A few weekends later we returned to the shelter so that the staff could see how the pups were getting on. While Luna’s skin was still raw and prone to flaring up, her hair had started to grow out and she was starting to look a little more normal.
Molly was just a bundle of fun. Not quite as much energy as I was expecting, she was always quite tired, but she always enjoyed investigating new things and meeting people.
KAPS at that time had three shelters, two in Daegu City and a sanctuary a couple of hours into the countryside in Boeun. In Daegu, both shelters were in Daemyoung, an old area of the city with many traditional Korean houses, usually a two or three sided one storey house with a yard in the centre. They were starting to be knocked down and replaced with three or four floor apartment blocks.
The dog shelter, as I mentioned, sat on the third and fourth floors of a building next to the main road. The cat shelter sat one street back. Bought back in 1991 by KAPS founder Sunnan Kum, the cat shelter was a converted traditional Korean house.
Walking through the front gate there was a long path down the left wall of the shelter with several sheds on the left, these housed small animals and birds that were brought to the shelter or rescued by our drivers. It was often home to rabbits, pigeons, occasionally the odd deer or bird of prey.
Going through the gate on the right into another long corridor, a building ran down the right hand side. This was the office but also had several small rooms, one was where food and cat litter was stored, the other was home to the house cat and periodically kittens, during kitten season.
On the left were three large open spaces, each with a fence or wall between them. The first two extended back into the original house and provided space for the cat community to roam. There were lots of high spaces and nooks and crannies and looking through the fence you just saw cats on every surface.
For me the first time in the cat shelter was eye opening. I hadn’t had cats as a kid, just a dog, I had always assumed you only had one cat at a time. I didn’t know they could live happily together. It didn’t seem like there was an obvious hierarchy, like there always was with dogs, every now and then a fight would break out, but it was rare, and over fast, the cats would be separated and life would go on. They seemed happy, they could chose when to snuggle with another cat, when to snuggle with a human, and when to have their own space. They could play if they wanted and sleep when and where they wanted.
Cats from this shelter often got rehomed and so there weren’t many who stayed long term. But there were some who would never be happy in a home environment. Feral cats took a while to settle in and were never interested in human contact, but once settled they happily ate and slept in the sun like the others. Some cats just weren’t built for life with humans. One particular favourite was rehomed three times before the staff gave up. Each time he was brought back, in the middle of the night he would start literally climbing the walls, he was happier living where this behaviour was accepted.
In the final cage at the end of the corridor there were several dogs. These dogs were long term stays and each had a reason why they wouldn’t make it in a home. They loved the staff and enjoyed a happy life playing and snuggling together. One little white Maltese was lovely and friendly, but she ate the electric cables in every house she lived in. Another little Schnauzer was such a cuddle bug, but he was terrified of the outside world. He couldn’t go for a walk and enjoy himself, it was all just too over whelming.
At the back of this cage, always keeping his distance from any new visitors was a Korean Jindo dog. This traditional breed is still bred on Jindo island to this day and is a source of pride for many Koreans. Bred to be a guard dog primarily it is one of the few breeds I have come across that isn’t a pack animal. They can handle a pack of two, but no more.
Fiercely loyal these dogs connect with one human and adore them forever. With careful training and socialisation they can learn to interact with other dogs and humans, but they are never quite as comfortable as most dogs.
This particular Jindo had a very sad past. He had only one eye, the other had been removed and sewn up. He was friendly with Sunnan and the staff, but kept his distance from everyone else.
He had been born in a Korean dog farm. Brought up to be dog meat there wasn’t much expectation for his life. Somehow he had escaped from the farm, but not before being hit over the head with a hammer. He had been brought to the shelter in a terrible state, the eye was not recoverable. But over time he connected with the other dogs in the kennel, and since he was able to control which humans came near he became happier and more confident.