Daejeon Paws

6:36 PM Jmo 2 Comments

I forgot to mention in my last post that I've added a new (and especially lovable) group of friends to my life. I've begun to volunteer at a dog shelter and, would you know it, I've already fallen in love with a few of the little fuzzballs. Me? No...

The shelter is located relatively close to my apartment. It's in Galma 갈마, the next town over. So close in fact that I've realized I can ride a bike there! Galma is a pretty cute part of Daejeon and if I didn't live in Dunsan I could definitely picture myself there. It's full of hills, windy streets, and little shops that cater to traditional Korean fare.
The shelter itself is run by one woman: Ms. Jung. I think I've fallen in love with her just as much as I have the dogs. She is a feisty woman of about 5'4". She runs about her compound herding dogs, calling their names, and handing out as much love as she does food. She really does love these animals. You can see it in her face. She spends all day and night with them, yet, her face lights up when one scampers by as if it's the first she's ever seen them. She is so grateful for the little time I spend there. The last time I was there she kept hugging me and saying thank you over and over. I have the feeling that even if she didn't have dogs I would visit her and muttle through what little Korean I know to hold a conversation.
The shelter is far different from any shelter that I've been to in The States. It's located up a muddy hill away from the outskirts of Galma. It's situated between an open field -a combination of farmland and trash, and a little village compound that is usually lined with strung up laundry.  Ms. Jung keeps the inside of the shelter maintained well, but by American standards the outside looks a little rough. Korean government-run animal shelters euthanize fairly quickly and do not offer much support in terms of sympathetic care. Also, dogs are still looked at as food in some parts of the country; especially with older generations. So support for organizations like this is a new and rare thing. Daejeon Paws is run on private donations and the love and care of Ms. Jung; not the government. Ms. Jung is an amazing woman.

So, what do I do there? Saying that I have a "job" there would be ridiculous. I essentially get to love and be loved. I start my time there by walking the Jindos. The Jindo is a traditional Korean dog breed famous for being guard dogs. They are full of energy and I have to fight to stay upright. Half of the time, no 99% of the time, I'm being pulled along and the people of Galma laugh at me as I trot by. But in all seriousness, dog culture here is very different. Obviously. But I've experienced some interesting reactions to walking these dogs otherwise. Many people are afraid. Old, young, men, women it doesn't matter. Larger dogs are rare to keep as pets and it seems to me that having a dog as a pet is a rare things in itself. Unless it's tiny and cute and you can dye it's hair to match your shoes. But some of the Jindos have warmed up to me. Last week I had a great walk/hike with Jin Su. She was in a dog fight a while back and is missing parts of her ears and upper lip. She's a sweetheart and for the first time I could tell that she was actually looking at me. As we hiked further and further up the trail I noticed her looking back to make sure I was there. Before she would just power on through looking for the next leaf to sniff.
Tony came with me and walked Apple. Apple has made such exceptional progress! The last time I saw her she was one of the most skiddish dogs I've ever met. She would run and hide if anyone approached her. But she warmed up to Tony and I and Tony said that if he were to ever adopt one it'd be her. She is such a sweetheart.

After walking the Jindos I go inside the shelter to have what I like to call a "Cuddle Party" with the little dogs. I've definitely fallen in love with two little guys. One is named Hamlet (be still my beating heart I know!) and he is a pudgy Corgi mix. He is a little food aggressive; but I give him some slack considering he is a shelter dog. He's definitely gained weight since being returned to the shelter.  He was recently returned because his previous owner got a girlfriend who didn't like dogs. Yep. And my other buddy is Heedong. Heedong is a big white ball of love who likes to put his paws on my chest when I kneel down to see him so I can scratch his chest. He looks up at me with his goofy face, panting with excitement, and I can't help but die. My eyes have welled up more than once since I've started going there. Did I mention there's a little old blind one too? Yep. I can barely handle it. There's no doubt in my mind that if I was more settled that both Hamlet and Heedong would be coming home with me. Actually, they would already be home with me. I'd be covered in dog fur right now as we speak.

Visit the shelter's page here to read a little more (and to see Hamlet!):

**Update: I was browsing through the Daejeon Paws site (the link above) and read about Hindong (or as I've typed it: Heedong). He was rescued by Ms. Jung because her neighbors were about to butcher him for food. Hell to the no.
He's been at the shelter for a couple years now -with more than a few potential owner inquiries. That kills me. This whole thing. I'm going to try not to break down and take him home...but seriously. No guarantees.


  1. Hey!

    I just moved to Daejeon and I'm looking to volunteer here! Just wondering if you knew any logistics of who I can get into contact with.


  2. Hey Magan! Definitely! Here's our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/groups/158004581010139/ And Deborah Fallon is our main contact. Look forward to meeting you! :)


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