With some free time on the final Saturday before the start of term, I went out with Animal Rescue Korea to do a spot of volunteering – something I’d been meaning to do for a while, but hadn’t actually gotten round to. ARK regularly go down to Asan (아산) to help out at Jane’s Grandpa’s – a fairly large shelter (pretty much entirely dogs and cats) which needs help with exercising and socialising rescued animals. We arrived just shy of noon, and spent a few hours doing whatever seemed the most helpful. For most people, this was accustoming the cats and smaller dogs to humans but I struck out on my own and tackled much-needed exercise for the bigger dogs.
Most people in Korea don’t keep large dogs due to not having very much space, but you do see a few around – mostly Jindos (진돗개), which were originally temple guard dogs (and now National Monument no. 53), but a few others like Alaskan Malamutes. As the shelter can’t construct new run space for dogs quickly enough to house all new arrivals, a lot of them have to be kept in cages (probably similar to ones they were rescued from) and it was these I focused my attention on. As things turned out, I walked one of the caged dogs (many are too scared of humans, and one pulled out of his collar and had to be caught) and three of the dogs on short runs, which was an incredible amount of exercise given the steepness of the hill the shelter is built on and the strength and eagerness of the dogs once out of their four square metres.
The dogs I took out were all excited to be going somewhere new, though one wasn’t at all confident going past his normal exercise ground. A couple of them were also afraid of the river, or weren’t quite sure what it was – quite in contrast to dogs I’ve known back home and possibly indicative of all the time they’ve had to spend cooped up without many stimuli. Many of the dogs are happy to have people around but don’t like other dogs much, as I found out returning a dog to her space when she quite savagely attacked her next-door neighbour as we were passing through his space.
We left the area pretty drained, but with no small sense of achievement. As we got out of earshot, the reduction in noise was amazing – of course, once one dog starts barking the whole place goes off and you get accustomed to the constant background din quite quickly. I began to understand why the shelter is so hard to get to – it’s sited where nobody lives, which means nobody wants to go there.