Ashland – Meet Leilu, a six month old Jindo mix. She loves to run, play in piles of leaves, and wont say no to a doggy treat. Today shes a healthy puppy but six months ago she was timid and abandoned, left in the streets of South Korea. She was found in a box outside a dog meat farm an was meant to be killed for food.
“It makes me very upset that it happens,” said Izabella Cantu.
This tradition, known as the dog meat trade is common in South Korea and other Asian countries.
“Since they eat dogs, I knew that would probably happen to her too, said Cantu.”
It’s estimated about two to two and half million dogs are killed each year from the Korean dog meat market.
“They’re fairly infamous for butchering dogs, you can actually go select dogs and they’re still alive kept in cages and they will actually slaughter them there for you,” said Brent Hirunpugdi.
Leliu got a second chance. She was saved by 11 year old Izabella Cantu. Izzy for short. Izzy, a dog lover was confused on how someone could treat animals with such cruelty.
“It makes me feels very upset that happens I don’t understand why people do it,” she said.
That’s when Izzy wanted to step in. Every year instead of getting birthday gifts, Izzy ask her friends and family to donate to a charity of her choice.
“This year I picked the fundraiser of where I got Leilu,” she said.
Izzy was able to raise around 500 dollars to Guardian’s International, a nonprofit organization that focuses on protecting the well being of animals from issues like the dog meat trade.
“I don’t want other animals to suffer so then my mom let me pick one of them to keep so one less animal didn’t have to suffer,” Cantu said.
With the help from Guardian’s International, Izzy’s stepfather, Brent Hirunpugdi was able to make the trip from Oregon to pick up Leilu at the San Francisco airport.
“We were pretty concerned of how she would be on arrival but once i was able to pick her up it was pretty exciting she was in good health and good spirit,” he said.
Its been five months since Leilu traveled thousands of miles overseas and into Izzy’s arms and for Izzy, Leilu has become more than just a dog.
“She’s basically my soul mate, we’ve had a lot of time to bond and stuff and without her I don’t know what I’d do,” she said.
You can learn more at Guardian Angels International Rescue (GAIR) website.
– Photojournalist Karen Tang