I haven’t been to the Asan shelter in almost two years. I stopped visiting shelters because I found it impossible to balance volunteer work with other responsibilities—especially Bangsiri, especially after she got sick. I also felt incapable of doing the hard physical work that needed to be done. I couldn’t sit around cuddling puppies while other people climbed the mountain with jugs of water and scrambled to keep the animals alive.
The last time I went, my purpose was to talk to Mr. Park and another animal advocate. I went to get their perspectives on sheltering and the different organizations that deal with homeless animals in Korea. I hoped I could write about the situation, but for many reasons I found it impossible.
Mr. Park greeted us in the KTX parking lot with a bandaged wrist. (I don’t know what happened.) Some foreign volunteers had gone ahead in a taxi, and Mr. Park took five of us.
Many dogs were out on walks as Mr. Park drove up the hill. There was a large group of Korean volunteers that day; many were ferret guardians and one woman had brought a ferret with her. There were a few children in the Korean group too.
I looked around the greenhouse but couldn’t see many familiar faces. A small white fluffy dog begged for attention—he reminded me of Bangsiri and Snoopy when I first met them in Daejeon. I didn’t recognize him, and an outdated card misidentified him as a female. No one seemed to know much about him, and Mr. Park didn’t have a name for him.
It was heartbreaking to have to put that dog back in his cage, but I couldn’t entertain the thought of taking another animal home when Bangsiri’s heart was failing.
I climbed the hill, and suddenly there was chaos. Another volunteer had opened the door to one of the pens, and four cocker spaniels were loose. I caught one quickly but a second spaniel barrelled into the first and I lost them both. Volunteers rushed past me, heading downhill after the dogs, and one blond spaniel ran back up. I put a leash on him and after a few minutes only one was still free. Mr. Park went out in his car to look for the missing spaniel, and everyone was safe before the blond one and I had reached the street.
Mr. Park had recently taken a large group of dogs from a hoarder. There were three mother dogs with young puppies, and three older puppies with no mother. I worried that the pups might not survive, but I know now that many of them beat the odds.
When I got home I realized I didn’t have a picture of the white dog. A rescue volunteer got a very dark picture of him in his cage, and he wasn’t even looking at the camera. Fortunately, another ARK member supplied a better one, and the poor dog eventually got adopted.
In the featured image: RIP, precious angel Tripod.