Now-local dogs go from Seoul to soul mate

Now-local dogs go from Seoul to soul mate

By Susan Hale Thomas (Photo/Susan Hale Thomas)

Somewhere on a farm just outside of Seoul, South Korea there is a dog meat farmer who gave up his trade to grow blueberries.

After compensating the farmer to cease raising dogs for meat, Humane Society International crated his 23 dogs in kennels and rescued them from slaughter. The dogs had lived the entirety of their lives on the farm in outdoor wire cages.

After spending 30 days in quarantine, 12 of the dogs, all different breeds and ages, arrived at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria Monday night. Another 11 came in Tuesday afternoon. The dogs were flown from Seoul to San Francisco for a quick layover, and arrived Monday at Dulles International Airport.

“Part of this stems from what happened in Sochi with the dogs running around,” said Carrie Pergram, a volunteer at the shelter. “In 2018, Seoul is host to the [Winter] Olympics, so they’re trying to clean up the trade.”

On Tuesday morning, the first group of dogs began to adjust to their new surroundings. The dogs were dirty from their trip and in need of a cleaning. The shelter deliberately waited to clean the dogs, allowing them time to de-stress, and by cleaning them last, avoided the possibility of infecting other dogs being housed at the shelter.

“We’re watching for signs of illness, but we’re not worried about that because of the quarantine — all were vaccinated by the team in South Korea,” said Megan Webb, executive director of AWLA.

The dogs have access to the outside, and given South Korea’s colder climate, they are already used to the snow.

Shelter officials and volunteers will monitor the dogs’ behavior and health for three days before they go to five area shelters and are made available for adoption. Webb said this is a precautionary measure: on the off-chance one of the dogs is ill, any outbreak will be contained to one shelter. Some of the dogs have severe diarrhea, which Webb said is normal.

“They’ll need to learn how to be house trained,” she said. “Those looking to adopt will need to know that.”

A scruffy dog with a severe under bite named Billy watched with curiosity as Albert Beckford, an animal care technician, prepared the kennels for the next group of dogs set to arrive later in the afternoon. The only long-haired dog, he appeared to be heavily matted. Deirdre Hyde, an animal care manager at the shelter, picked Billy up and took him to an examination room.

Hyde and Meg Price, a veterinary care coordinator, trimmed a few mats of hair away from Billy’s eyes and mouth. Billy eventually will be shaved, Webb said, but not Tuesday because it would have been too stressful. Webb said matting occurs when dirt and hair get pulled together.

Matting prevents air from getting to skin and can cause infections. Mats can also affect dogs’ vision, irritating their eyes and can cause eye infections or blindness. Fortunately, Billy’s eyes were clear.

As Billy was being checked out, Webb explained some of the challenges the dogs will face. Mama, the mother dog, has heartworm. A few dogs appeared to be too thin.

Webb suspected they would probably encounter foot ailments because the cages on the farm had wire flooring and the dogs’ feet had most likely never touched flat ground. She said it would be a struggle for the dogs to become accustomed to playing and running because their muscles have atrophied from caged life.

Webb was surprised the dogs already were so social given their interaction was probably limited to just these dogs, and not so much humans except for the farmer.

“Dogs who’ve been kept on chains or penned in for a long time need time to get used to a home environment,” she said. “It’s all about how to acclimate them to a new life …They’ll probably want to be outside because it’s very warm for them here.

“These dogs are definitely not housebroken. That’s going to be a challenge. They’ll learn quickly, but that’s something that needs to be considered.”

Handling the dogs seemed to scare them at first.

“Some dogs scream,” Webb said. “They literally scream when you pick them up, but they calm down after and it’s as if they’re saying, ‘I kind of like this.’  They’ve been through a trauma and will need patience.”

As Billy’s quick grooming session came to an end, he seemed to be quite grateful and gave Price a kiss. The room filled with “Oohs” and “Ahhs” of six animal lovers. Billy already was a charmer.

“These dogs make some of the best pets because they must know they’ve been rescued there’s a feeling of appreciation,” said Webb. “Billy is so happy — this is why we do it.”