Harper the golden retriever began her life on a dog meat farm in South Korea. She was living in appalling conditions and, most shockingly, on borrowed time. Indeed, alongside 25 other dogs, she was slated for execution without ever having been able to run free from her tiny little cage.
Of course, dog meat has been a traditional dish in South Korea since ancient times, but recently there has been a big push to save these captive canines. In fact, the Humane Society International (HSI) has now managed to permanently shut down several dog meat farms.
The main problem, though, isn’t the act of eating the meat. Rather, it is the cruel conditions in which the dogs live and the torturous deaths the animals face when their final day is called. After all, there are no regulations mandating ethical treatment of the dogs nor any laws on how they are slaughtered.
Whether they’re bred in captivity or stolen from the streets, then, dogs like Harper face some abhorrent fates – including being burnt and boiled alive or beaten to death. Dog meat farms are persistent, however, because the farmers are often unable to come up with alternate means to earn a livelihood. This, then, is where HSI enters the picture.
Founded in 1954, the U.S.-based not-for-profit organization is dedicated to protecting animal rights around the world. As of 2016, it has shut down at least five dog meat farms by offering the owners financial incentives to release the animals into HSI care. In addition, it works to help the farms transition to animal-friendly means of income.
HSI was also instrumental in bringing about Harper the golden retriever freedom and eventual happiness. In fact, Harper’s new mommy, Imgur user thepursuitofharperness, had always wanted a canine companion in her life. And after a long search to find her pawfect pal, she saw photos taken during HSI’s fourth dog meat farm rescue and knew immediately what she had to do.
After shutting down yet another dog meat farm in South Korea, then, HSI and Change for Animals Foundation were “bringing the dogs to the U.S. for adoption,” thepursuitofharperness wrote on Imgur. “There was an album showing the terrified pups being freed from their cages.”
“The idea that she was awaiting slaughter absolutely gutted me. ‘This is my dog. This is the one.’ That’s all I could think to myself,” she wrote. The image she saw was captured some 7,000 miles away, but she still felt an “instant connection” with the dog.
All of the rescused dogs – including breeds prized for their gentle natures, such as Labradors and golden retrievers – on display, though, had not lived happy lives. Indeed, they had mostly been kept in cages, living in their own filth. Many, in fact, didn’t even have a roof over their heads and were left exposed to rain and freezing temperatures.
The rescued pups, then, were brought to the U.S. and housed separately in different shelters. After some dogged pursuit, though, thepursuitofharperness managed to track down the shelter keeping Harper. Unsurprisingly, the beautiful golden retriever had received a lot of interest, but she wasn’t ready for adoption; she had just been spayed and still needed to recover.
“Per shelter policy, no pets could be ‘reserved’ and she would be adopted out on a first come, first serve basis,” thepursuitofharperness wrote. “They wouldn’t be contacting anyone directly, her photo would simply pop up on their website when she was ready to go.”
Thepursuitofharperness kept a diligent eye on the shelter’s adoption lists over the next week, and, as luck would have it, she was the first in line to give Harper a new home. Harper’s prospects were looking up; At only approximately a year old, after all, Harper had already suffered so much in her short life.
“Despite the smile on her face, the adoption coordinators let us know that she was extremely skittish and scared. They weren’t sure if it was temporary or something to adapt to long-term,” thepursuitofharperness recalled. “Her coat was rough, not soft and fluffy like a typical golden retriever.”
“Despite a bath when she arrived, she was still pretty stinky as a result of the poor conditions she was kept in. I didn’t care about any of these perceived flaws, though. I knew this was my dog,” she wrote.
Loud noises were a problem, however, and since Harper had found a safe home with her new mommy, she refused to stray too far from the house. Harper was also nervous around strange humans and even her own species. Certainly, she hadn’t socialized in captivity, so meeting other dogs was a new experience.
“It was a little overwhelming at first being the new kid on the block, but here is Harper meeting a group of dogs for the first time,” wrote thepursuitofharperness. “She crouched down when they initially swarmed her but after a few minutes she was happily sniffing butts and playing with her new pals.”
Harper’s time at the meat farm had further left her with a fear of water. Indeed, she hated puddles and even the touch of rain made her whimper. To help with this, her new mommy bought her a coat that would enable her to face her hydrophobia.
So, after six months of her human’s loving care, Harper looked like a completely different dog. Certainly, her coat is now “soft and silky,” her fears are subsiding, and she is doing great with her dog training classes (though she can’t resist the old chew-on-a-shoe fix).
“Happy to report that with some patience and time, she no longer fears people, loud noises, the outdoors, or the car,” Harper’s human wrote. “She adores meeting new people and tries to lick the faces of everyone that walks by.”
“Harper has been an indescribable joy in my life,” thepursuitofharperness concluded. “Having her has resulted in countless physical, mental and emotional benefits for me. Sometimes I really do wonder who rescued whom.”