In October 2020, I traveled to Maryland to help our friends at the Humane Society of the United States set up a temporary shelter for 140+ dogs rescued from a dog meat farm in South Korea. With just a week to put together a shelter from scratch, there wasn’t a moment of downtime.

In February 2021, I returned to the shelter that I had helped create. The four months had made a world of a difference: only 17 dogs remained! The others had moved on to their next chapter – placement with rescue partners – and many were well on their way to learning how to “dog” in their new homes. 

For the remaining residents, they had spent the last months working hard on their behavior and socialization plans with the HSUS staff – and goodness, how far they had come! The pups were becoming acclimated to leash walking, enrichment activities like toys, Kongs, and busy boxes, and learning to interact with each other during playgroups. 

During my time at the shelter, I had the opportunity to work with both the large and small dogs. The large dogs, mostly Tosas, are all about 100+ lbs. I so loved seeing the different personalities that had emerged over time: playful, bouncy, pup-like behavior in big boy bodies, and an affection for cream cheese treats. One dog, Dug, became a quick favorite with his face full of wrinkles. Hesitant of the slippery shelter floor, staff created a walkway of pine shavings for Dug to walk on as he explored the environment outside of his kennel space… Success! 

The Littles, as they are affectionately called, is a group of 10 smaller dogs housed in large enclosures with a secure perimeter so they can explore freely and interact with people on their own time. These tiny tots aren’t quite ready for leash walking yet, but they have shown amazing growth during their time at the temporary shelter and have developed a love of playing with toys, each other, and taking coveted hot dogs from staff members.

For these pups, it’s been a journey of recovery, healing, and learning to love. It’s the beginning of a fresh start, it’s daily personal growth, and teaching incredible lessons of resilience to the staff and volunteers who have been caring for them. It’s the silver lining that’s filled with forgiveness and trust – how lucky I am to have witnessed it.