For Tracy Harachi, a desire to help elephants in Asia led to another passion: rescuing dogs.
Since 2014, she and her husband Nathan Yoffa have volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand every year. The 150-acre sanctuary is home to 500 dogs and more than 40 elephants. Over the past five years, the Orcas Island couple has adopted their own dogs (and cats) from the sanctuary and transported dozens to the United States.
“I’ve been [a] flight volunteer for over 25 dogs from the Elephant Nature Park to help them get to their forever homes,” said Harachi, who is a professor at the University of Washington and travels to Cambodia, which borders Thailand, for social work. “Some have overnighted with me in Seattle, and then I’ve gotten them to their cargo flight to fly on to their final destination.”
Harachi partners with a woman in Portland, Oregon, who has also volunteered at the elephant sanctuary. She helps find foster families and adoptive parents for the animals, some of whom have physical handicaps and behavioral issues.
“I’ve offered assistance to share about dog behavior, training tips to try to make the transition go more smoothly,” Harachi said. “People ask why fly dogs over, but I help dogs anywhere, including locally having helped adopt multiple seniors who lived out their lives on Orcas.”
Harachi and Yaffa currently have a Cambodian street cat named Takeshi and dogs SeeKao and Boon Ngaam, both of whom were paraplegic. Through medical procedures, physical therapy and a lot of dedication, they both can walk, although Boon Ngaam still uses an underwater treadmill to develop the connection between her brain and legs.
All three animals are the best of friends although Takeshi is the boss of the entire household. In addition to her canine work, Harachi collaborates with a rescue shelter to take kittens and cats dumped at the pagoda near her hotel to get vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
“On occasion a few have wiggled their way into my heart and managed to hitch a ride back to Seattle,” she said.
Dogs currently in need of homes
Harachi brought back 4-year-old Pespi from the elephant park this past November, and he is still looking for a family to adopt him. He is 40 pounds and up to date on his shots and dental care. Pepsi lived in a run with dogs Woofoo and Kailey, who passed away last year.
“An escape plan was hatched to bring Pepsi and his pal Woofoo to the Pacific Northwest and help them join a forever home before it was too late. Woofoo found a home and is adopted in Seattle,” Harachi said.
Pepsi is easygoing, loves people and did well during a recent meet and greet with small children. He is currently living in a foster home in Portland, Oregon, with another dog, though ideally he’d be the only one in a household as he is described as “more of a people dog.”
Eight-year-old Jacky was born during the Bangkok floods in 2011, but remains very active. Jacky and her mother were rescued from the water and eventually brought to the elephant sanctuary. She initially lived in a run like Pepsi, but she is terrified of thunder and lightening and tried to escape, so she became one of the roaming animals on the property.
“She, too, is a people dog, preferring the company of her humans,” notes Harachi. “She currently does have two dog friends who live nearby who she gets to go on pack walks with. She can initially be fearful of a new dog, but if they are appropriately behaving dogs then she can be around them. She currently lives with a cat. She is likely to want to chase after a deer, and like most Asian street dogs should not be left out loose and expected to be able to hang around unsupervised.”
Some of the animals that Harachi transports are rescued from the meat trade. According to Humane Society International, 30 million dogs and 10 million cats are killed annually for human consumption across Asia. The animals are crowded onto trucks, where they endure dehydration, starvation, exposure to extreme cold and heat, broken limbs, shock and disease. They are typically killed by being electrocuted, bludgeoned or hanged.
“Across Asia, there is increasingly vocal local opposition to this trade due to cruelty, criminality and human health concerns. Dog meat is mainly, but not exclusively, eaten by older, male consumers under the misapprehension of health benefits,” according to www.hsi.org. “The Yulin festival in China is a dog-meat focused event. More dog meat is consumed during Bok Nal than during other times of year in South Korea. The World Health Organization warns that the trade, slaughter and consumption of dogs poses human health risks from trichinellosis, cholera and rabies. Dog meat bans exist in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore; most recently, Indonesia pledged support for a ban.”
Harachi says the dog meat trade is also present in Cambodia. She and a network of animal rescuers have mapped out locations of restaurants, breeders and slaughterhouses and post regularly on social media to raise awareness among local Cambodians.
She is hoping to find an adoptive family for Toby, who was rescued from the Korean dog meat market. He is having a difficult time finding a home off the island due to his size.
“Many interested people have weight restrictions at their apartment or condo,” Harachi said. “That’s really not a situation on Orcas so maybe there is a forever home on the islands for this sweet pooch. Despite being abused and literally on the way to the slaughter house, Toby is chill, likes humans — even children — and other dogs.”
Toby is a Tosa, also known as a Korean mastiff. They are considered gentle giants, and are often bred in dog farms because of their meat tenderness. Toby was found tied up outside, severely abused and neglected, and about to be sold to the slaughterhouse. He was rescued by the Jindo Love network, a group of volunteers focused on the dog meat trade in Korea, a year ago. He is now 85 pounds and around 5 years old. His foster mom Crystal Nam sponsored his transport to Seattle.
“Despite his beginnings, all he had was love in his heart. Fast forward to today, he is healthy and just waiting for his forever home and people,” writes Nam. “People often ask or challenge me on why I care so much about saving dogs overseas, there are so many more right here at home that need homes too. Yes, that’s true. There are problems everywhere and I know I can’t save every dog in the world. I care about this cause, because the plight of dogs in Asia and other countries is significantly worse. Governments, policies and cultural practices resist or prevent change.”
If you are interested in meeting Pepsi, Jacky or Toby, email Harachi at firstname.lastname@example.org.