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Dog days of Jeju
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승인 2010.04.19  15:28:04
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▲ Photo by Alex James

Making his way from a computer gaming cafe rooftop to the parks of San Francisco, California, 4-year-old Shih Tzu Shiloh has lived a life not far from a Brangelina adoptee story. Spending his early years as an urban outdoorsman, he weathered Jeju’s cold winter storms and summer heat waves, all atop his isolated rooftop dwelling. To the ears and eyes of those in neighboring buildings, it was clear the rooftop inhabitant was lonely, and either overheating or freezing depending on the season.

Alex James and girlfriend Shanna Bosley couldn’t make use of their eighth-story view of the sea without the highly visible reminder of the unattended dog. During one cold winter storm last year, they decided to pay him a visit.

“He was an overgrown mess, shaggy to the point we couldn't see his eyes and it was even difficult determining what breed he was,” James said. “He stank, and had a rattling snore we thought couldn’t be healthy.”

The original plan of merely giving Shiloh some company was abandoned after the two saw how dismal his situation was. He needed a check-up, and, feeling that leaving him on the rooftop during the worst part of the winter wasn’t something they could do, they hoped to find him a better home.

“We had to honor what we thought was right. I don t think our action caused any suffering, but our inaction would have, ” Bosley said. Covering the cost of Shiloh’s vet bills, James and Bosley uncovered with Shiloh’s haircut not only an eye infection that would have left him blind in one eye had it gone untreated, but also an all too revealing view of the special dog they now had on their hands. With hair trimmed to his skin, two bulging eyes gazing in opposite directions, and a snore that would cause even the deepest sleeper to search the nightstand for earplugs, finding a new home for Shiloh proved to be a difficult task.

▲ Photo by Sherrin Hibbard

The dog adapted to life in their heated apartment, where his old lifestyle was merely a blurry view out the window. He ate up the attention fed to him, so much so that when his new foster parents left for work, he would spend the morning howling for their return. It didn’t take long for a complaint to be made, and Shiloh received an eviction notice.

With James and Bosley unable to find Shiloh a home on Jeju, James’ mother offered to take the dog in San Francisco. Fortunately all necessary vaccines were administered, and Shiloh received a clean bill of health. Rather than spend 500,000 won to send the dog to the United States on its own, James put the money toward a trip home for himself, where, for an extra 100,000 to 200,000 won depending on the airline, Shiloh could fly with James in the aircraft cabin.

While inconvenient and a little heavy on the wallet, Shiloh’s expenses were nowhere near what Australian Sherrin Hibbard is facing with her dog Max, who first approached Hibbard while she was waiting for a bus at Uigwi Elementary School. The following week, the dog returned, and this time Hibbard pro-vided her with some water.

“She just stood there, looked up at me and wagged her tail,” Hibbard said.

▲ Photo by Ali Shaker

By their third bus stop encounter, Hibbard decided the dog was a stray due to the burrs and twigs matted in her fur. She put the dog in a box and took it home. With only three paws and scars on her back, it seems that Max may have had a run in with a car in her early days.

With her plan to return to Australia next year, Hibbard is looking at dropping a couple of million won to take Max to her home country, which, along with the U.K. and New Zealand, is free of many pet-related diseases found in other areas of the world. For North Americans, the process of importing a dog is fairly easy, requiring only the necessary vaccines and the cost of a flight. In Australia, special tests are required and an animal must be kept in quarantine for a minimum of one month. In New Zealand and the U.K., the pet must have a micro-chip inserted before vaccinations, and blood tests must be done six months prior to the travel date. The duration of the quarantine can also be substantially longer in the U.K.

“She sure will be the most expensive three-legged dog in Australia by the time she gets home!” Hibbard said.

For others on the island who don’t have the funds, time, or pet-friendly accommodation, trips to the local animal shelter have recently filled the place of having a pet of one’s own.

While searching for his missing dog Oscar, who is currently on the loose around the Foreign Language High School, Ali Shaker got to know Park Suk Jae at Jeju Livestock near Jeju National University, and through contact with him, Shaker has returned to the shelter on numerous occasions.

“Visiting the shelter opened my eyes to the conditions in which dogs are being kept,” he said.

▲ Photo by Alex James

Looking to bring some hope into the lives of the animals, currently dogs and one cat, Shaker posted online messages to see if anybody was interested in spending part of their Saturdays playing with the animals. Interest was great, with 13 people showing up on the first Saturday, and 20 the following week.

“You can see the dogs have been starved for this sort of attention, and they are very excited to see us when we arrive,” said Katharine Rusk, who drives from Seogwipo to take part in the visits.

Rusk hopes that with warmer weather on the way, baths will be a possibility for the dogs, to give them a better chance of being adopted.

“They know a good thing when they find it again,” said Rusk, who hopes that anyone looking for a pet will consider a shelter animal.

Workers at the shelter only go in on Thursdays to clean the kennels, and for the rest of the week, the animals are on their own. The workers are appreciative of the Saturday visitors, and have been willing to come in on their days off to open the doors, giving the animals a chance to stretch their legs and feel like pets again. The two groups are currently trying to work out a regular schedule.

“The more people who come translates into more dogs getting a walk,” Shaker said.

These days, Shiloh, having paid his dues in his puppy days, lives like a king with probably the only couple in the world who can sleep through his snoring. He’s a late riser, spending his days playing with the first dog of the house, enjoying access to the backyard when-ever he wishes and going on walks to the park in his San Francisco neighborhood.

“We call him a typical American now because he’s heavy for his size, a little rebellious, and he’ll eat anything,” James said.





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