She had never known life outside of a cage, the touch of a hand, or any human kindness. As one of ten dogs who lived at the Pondok Taruna Orphanage in Jakarta, Indonesia, the little terrier mix named Lisa was no pet — she was just a meat dog destined to be someone’s meal. Like many private residences throughout Indonesia, this orphanage raised and slaughtered dogs for meat. But everything changed for the scruffy one-year-old pup when a volunteer worker decided she could no longer stand by and allow these innocent dogs to meet such a terrible end.
An expat from the Netherlands, Nancy Fox had come to the orphanage three years prior to work with the children, not to rescue dogs. But once she started noticing dogs disappearing from the cages inside the children’s play area, she became increasingly upset and angry, especially when she learned that not only had some of the kids heard the dogs screaming but had also witnessed the killings. And evidently this orphanage had been keeping, slaughtering, and eating dogs for years -– they even brought in a professional butcher from Sulawesi to do the job.
When she realized that her repeated complaints to the senior staff and owner of the orphanage were falling on deaf ears, Nancy understood that she would either have to walk away or take matters into her own hands.
“Whenever I complained about the killings, the staff would laugh in an embarrassed way, just smile and shrug their shoulders,” says Nancy. “There was only one staff member who ate dog meat, but the children were used as an excuse to kill the dogs –- most of them didn’t want to eat that meat. One child watched his favorite dog being killed in front of him — the dog screamed for 20 minutes. He was traumatized for months.”
As prisoners in tiny cages that provided little to no shelter from the elements, many of the dogs suffered from exposure and untreated skin conditions. They lived in their own feces and urine and went without food or water much of the time. Like Lisa, a number of the puppies at the orphanage had been born into the cages and would not leave until they were taken out and slaughtered. But everything began to change for the better when Nancy took it upon herself to clean the cages — a perfect excuse to let the dogs out.
But when she unlocked the cage doors, the dogs stood frozen, as if in shock. They had never felt grass or earth under their paws, full sun on their fur, or had ever used their legs to run. It took a lot of coaxing, but once the dogs jumped out into the children’s play area, run they soon did. And while this taste of freedom only lasted 30 minutes one day per week, for the dogs it was endless joy — a chance to run and sniff and play like dogs! Plus, Nancy made sure her cage-cleaning duties coincided with the children’s recess so the dogs could interact with them.
“Seeing the children playing with the dogs for that brief period every week was so rewarding,” says Nancy. “Many of the orphans had emotional problems, while the dogs were desperate for affection and kindness. It was wonderful to witness everyone come out of their shells and blossom into happy, carefree spirits. One little boy really liked little Lisa in particular. He would pat her, and she’d smile up at him — they had a real understanding.”
Meanwhile, Nancy had been scouring the Internet, desperately looking for help. She knew she couldn’t wait until the next time the orphanage called in the butcher, but she didn’t know anything about rescuing dogs. Plus, little Lisa appeared to be pregnant and Nancy couldn’t allow more innocent lives to be born into this hell. That’s when she stumbled upon SayNoToDogMeat.Net, a registered organization dedicated to ending the dog and cat meat trade worldwide, which we first wrote about here.
“When I heard about the situation at the orphanage, I was livid,” says Michele Brown, co-founder of SayNoToDogMeat.Net. “It was bad enough that they were keeping dogs for meat and brutally slaughtering them, but in front of young children? Nancy had already been in contact with one of the local international churches that supports that orphanage and had notified them about the atrocities taking place, but no action was taken. I suggested that she tell the church elders that she had contacted us and that we would tell the world if something wasn’t done about the ongoing cruelty. That church happens to be supported by a major church in the U.S. that sends American missionaries to the orphanage on a regular basis, so both churches had a lot at stake.”
With help from SayNoToDogMeat.Net and her friend and co-worker, Vashti, who began bombarding the Jakarta church with repeated complaints, Nancy began taking steps to rescue the dogs -– and seeing progress.
“Suddenly I was invited to the church to talk about the situation,” says Nancy. “They promised to speak with the owner and said they had already instructed her that no female dogs, breeding, or killing was to be allowed on the premises. I told them that there was still one female left and that she was pregnant. Later, one of those church members contacted me and told me I could pick Lisa up. I was afraid that she would get sold off to a dog meat trader, so I immediately went to the orphanage. But when I arrived the dog was gone.”
Fighting back tears of rage, Nancy demanded to know where Lisa had been taken. The orphanage owner said she had given Lisa to a friend, who planned to breed her, but Nancy didn’t believe that person had any intention to keep the dog as a pet. After a very heated exchange, Nancy walked out of the orphanage with Lisa’s new location, where she immediately went and took possession of the dog. Lisa was safe at last!
Two days after her rescue, Lisa gave birth to four healthy pups –- Bear, Sirius, Moccha, and Panda –- all scruffy little terrier mixes, just like their mom. All have since been placed in safe, loving homes except for Sirius, Lisa’s lookalike son, who is in the process of learning manners so he can be adopted by the right family. “Sirius has been a bit more difficult to find a home for,” says Nancy. “He’s a bit goofy and naughty and tests his boundaries all the time. I’ve been working on his training, and he obeys basic commands, so we’re getting there.”
And little Lisa? Renamed Pickles, she is living with a new family and their Beagle in Jakarta and has adapted beautifully to life as a cherished pet. Playful, affectionate, and happy, the young dog has many wonderful years to look forward to as a beloved member of a doting family. Nancy even visits her from time to time.
So, in reality, SayNoToDogMeat.Net and Nancy Fox helped save five dogs from the butcher’s knife! And thanks to their valiant efforts, the Pondok Taruna Orphanage is one place in Indonesia that won’t be slaughtering and eating dogs ever again.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without the help of SayNoToDogMeat.Net,” says Nancy. “Unfortunately, there are no rescue groups to check on the orphanage. I haven’t been back, but I’ve heard that so far they haven’t taken in any more dogs. In fact, one of their main sponsors has told the owner that they won’t allow the consumption of dog meat anymore. So for that I am happy.”
In the dog meat trade there are very few happy outcomes, but Nancy Fox did everything in her power to secure a safe and happy ending for one lucky dog and her puppies, who will never know the terror of a dog-meat cage.
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