photos and graphic health complaints of people I don’t really know taking up so much of my Facebook feed, and all those other annoying Facebook posts I get tired of. Let’s just say I was a little cranky.

I promise to try and keep you informed — while sparing you any gross details — both here and on my Facebook page.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Kirkeengs. Thanks to my brother, Ted, who I’m sure I’ve only just begun imposing on. And thanks to my readers — be they old friends, new friends, Facebook friends, or strangers.

A gathering of second chancers

DSC06496

Five years ago, Danny Rawley was an inmate in a North Carolina prison.

One year ago, my dog Jinjja was one of more than 100 dogs waiting to be slaughtered for their meat at a dog farm in South Korea.

Four weeks ago, I was on an operating table, having what doctors suspected was a cancerous kidney removed.

Recently, we all came together, proving not only that it’s a small world, but one that — thank goodness — often gives us second chances. And sometimes third, fourth and fifth ones as well.

Some backing up is in order.

jindolI adopted Jinjja last November from the Watauga Humane Society, which was hosting four dogs that were among a much larger group rescued from a dog farm in South Korea and brought to the United States for adoption.

He was fearful. He was skittish. He didn’t seem to much like men. But in the months that followed he made slow but steady progress, in everything except for his fear of meeting new human males and his tendency to run away if he experienced a small taste of freedom.

We made it to our first obedience class (and he did great) before I got ill, and, in a matter of weeks, found myself scheduled to have one of my kidneys removed.

Given the outlook beyond the surgery was uncertain, given the operation comes with a six-week no-heavy-lifting recovery period, given Jinjja’s tendencies to sometimes tug pretty hard on the leash, to be be slow to warm up to new people, and the escape risks he posed, I was hesitant to ask a friend to care for him.

I was contemplating surrendering him back to the Watauga Humane Society when a friend at the Forsyth Humane Society offered to take him into her own home. Darla Kirkeeng, the society’s director of development, volunteered to keep him as long as necessary — even after I warned her of his eccentricities and that he’d likely be slow to warm up to her husband.

But that’s where he has been since shortly before my surgery, living happily with Darla and her daughter, tolerating Darla’s husband, and joining her pack of two other rescued dogs, Luigi and Olivia.

DSC06532As if that act wasn’t gracious enough, Darla threw in a bonus, and arranged for Danny Rawley, a dog trainer, to drop by for a few sessions with Jinjja.

That’s where I met him recently when I dropped by Darla’s for my first visit with Jinjja since my surgery.

Despite my fears that being apart would harm the bond we’d developed, Jinjja remembered me and didn’t hesitate to approach and allow me to pet him and show him affection — something he doesn’t generally permit males to do.

Danny admitted Jinjja was skittish around him, too, and snarled and snapped at him during the first session.

Once leashed though, Jinjja paid attention to instructions and, as Danny demonstrated, made some great progress.

Danny also gave me some advice on working on recall — something Jinjja, if he accidentally gets unleashed outside, doesn’t begin to understand. The smallest taste of freedom, and he’s off and running, and gets into a mode where he will allow no one to approach.

My guess is that’s partly a trait of his breed (Jindo), a once wild breed that populated an island of the same name off the coast of Korea. Partly too it’s a result of the dog farm environment, where dogs live crated or chained, and anyone putting their hands on you was likely a sign that it was your turn to be slaughtered or taken to market.

Likely, it is something he will never fully overcome. Freedom, and the desire for it, are powerful forces, especially to any being that has had his freedom taken away.

DSC06516 (2)If anyone can relate to that, it’s Danny.

After growing up in Mt. Airy, he got caught up in selling drugs and, through that, using them.

“That turned my whole world around. I ended up hurting a man,” he said.

He was sentenced to 12 years. While serving that sentence at the state prison in Caledonia, a maximum security facility in the eastern part of the state, he learned of and enrolled in a newly started program called “New Leash on Life.”

In it, a inmates spent their days with dogs who lived on the grounds who were awaiting — but not always prepared for — adoption.

He jumped at the opportunity because of “my love for dogs for one thing, and wanting to put something positive in my life.”

As has been the experience with similar programs across the country, it worked, improving the lives and outlooks for both canine and human participants.

Danny remembers the first dog he was assigned — Lee, a coon dog mix who seemed pretty untrainable and also had a problem with recall. Jinjja reminded him of another dog he trained in prison, named Spirit, who was mostly feral, to the point she preferred eating bugs to eating dog food.

“She finally came around to be a great dog,” he said. In all, he probably trained 25 to 30 dogs while in prison, and just as he helped changed them, they helped change him.

DSC06542“When a dog and a man come together, somehow or another it changes your soul, that feeling that your care, that you believe, and it don’t go away … The more you work with dogs, the more you earn their trust. It’s all about trust.”

When the New Leash on Life program was launched, with funding from the humane society, at the Forsyth Correctional Center, Danny agreed to a transfer to help train inmates there to take part in the program.

He was released in 2012, after serving eight years, and was hired as an employee by the Forsyth Humane Society.

Danny, in addition to having his own business training dogs, is based at the facility and spends much of his time making house calls, going to the homes of people who are having issues with their recently adopted dogs.

The New Leash program at Forsyth Correctional Center is now on hiatus while the Humane Society undergoes a pretty big transition and restructuring. Since moving into a new building, its adoption rates have surged, and dogs are moving in and out more quickly. On top of that, there are plans for the society to assume all adoption services at Forsyth Animal Control, part of an ongoing effort to make Forsyth a “no-kill” county by 2023. The goal is to reduce the countywide euthanasia rate from 64 percent to 10 percent or less.

Under the proposal, the Humane Society would run the 215-kennel county shelter, possibly by as early as this fall.

It’s a massive joint effort between Animal Control, the Humane Society, the Animal Adoption & Rescue Foundation and other local rescue groups — aimed at better coordinating all agencies involved and giving thousands more dogs and cats a second chance.

And, as both Danny and Jinjja could probably attest, you can’t put a price tag on a second chance. I’d agree (though my hospital, judging from the one-foot high stack of unpaid bills on my desk, seems to do a pretty good job of it).

Though I’m down to my final kidney, my surgeon was pleased with how things went, confident that they removed all of the cancerous mass, and he has given me a positive prognosis with no need for follow-up treatments.

I’m feeling good enough to, as of today, fire ohmidog! back up and make it daily, or almost daily, again.

And, in about one more week, more or less, I’ll be ready to bring Jinjja back home.

Jinjja comes back home

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On his first full day back home, Jinjja and I were sitting in my courtyard when he suddenly began whimpering, trotting back and forth and looking out between the slats in the fence.

I put down my coffee, looked between the slats and saw an eyeball looking in at us.

Further investigation revealed a second eyeball, and an entire cat — just calmly sitting there, inches from the fence gate, looking in.

It was Jinjja’s feline doppelganger.

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We’ve come across him (or her) before on walks. He (or she) has the exact same color coat as Jinjja. A couple of times we’ve tried to approach him (or her), but Jinjja’s excitement scares him (or her) off.

He (or she) is one of two cats that roam the neighborhood, though I’m pretty sure they both have owners. The other is a Siamese. Frequently I spot one or the other from my kitchen window, where they both like to hunt every morning in the ground cover of a nearby bank, likely for chipmunks.

That involves laying in wait, perfectly still, on their bellies, sometimes rising up on their hind legs, like meerkats, to get a better view of what might be jumping around in the juniper.

Given his or her standoffishness, I was surprised to see Jinjja’s feline twin right outside the fence gate, seeming entirely curious and not at all frightened. To the contrary, it was almost like he/she was waiting for someone to open the gate.

Jinjja continued to whimper and put his nose right up to the gate, sniffing between the slats. The cat didn’t budge.

Several neighbors have commented on the resemblance between the white-yellow cat and my dog. They see him/her in the distance and think “uh oh, Jinjja escaped again.” While Jinjja was staying with a friend — for nearly a month and a half as I recuperated from some surgery — seeing the cat always reminded me of him.

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Given he/she has never let me get too close, his/her appearance right outside the gate on Jinjja’s first full day back home seemed like it must be fraught with meaning. I just wasn’t sure what it was.

Maybe it was a connection between fellow chipmunk hunters. Jinjja did plenty of that while he was away, enjoying a friend’s spacious back yard and the company of their two dogs. On his last day, they teamed up to almost corner one.

Maybe chipmunks became more common in and around my little courtyard while Jinjja was away, and the cat had figured out it was prime hunting ground.

Or maybe he/she saw it as an opportunity to finally — and safely — meet the dog whose striking coat he/she had admired from afar.

Perhaps it was simply a “welcome home” from a fellow fluffy, white-yellow denizen of the neighborhood.

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Maybe, if Jinjja doesn’t tug on the leash too much upon seeing him/her — I’m not quite ready for that yet — we can try for an up close meeting with his doppelganger in the days ahead.

Or maybe he/she will be back for more bonding from opposite sides of the fence slats.