As I stepped into the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation located in Sherman Oaks, California, the air was filled with positive energy and the curiosity of visitors, including my own. I was instantly greeted by staff members who enthusiastically told me the history and stories of the dogs that had been rescued from the dog meat trade and other heartbreaking situations in China and South Korea.
Spirit, perhaps the most well-known of all of the rescues, was chasing treats that were being tossed his way. He seemed to be paying little attention to the prosthetics made to replace his two front paws, which were cut off to make soup in South Korea. Spirit jumped and played, living up to his new name, as I stood by to take pictures. As I watched, I was struck by an overwhelming sadness that someone could do this to an innocent being, the fact that this type of treatment is still going on in Asia, and how unbreakable and resilient Spirit was.
While I said hello to each of the dogs, I saw more than just victims who had been taken away from their families, beaten and tortured with the intent to be consumed and forgotten. I looked at them and saw my own dogs who were resting contentedly at home. I saw the dogs that I had grown up with who are not here anymore. I saw my neighbor’s dogs who like to bark as they ran along the fence, my friend’s dogs who like to hide their toys in her backyard, and pictures of missing dogs that were posted around my hometown. It is difficult to comprehend how people, fellow human beings, are capable of indescribably cruel acts against innocent animals, and how the fates of countless other dogs may be different if more people speak up to help them.
These dogs are not China’s dogs. These dogs are not South Korea’s dogs. These are OUR dogs… the dogs we know, the dogs we have at home, the dogs we grew up with. We are responsible for helping them.
Most of the dogs seemed to be very well-adjusted, observing their surroundings or enjoying a comfy bed or the affection from staff and visitors at the foundation. These animals have been subjected to unimaginable cruelty, yet the foundation was filled with high spirits and hope. The dogs, some of which had just arrived at the foundation 3 days earlier, were resting peacefully, playing, or enjoying a walk in the warm sun. It was truly inspiring to see that even though these animals had been betrayed, they still have light in their eyes. They want to trust humans. Although they may not forget what they have seen and experienced, they want to forgive and be loved, which is truly inspirational.
Marc Ching, the founder of the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, has since returned from his trip to Yulin, the location of the infamously cruel and barbaric Dog Meat Festival in China. This year, he has rescued over 850 dogs and cats, all of which need transportation and medical care. Ultimately, these animals will all need safe, loving homes.
I will forever be grateful for my visit to the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, which allowed me to get to know the amazing rescued dogs and the people working to save them. Please consider making a donation, volunteering, or adopting one of these deserving dogs. If you live in the Sherman Oaks area or have the ability to visit, it is a trip that you will not forget. If we work together and support the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation and those who are trying to make a difference, the dog meat industry can become a distant memory and countless animals can be saved. We cannot be silent.
Cover Photo: PETA / KARREMAN