November 19, 2012

Sheltered Lives

Strays are not an unfamiliar story to most people in today’s world. Whether they were born there or left there by uncaring owners, we often see animals roaming the streets. Many are matted, dirty, and hungry – many would make loving pets to the right home, if they only had the chance. For this and many more reasons, I applaud the efforts of shelters across the globe as well as the staff and volunteers that help keep them running.

I currently reside in a small town called Ganggyeong in the Chungnam province of South Korea, and I have seen many small dogs out on the one main street I walk every day. Many are strays, although there are a few that sport colorful coats and collars. With the weather getting colder each day, I wonder how they will survive the winter, or even if they will. I am grateful for clinics and shelters that take these animals in and care for them until they find their forever homes, or at least a foster home that can show them the love and affection they so desperately need. I specifically refer to canines when I say these animals are social, descendants of pack animals with a need for hierarchy and order.

Sound familiar? It should – humans are the same way. Before you jump out of your chair to protest that you’re nothing like an animal, think about it. Do we not follow a leader, even when we don’t agree? Do we not seek to be around others when we are lonely – do we not get lonely? Even with all our technological advancements in communication, at our cores we recognize the need for physical companionship; we seek the simplest of pleasures, like a hug from a friend or holding the hand of a loved one. Why, then, would we deny these social niceties – and truly, necessities – from animals on the street? Should we deny them because they don’t have opposable thumbs or the ability to speak the human tongue?

A week ago I had the opportunity to see the result of the hard work of volunteers that spend their time socializing animals at a shelter, giving them a few hours of the love they crave. I myself showered attention on an Alaskan Malamute with matted fur and intelligent eyes. Sure, he pulled on his leash and gave me a work out, but after an hour of being out of his cage for the first time in a while, he was content to simply be out and about. Who of us would not feel the same? Do we not all jump for joy when the work day has ended, happy to be out of our own metaphorical cages? This dog, taken out maybe once or twice a week, showed more appreciation than most humans show me on a good day. There are very few feelings greater than knowing you have made a positive difference in another being’s life, and I want to thank the Animal Rescue Korea volunteers for allowing me to impact that dog’s life.

Animal Rescue Korea (ARK) volunteers spend their weekends at different shelters across Korea, providing what comforts and cares they can for the dogs and cats there. They raise money and awareness for shelters that are not government funded, and always bring healthy treats to help nourish these often under- or malnourished animals. Even though I specifically mention ARK, I also want to acknowledge other worldwide groups and agencies that help animals, like the many ASPCA units across the United States and Humane Societies that care for as many strays as they can. I encourage anyone who is able to reach out and support these groups however possible – often, the most valuable thing you can give is your time.

For more information about ARK, please visit

To learn more about the ASPCA, please visit

To help make a difference in an animal’s life, please visit

Image Credit: John Van Uytven

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