I wouldn’t want to be born a dog in Korea.
After sixteen months in the country and with at least a thousand miles on foot behind me, I’ve seen and been yapped at by enough mutts to conclude that you can broadly segregate them into three groups.
There’s the apartment-dwelling primadonna pooch: tiny, barely canine, preened and primped and led about town (when it’s not being carried — a truly sickening sight) by the standard mountaineering-attired, sunshade-sporting middle-aged walker.
Then there’s the farm dog whose miserable lot consists of life on a short chain and shelter in a plastic kennel. It’s the same story as in rural Japan: madness, monotony, with the only relief in the form of passing hikers (white ones preferably), the sight of which drives the poor cur into spasms of futile rage.
And it has to be said, whether your average Korean likes it or not: there are the dog-meat dogs. Quite often on my rambles I’ve passed what I naively assumed (at first) were boarding kennels, the constant yelping of numerous dogs following me up into the hills. Now I know. Whatever your thoughts on the ethics or otherwise of eating dog, there’s no doubt the livestock (millions each year) is treated and killed appallingly.
Which brings me to “my” dogs. Do you remember these girls?
Just over a year ago I wrote about them: two poor things who live, sort of, a third of a mile from home. Back then I wrote:
I’ve seen this pair a few times now and they’re always restrained in this dirty, wretched scrap of redneck yard near the road. They’re nicer than they look — they only started barking when I aimed a camera at them. They actually seemed desperate for some kind of diversion and attention.
Well, I passed the Katies, as I came to christen them, a dozen times as I walked up the narrow road hugging Daecheong Creek to visit the cascades, the temple or hike up Bulmo-San. They got used to me and eventually gave up the barrage of fearsome barks as I passed.
In time I took a closer look. It was obvious that not only did they never leave their chains, but they were — are — starving. The only food they appear to get is dried pellets. Their bleak, stinking quarters, at the roadside between a dreary restaurant and a line of dusty plant nurseries, are littered with unwanted dried food and excrement.
Their chains permit the touching of noses, but no more. They made a wretched sight a month ago as I began a hike in heavy rain…
..and not long afterwards I began tossing them leftover snacks on the walk home.
Well, I graduated to buying them food and making special dog-feeding excursions after work, or incorporating a feeding stop into my hiking route.
They are actually beautiful, affectionate animals…
..and I always enjoy those moments on my covert missions when they see me coming and snap from lethargy and boredom to excitement and anticipation.
Katie 1 used to flinch when I moved my hand; now she always lunges excitedly to the length of her chain, standing on her hind legs to soak up the pleasures of a scratch behind the ears, a pat on the head.
Katie 2’s wild eyes once alarmed me, but she’s actually a real sweetie as well.
I mean, seriously: in Australia, I’m glad to say, you’d face jail time if you treated dogs like this:
The girls are costing me a small fortune in fresh meat these days — I visit perhaps three times a week — but it feels like I’m giving something back and doing something worthwhile, sometimes the most worthwhile thing I’ve done all day.
I’ve been giving them fresh pork or beef — not nearly enough but they crave it and I’ve never seen animals eat so voraciously. Katie 2 is so hungry, the meat never touches the ground, each hunk grabbed and downed in mid-air while she already seeks out the next.
What I enjoy most is the way the attention and the food transforms their personalities. Katie 1 goes absolutely nutso after the first physical attention, and starts to yap and jump about in a jealous frenzy when I move on to share the love with her fellow prisoner.
I always worry that her yapping will bring someone to investigate (probably couldn’t care less), so that’s my cue to dig out and distribute my presents.
I always follow up the meat with some high-calorie snack — not exactly healthy eating but a little fat and a few moments of pleasure. I would actually be surprised if Katie 2 survived another year. She just loves the attention, the poor old girl.
I’d love to give them bones but don’t want to leave any evidence.
Obviously they need a lot more than what I can drop off on my sneak missions. If I were going to stay here long-term, I’d find a way to kidnap them and put them somewhere nice where they could end their lives in comfort.
That’s probably an idle fantasy, but I wish I could at least find someone to keep up the visits after I’m gone.
Just doesn’t seem fair that I can get out of here while for the Katies, and who-knows-how-many like them, the sentence continues…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote