Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation (AHWF) has gone the extra mile to save Fido from the slaughterhouse.
Imagine if your commitment to service in action lead you to travel thousands of miles from home, away from your beloved family while placing your life in danger. Imagine if that action put you in foreign countries, where you go undercover and witness a veiled world of suffering. Finally, imagine if that action continuously exposed you to the darkness of animal cruelty.
Marc Ching, founder of the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation (AHWF), is following this course of action. He is living his dharma. Marc Ching is one of my heroes.
AHWF is a rescue group whose focus is to rescue dogs from extreme abuse and torture. They rehabilitate these dogs, eventually placing them in loving, caring homes. Through AHWF Marc has spearheaded rescue missions in China, South Korea, and Vietnam to rescue dogs from the slaughterhouse industry.
Marc came into my orbit when my husband and I were looking to adopt a dog. Marc had just brought home his first rescue dog from China, a tiny Pom mix named Hope. Marc witnessed Hope literally thrown against a wall as a tiny puppy and left for dead. After three months in an animal ICU, a now healthy Hope was brought to America, and I am fortunate to call him our loving, amazing, happy fur baby. I recently spoke with Marc about his work.
LA YOGA: How did you become involved with animal rescue?
M.C.: I’ve always had pets. Gerbils, baby chickens, three dogs… my house smelled terrible! As I grew up I started working with people for nutrition and health and this slowly evolved into working with animals for health and wellness. Now I have my own natural wellness and pet food company, The PetStaurant. Through that work I started getting involved in rescue.
LA YOGA: AHWF is known to help with extreme abuse cases. How did you get involved in this specific kind of rescue?
M.C.: It began in 2011 when I found a dog bleeding on the ground with his head cut open—screaming in pain. A vet prescribed all sorts of meds, which weren’t helping—so I treated him myself, and he’s now my dog. Then later, a bait dog [a dog used as “bait” in dog fighting] came to me. I started developing a reputation for taking in abused dogs and now we are known for it. My mission is related to spreading compassion and goodwill.
LA YOGA: Why did you start going to countries like China, South Korea, and Vietnam to rescue?
M.C.: One day I was on Facebook and I started seeing stuff about the slaughterhouses and hearing about the torture that was associated with the meat eating trade. I wanted to go to the Yulin meat eating festival in Vietnam but my wife talked me out of it.
When I first traveled to China (September, 2015), I wanted to know what was really happening with the dogs in the meat-eating trade but I didn’t realize how hard it is to find the areas where they are eating dogs and where the slaughterhouses are located. It took a lot of time and research.
LA YOGA: Your raw and poetic Facebook posts document the pain and suffering you have witnessed. How do you process the atrocities happening to these animals? How do you maintain your balance—or should I say sanity—when doing this work?
M.C.: In my local work, the abuse I see, I see it after [it happens], and then I rehab dogs that would die without help. They were living the horrific lives and some now live in mansions. One dog I rehabilitated even has his own chef! It is very rewarding work.
In China, I’ve witnessed firsthand so much meanness by mankind; so much that I didn’t even know existed. To be honest, it’s been hard. Living through it, seeing it, watching it, it’s the most brutalizing thing to witness. These dogs are tortured to tenderize their meat; I think you get the picture how horrific that can be. Rescuing these dogs, my writing, and the community that has grown around it helps.
I thought that when I came home to my family it would be okay, but it’s not. You actually die inside when you watch it so much. I’m still trying to recover and be born again. All I have are my words and spending time with my children. You realize in life how not strong you are, but I have a mission.
When I go into the slaughterhouses, there’s a moment when I’m soaking in blood and watching the suffering, and there’s this moment where the dogs look at me when I’m just about to save them and it’s like breathing in the rain. Time stops and these dogs, who have only known fear and suffering their entire lives, look at me with trust. That’s an extremely powerful moment where there is just purity, love, and passion and they know they are going to be okay.
All we can do is bring hope and love in our own hearts and into the animals.
LA YOGA: What are the biggest lessons (to date) you have learned from your work in animal rescue?
M.C.: I’ve learned that people fail to realize how capable we are. People don’t realize you don’t have to leave the country to change the world. You can do it anywhere: Help someone on the street, do something that no one else does to help people you don’t know. That’s our core message. If everyone works together we can make the world so beautiful.
I’ve learned in China and South Korea that darkness does exist, but in the darkest places in the world if you are capable of love that light is so strong, it overpowers the darkness.
LA YOGA: Why do you think dogs are able to open their hearts again to humans after suffering so much abuse?
M.C.: I think dogs are very forgiving. In the right home, with the right person, in a loving environment they change dramatically. If you live in darkness and have never seen the sun, you don’t understand what the light is. But after, when you are in this new state it is so wonderful! I think they can’t help but feel the miracle of life.
LA YOGA: In yoga we have a practice called seva, which means “selfless service.” You embody this. What advice would you give people who want to do something to make a difference in the world?
M.C.: Sometimes people don’t take action because they feel they can’t make a difference. A lot of people go out and buy a fancy watch but I rescue dogs. As long as we are conscious in our actions we can make a difference. Try volunteering, even for one day, or try to stop eating meat. Or cut back and choose one animal: stop eating that animal—that one animal—I think that’s courageous.
LA YOGA: How can people get involved with the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation?
M.C.: If people share our posts, it will soften your heart and inspire you to be a little nicer to someone next to you. Locally, we always need help walking our rescue dogs.
The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation can be found on Facebook and on the web at: animalhopeandwellness.org.
The PetStaurant can be found at: petstaurant.com.
Heidi Rayden is a Bhakti and Corporate Yoga instructor, media producer and writer at FreeYourSoultv.com. She is a loving mommy to rescue pup Hope (now renamed Jai Hope). See Hope’s miraculous story on the AHWF Facebook page.