This is Marc Ching. In a nutshell, he saves animals (over 200 rescues) from the worst slaughterhouses in China and Korea. With no real plan, he gets on a plane and just goes searching for them: these souls whose only fault is being born in a country that allows the barbaric torture and slaughter of dogs.
Marc is a holistic nutritionist here in Los Angeles. He is also the owner of Petstaurant and founder of Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation. This is where the story begins.
On December 3rd, my favorite hero, Shannon Keith from Beagle Freedom Project and ARME, texted me to meet them at Air France Cargo to photograph 3 of the 11 dogs arriving from China. Marc is Shannon's nutritionist and a conversation between these two ended up turning into one of the most expensive and worthwhile rescues ever.
So, I headed down to LAX, having no idea what I was about to see or hear. I only knew that these were puppies. Yes, puppies. No more than 6 months old. Purebreds.
During the wait, I spoke to Marc. Of course, the first question is why? A husband, a father of two, a business owner, why do you do this? He told me that he had seen videos about the slaughterhouses and wanted to see for himself how bad it was. When he arrived, however, he discovered it was much worse.
In what should be a Dateline Special, Marc went in undercover and bought his way in by pretending to be a meat buyer. He pays thousands of dollars to take them and on a few occasions has even kidnapped a few. This very peaceful man, this man who writes emotional prose about these animals, even he has moments of anger. He tells me that he has knocked a couple of men out of his way to rescue a dying dog from torture. A dogs last moments in life should be of a kind soul telling him that he's safe now and that he is loved, even for a moment.
DISCLAIMER: LION'S STORY IS TOUGH TO READ.
This is Lion. She is from Bejing. Lion, a purebred Chow, was rescued from a Chinese gang run slaughter operation. Lion was kidnapped from her loving family to suffer extreme abuse and misery. When Marc found her, Lion and several other dogs were being hung. Their feet were bound. Lion had been burned with some sort of electrocution device and had nine pellets shot into her body. One is close to her lung, the other very near her heart. After releasing her from her bonds, Marc whispered into her still beautiful mane, "There is a lion inside your heart."
Marc tries not to have favorites but it's hard with an angel like Lion.
16 German Shepherds were rescued. Only 5 survived. From Tianjin, China, these handsome Shepherds were freed just minutes before their feet were to be severed and sold as good luck charms.
Above is Clyde. Well, I, too, try not to have favorites but this little guy stole my heart the moment he bravely walked out of his crate. Thankfully, he already had a home waiting for him. A perfect end to this little guys horrific beginning. Clyde is from one of the worst torture chambers in Tangshan, China. I have decided not to tell you what happened to his siblings. It's best you don't have that image in your mind. In your darkest place, you would never imagine this heinous, despicable murder. Just know that Clyde, sweet baby Clyde, is a survivor.
Above is Faith. As Charlie Brown would say, "Love is that little girl with red hair."
Marc found Faith in a plastic bag with four other poodles. She was the only survivor.
The backstories of these puppies don't get much better. Marc, right now, can only save the worst cases. And, he says, it's hard not to take them all. The emotion he shows when talking about each one is real and heartbreaking.
The other hero of our story is Shannon Keith, founder and president of ARME. After weeks of paperwork, phone calls, dealing with a government that is completely different than the one she is used to dealing with, finding and raising money to make this rescue happen, she reaps the rewards with some love from Scotty.
ARME's mission (from their website) is to educate the public about animal abuse and to end animal suffering. They rescue unwanted, homeless animals and Shannon, as an animal rights attorney and an award winning filmmaker, defends animal activists, dogs on death row and goes after animal abusers. In short, she's a bad ass.
Once off the plane, the dogs head back to The ROC. ARME and Beagle Freedom Project's new home, The Rescue and Outreach Center. Here, Faith, Clyde and Scotty play for the first time. My camera can't even catch them they're moving so fast! The puppies also go around and introduce themselves to the other 8 new arrivals from the day before.
Now, this may sound silly to the untrained dog mind, but I think these dogs know what's happening. I think they know that they have just been rescued from a hell we can't imagine. Like the Beagles and animals from the laboratories across the world, these dogs know that we are there to help them. They definitely know the difference between love and cruelty. As Shannon said in an interview she was doing with a Chinese news station, "People might think that these dogs are angry for how humans have treated them, but that's a myth. These animals are grateful."
What do you think?
So, my friends, what is a girl with a photography blog to do? Well, sell you on donating whatever you can, of course! And if you can't donate monetarily, how about your time? Bring toys, towels, blankets, to a local shelter. I just spent most of last Friday following these same wonderful people all around SoCal, delivering love and necessities to the animals at some of our highest kill shelters. You can adopt! You can foster! Go to your local shelters or rescue organization and look on their websites for Volunteers and help out when you can.
This rescue was an emotional one for me. I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty much nauseous after hearing the stories of their excruciating torture. The first dog I held was Clyde (the Schnauzer) and I wept like a big ol' baby. I didn't want to let him go so he pretty much sat on my shoulder while I took pictures in the parking lot. See, I just take pictures. That's how I help. I donate my time doing something I love. I do not do any heavy lifting. But, I'm proud to be there when they need me. It's easy to say yes to showing an animal in it's best light.
Now, in case you can help out with money, here are some links to the three great organizations I shared with you today.
Beagle Freedom Project. (You can also buy some SUPER cute items in the SHOP section. All benefiting BFP and ARME)
Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation
As always, thank you to the divas of rescue, Shannon Keith, Monique Hanson, Kevin Chase (Vice President of BFP and honorary diva), Lorna Campbell among many others and of course, the man himself, Marc Ching.
"That's the lesson of the dogs, that it's important to both live in the moment and then go on to the next wonderful thing."
W. Bruce Cameron