Growing up in Korea, over 65 years ago, Mr. Shin had very different views about dogs. He never owned a dog and never knew the love and compassion that dogs bring to humans. He ate dog meat in his youth. At the time, it was very common in Korea, on par with eating steak.
When he came to America 37 years ago, he still held these beliefs.
All of that changed 10 years ago when he adopted a Jindo named Kathy. He originally got her, along with a male, as guard dogs for his business. He knew little about dogs and both pups were not fixed. A litter of puppies soon followed.
All but one of the puppies found a new home, as did the father who became aggressive. But, he knew he could not part with one of the pups, named Popo.
In fact, it was Popo that truly changed Mr. Shin's view of dogs. Popo cried endlessly for his mother whenever they were separated. The puppy’s love and need for Kathy made Mr. Shin realize that there was little difference between the emotions of dogs and the emotions of humans.
Day by day, he discovered that he could communicate with the dogs. He began to tuck them in every night and sneak them into the house to cuddle, even though the rest of his family did not understand their bond.
Now, these two Jindos mean as much to Mr. Shin as his own child. He is horrified that he ate dog meat in his youth and that he didn’t realize the immense intelligence and love that dogs bring to the world.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Shin said:
“I couldn’t understand how people would die and leave money for their dogs, but now I understand.”
Kathy and Popo take up almost all of the space in his heart, which makes a recent turn of events indescribably sad.
Mr. Shin is very ill. He must return to Korea to be with his family and receive the care he needs in his remaining years. This means that he must part with his beloved Jindos.
He looked into taking the pair with him, but the process would have been difficult and costly. He also feared for the pups' safety and quality of life. He was distraught and afraid at what would become of Kathy and Popo. He told me that he went to the rescue group Treasured K9s
with tears in his eyes and the heaviest of hearts. He felt hopeless.
Kristen Edmonds, of Treasured K9s, gave him back his hope.
"[If something happens], no one will care for the dogs and they could end up at the meat market. He feels, as do we, that it is best for the dogs to find a new home here in the U.S."
There was one condition to rehoming them: The pups must stay together.
Jindos are a primitive breed. This makes them a bit different than your average pup. Ancient breeds have a unique temperament. They require an experienced owner.
Kristen told us:
“They are the complete opposite of a Labrador or Golden Retriever. Applicants need to have a good understanding of dog behavior and different training methods.“
These breeds are also extra sensitive to human emotions. Combine that with Kathy and Popo's deep bond to each other and to their hooman dad, and you’ve got two pups who need a very special home.
It can take 4-6 months to find a home for your “average” young Jindo. Finding a home for 2 Jindos is even more challenging. Mr. Shin and the humans of Treasured K9s were getting desperate, as he had plans to return to Korea this summer. Kristen launched a social media campaign to find the pair a home. The story went viral.
“Most people are only looking for one dog. Two dogs is a lot for someone to take on. Add on the ages of Kathy and PoPo, 6 and 8 years, it was a long shot at finding an adopter. That’s why we turned to social media.”
The campaign led them to the right hoomans, Emily Chen and her boyfriend Brian. Kristen believes that Emily and Brian are the confident, kind and patient leaders that Kathy and Popo need. The two won't join their new family until September. To make the transition easier, Emily and Brian have regular visits with the pups to get to know each other. This is important because it can take Jindos a long time to build trust.
Even though Mr. Shin is overjoyed that his pups will have a happy home, he can’t help but worry for them.
“Even though I’m dying, I don’t worry about my son, but I worry about my dogs.”
He knows his son can take care of himself, but dogs do rely on the kindness of their humans. They will find plenty of that in their new home.
He also wants to become an advocate for dogs when he returns to Korea.
“So many people don’t know about dogs and how smart they are and how they have feelings. If I can have the chance, I want to volunteer in a dog shelter.”
Although circumstances are separating this family, the impact Kathy and Popo had on their human will never disappear. Neither will the love all three of them share.
Featured image via Treasured K9s.