Clearly, Willow’s owners didn’t care two hoots about him, and when the poodle was 11 years old, they decided that he was too old and got rid of him completely. They sold him to a dog meat farm for a measly $20.
When dog rescuer Nami of Save Korean Dogs found him at the farm in South Korea, though, she knew on the spot that her good friend, a well-known animal advocate, wouldn’t be able to resist him.
She immediately called Heather Heath from Las Vegas, Nevada, and told her about Willow.
He was in an appalling condition. Apart from being old, he was emaciated, his hair was filthy and matted, and his teeth were rotting and falling out. His tongue was infected, and his ears were cut up.
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“My friend Nami is in the process of shutting down this particular farm with 300 dogs,” Heath told The Dodo.
“She called me and said, ‘I have this little, old dog. He’s probably going to have a tough time being adopted. Can I please send him to you?’ I’m such a sucker for senior dogs, and Willow was no different.”
Heath is an experienced animal advocate and has been involved in opposing Asia’s dog meat industry for years.
“He was put into a cage and watched dogs get slaughtered in front of him, he was in line to be killed and his family just walked off with the equivalent of $20 they were paid for leaving him there,” Heath said.
Willow, along with another dog named after Nami, were rescued and treated by a South Korean vet. After a month of medical care and pampering, the pair were healthy enough to travel to their new home in the United States.
The minute Heath met Willow, he stole her heart. “He didn’t miss a beat,” she said. “After everything, he literally acted like nothing had happened. It was amazing.”
The lucky poodle recovered and settled in beautifully with Heath and her family. With his fluffy, tawny coat, shiny eyes, and exuberant personality, Willow keeps them all smiling.
Now, Willow also plays an important role as ambassador to help raise awareness to end the dog meat trade.
Friends!! Good morning!! Wake up!! Know what time it is?! Time to vote for me!! Hero Dog Awards we got this because we are #TeamWillow!! #herodogawardshttp://herodogawards.org/dog/Willow
Heath started a blog page for him called “I am Willow.” And their campaign, “I Am Willow I Am Not Food,” raises funds for dogs to be flown in abroad.
“People know what’s happening [in the dog meat trade], but they just can’t bear to see the horrible images,” said Heath. “My idea was, let’s take Willow, this really cute dog who survived the trade and have him help educate people in a gentle way.
“I’ve just been amazed at the response.”
Willow has quickly built up a great reputation as a survivor of the South Korean dog meat trade and is competing for an American Humane Hero Dog Award. And apart from being made the mascot for the animal rights club at Heath’s daughter’s school, Willow is being awarded an official therapy dog certificate.
Heath and Willow are very busy traveling across the West Coast and raising awareness about the trade. Willow wears his smart red jacket with “Dog Meat Trade Survivor” printed on both sides and looks too adorable for words.
“People pay attention to him anyway because he’s so cute, but then when they read the jacket they always ask a lot of questions,” said Heath. “It’s very, very emotional, so many times I’ll stand there with tears rolling down my face seeing kids pet him and having their parents listen in on what we have to say.
“It reminds you that it’s not a hopeless cause.”