Growing up on a small farm in the South Korean countryside, animals were always a part of my life, though I didn’t truly appreciate their presence at the time. They were merely seen as a means to support our financially struggling family. It wasn’t until I welcomed three dogs—Samsoon, Tavish, and Hamish—and mischievous cat Nabi into my life in Toronto that my perspective underwent a transformative shift.

Living alongside these incredible creatures opened my eyes and touched my heart, revealing the depth of their emotions and experiences—love, joy, and pain—mirroring our own. Animals and humans are not fundamentally different; we are interconnected beings. When animals suffer, it impacts us as humans, and our well-being is affected.

EK comforts dogs at a Korean dog meat farm

In 2015, during a visit to my mother, who still resided on our old farm in Korea, an incident shook me to the core. I witnessed four men, including the fathers of my childhood friends, attempting to hang a Dosa dog from a bridge to kill for meat. This dog, whom I had seen frequently during morning walks, trembled in fear and cried out. The sight was shocking, and I, too, trembled and wept. I confronted the men and offered to provide food and everything she needed if only they had saved her. Fear gripped me. Eventually, they relented and left the bridge with the dog.

The next day, bearing gifts and dog food, I visited the dog’s owner, imploring him not to harm her. However, when I returned a few days later to where she was kept, she was gone. The owner had sold her to a dog meat seller. The shock and guilt overwhelmed me, blaming myself for naively believing that he would keep his word. I felt helpless and desolate. Life seemed meaningless, and I became consumed by skepticism and darkness.

It was then that my husband offered a glimmer of hope. He suggested that instead of harbouring hatred toward people, including myself, what if we focused on helping the dogs? It took time, but eventually, I agreed. I owe my deepest gratitude to my beloved fur babies for inspiring me to take that step and to my husband, Greg, who played a crucial role in the launch of Free Korean Dogs. Together, we are committed to making a difference and giving back to those who have given us so much.

EK photographs feral cats in winter