By Devon Krusko, RedRover Field Services and Outreach Coordinator
I drove to Maryland on the afternoon of the most perfect, picture-worthy fall day. Blue sky, cotton ball clouds, and filtered rays of light. A good omen of the work to come.
I arrived at a bustling airport hangar. A fork-lift moving kennel panels, pallet-jacks wheeling bags of shavings and supplies, and my good friends at the Humane Society of the United States greeted me with a 6-foot-distanced air hug and a wave.
Setting up a temporary shelter for 150 dogs is by no means glamorous. The week before the animals arrive can be seen as hard physical work without the puppy kisses — but it is absolutely one of the most rewarding steps in the process of bringing animals to safety.
Humane Society International (HSI) was in the process of shutting down their 17th South Korean dog meat farm. As we secured panels and attached metal water bowls, the HSI team was removing dogs from chains, finalizing paperwork, and boarding the plane to freedom. The four set-up days were a whirlwind with not enough hours in the day, but somehow, at 9 pm when the HSUS trucks pulled in with crates full of precious cargo, we were ready.
Off-loading dogs and getting them settled into their new space is a huge undertaking. Organization, teamwork, and patience are a must. Each person has a specific task that ensures a smooth operation. There are folks who unload the dogs, teams who bring the dogs to their kennels, and expert handlers who move the dogs into the space. This particular off-load took 6 hours –2.4 minutes per dog! By 4 am everyone was fed, had fresh water, and both humans and pups were ready for lights out.
As I laid eyes on each individual sentient being, I was flooded with emotions. Heartbreak for what these sensitive souls had experienced, and excitement for their new beginning as they stepped out of their crates, hesitant but with a hopeful tail wag.
Adam, an adorable floof of a dog, thought he couldn’t wait to get out of his crate- until he actually had the opportunity to do so. His carefully curated space was new territory, unknown- what is this comfy bedding? – and came with new neighbors. With the crate being his safe space, we placed it inside his kennel and left the door open. It didn’t take long before the little guy was greeting me, begging for affection, and prancing with happiness. Be still, my heart!
Though difficult to imagine, these 150+ dogs are already well on their way from being treated as food to family, and each deployment reminds me of how incredibly grateful I am to be able to do the work that fulfills my life. I am reminded that kindness and compassion for all is what truly matters.