On January 16, 2020, Louie, a black pug, finally arrived at Miami International Airport. He had travelled over 17,000 miles for three days from Harbin, China to Moscow, to Los Angeles, to New York and finally, to Miami International Airport. It was a long, grueling, and frightening journey for a small dog.
Sometime in October 2019, Linda and Russ Howald of Marco Island first visited Saving Harbin Dogs (SHD) website and wanted to know more about their rescue mission in China. They also corresponded with Eva Dudas with the rescue. SHD is a U.S. registered charity operating in China with volunteers who are committed to the rescue of as many meat trade survivors, abandoned and stray dogs. Their ultimate goal is to end animal cruelty and the dog meat trade.
On SHD’s website, Linda met Louie, a black Pug, and the Howalds decided to adopt him. But first, Louie needed a U.S. sponsor. Linda called Compassionate Pug Rescue of Miami (CPR) to sponsor Louie to the U.S. CPR is dedicated to saving the life of pugs by providing food, shelter, medical care and finding the best possible homes for their rescued pugs.
In Harbin, the dog market is in full swing every month of the year where dogs are bought and sold for meat. In China, dog markets and slaughterhouses are very common. The yearly “festival” of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival (or Lychee and Dog Meat Eating “festival”) is very well known and was created to boost the dog meat trade.
Louie, along with other dogs, were on their way to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival when SHD came to their rescue. The dogs are usually packed into small rusty crates and denied food and water. Some are injured, sick and arrive at the market in truckloads. While unloading, animals are beaten and clubbed and often dogs are skinned and boiled alive “to make the meat taste better” at the festival.
For ten days in June an estimated 10,000 dogs and cats are butchered, cooked, and eaten with lychee, believing that fruit and meat combo will bring health through the long winter months. This event is also synonymous with the immense cruelty to animals, not just dogs.
Though dog meat is not part of the mainstream Chinese diet, China is the world’s largest dog meat market with an estimated 97,000 tons produced each year. It might seem easier to accept this practice if referred to as “part of a cultural norm.” But the practice of animal cruelty is beyond culture – it is torture!
When Louie arrived in Miami, his right eye was swollen, and his jaw was broken. He had been mistreated and beaten. The local vet for SHD in China tried to re-set his jaw unsuccessfully. Louie also had numerous intestinal issues and a terrible skin condition. And already there was a list of Pug lovers ready to take Louie home.
Finally, on February 11, 2020, Linda and Russ Howald brought Louie home to Marco Island. “Why a dog from China” is a frequently asked question for the Howalds. The Howalds are believers in adopting locally. Linda shared that all their five previous pugs came from local shelters and their Bassett hound, Sadie, was also adopted. But for the dogs of Yulin, there was no alternative life for them.
Sadie welcomed Louie home and they became instant friends. Louie’s allergies have cleared up, he has a special soft diet and loves to go for walks around the neighborhood and meet other small dogs. Like most Pugs, Louie enjoys just laying around.
According to Linda and Russ, it’s been one year and two months since they took Louie home. SHD estimated Louie’s age to be between two and five years old, but according to Russ Howald, Louie acts more like a two-year old puppy.
Linda and Russ Howald may not change the Chinese practice of eating dog meat by adopting one dog, but with much love and compassion they have transformed Louie’s life. Happiness is an expressive face, bulging eyes, wheezing nose and a wagging curly tail!