The first time Joni Conley saw her new furry family member run around her hay farm, it was clear that he’d spent most of his former life in a cage. “It was like he didn’t know where his legs were,” she recalls. “When he got the zoomies, I thought he was gonna blow a knee out!”

Dogs in a cage in a South Korea dog meat farm.
Dogs are shown locked in a cage at a dog meat farm in South Korea where Mir was rescued.
Jean Chung for HSI

Mir, a 130-pound Tosa, was one of nearly 150 dogs rescued in October 2019 from a South Korean dog meat farm—the 17th closed by Humane Society International (“Runway to adoption,” Spring 2021). After a bleak existence where he had limited food, water and interaction, Mir arrived at our temporary shelter for behavior training and adoptability evaluation (“Snack-sized success,” Summer 2021). He was then placed with Even Chance Pitbull Rescue in St. Louis, a member of the HSUS Shelter and Rescue Partner program. 

“Mir is the one and only non-pit bull they’ve ever taken,” says Morgan Rivera, transport and placement coordinator with our Animal Rescue Team. “I have a good relationship with their president, Jessi McNamara, and I convinced her that he would be a fun, new challenge—but I think what really won her over was Mir’s adorable face!”

McNamara even took Mir home to foster him herself. “She wanted to really feel like she knew him before she started talking to potential adopters,” Rivera explains. 

That’s what I want for him, is to just be a happy dog and never worry that something’s going to happen.

Joni Conley

McNamara posted about Mir online and his photo caught Facebook friend Conley’s eye. “I was like, uh, what kind of dog is that, what’s his story?” Conley says. Over the summer, when McNamara needed someone to watch Mir while she was out of town, Conley stepped right up.

“He came and stayed with us for the weekend and did phenomenally,” she says. “He kind of perused around my house and laid down in my son’s room and fell asleep—he really made himself right at home.” They adopted him a week or so later.

Rescuer Justine Hill and Mir at the temporary shelter.
Rescuer Justine Hill and Mir at the temporary shelter.
Meredith Lee

Conley works at a veterinary clinic that’s heavily involved with animal rescue work, so she was already familiar with the challenges that can come with animals who have survived trauma. Seeing Mir adjust to his new home was especially meaningful to her. “That’s what I want for him, is to just be a happy dog and never worry that something’s going to happen.”

Luckily, Mir doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything in his new surroundings, even thunderstorms. Plus, he now has acres and acres (64, to be exact!) to stretch his long legs on Conley’s property in Wright City, Missouri. 

“We’re very outdoorsy here,” says Conley. “We walk around our pond and feed the fish, walk through fields and check things out. He likes that a lot.”

And, “he’s gotten considerably more coordinated since he’s been here,” she adds with a laugh. “He just doesn’t always know where his body is in space.” 

Mir also fit right in with his new siblings (three cats, a pit bull/mastiff mix and Conley’s 11-year-old son, Keith), and he established his place in the family fairly quickly.

He’s “quietly bossy,” according to Conley, describing how Mir uses his large nose to nudge his human companions for attention. “If you don’t acknowledge that he’s there, he’ll just boop you a little bit harder. He’s also very sweet. When we’re all just kind of sitting down, some part of him always has to be touching my foot or he puts his face on my foot. He just likes to be close.”

That’s the best part of watching animals go from traumatic situations to loving homes, says Rivera: They come to life as trust develops. “So often the animals we help are in a state of distress and it’s written all over them, most of all in their eyes,” she says. “It’s incredible to see them when they finally feel safe and loved.”

Since adopting Mir, Conley has witnessed this transformation up close. “His eyes were very dull when I first met him. Now it looks like there’s a personality in there,” she says. “I just love him so much, I couldn’t be happier.”

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