Saying Goodbye: A Rescuer’s Bittersweet Joy

The story of a dog being rescued from a Chinese meat truck only to find himself with the potential to change a life of his own as Service Dog to a disabled veteran has captured the hearts of people around the world.  My hometown newspaper did a story on Moomkin that garnered hundreds of views within just a few hours.  This past week, Moomkin and his rescuer were photographed and interviewed by a news group from Finland.  Moomkin has starred in an exhibition in China with a renowned animal trainer, and his blog has been read by people from as far as Canada, Japan, and even the Middle East.  We are contacted every day by people wanting updates, new photos, and with requests to meet this special animal when he finally arrives in England.  The excitement is tangible, and we are so grateful to everyone following his story and sharing his journey.

Tomorrow Moomkin will land in Germany, where Olivia and I will be on hand to greet him and his flight volunteer, Claudia.  We will have our camera phones and Go-Pro at the ready; we want to capture the special moment when Moomkin finally meets his new family.  He has earned his moment in the spotlight, his long journey home is almost at an end.

In all the excitement of his arrival, it’s easy to forget about the people whose emotions will be torn tomorrow as “Elvis” flies off to a whole new world.  Of course, there will be joy, after all, this is why they do what they do.  But there will be sadness too, and a profound sense of loss, as they say goodbye to a dearly loved friend.

Tomorrow, the woman saying goodbye is Camilla Larsson, a Swedish national dedicated to animal welfare and raising awareness of the issues animals face in China.  She first encountered the Tibetan Mastiff breed in the summer of 2014, where she was blown away by their beauty and intelligence.  Upon learning of their plight as victim’s of the Chinese fur, meat, and leather trade, Camilla vowed to help as many of these majestic dogs as possible.  In February 2015, that chance came along in the form of 8 dogs who had been rescued off a meat truck and were in desperate need of veterinary care and new homes.

Camilla has spent the past nine months keeping her promises to these eight dogs.  In April, when I stumbled on her fundraising campaign, Camilla was in the initial stages of placing dogs.  Five of the eight dogs had been spoken for, all by fellow Swedes who were anxious to bring their new babies home.  The costs involved in feeding, housing, vetting, and then shipping these big dogs were enormous, and Camilla worked tirelessly to raise the funds needed to give these dogs their second chance.  She reached her funding goal within the first month, allowing her to send the dogs are on their way in sets of twos and threes.  One couple came to China to pick their new dog up, others travelled with flight volunteers like Claudia, allowing the dogs to fly cheaper as checked baggage instead of cargo.  In one case, Camilla herself traveled back to Sweden with the dogs, ensuring their care right up until they were in the arms of their new families.

If you’ve never been a part of an animal rescue effort, it’s difficult to imagine the amount of time, money, and energy you put into caring for them.  It’s more then just arranging flights and veterinary visits; it’s playing with the dogs, growing attached, falling in love.  You learn each of their unique quirks and personalities, laugh at their silly antics as they learn to trust and hope again, and weep when politics or health issues delay their journeys to a new life.  Every night you go to sleep wondering if the right family will come along, or how you will handle the news that another health test failed and you need more money that you don’t have.  As a rescuer myself, I can honestly say that there are moments when you wonder if its worth it, when the stress and financial strain, the obstacles and challenges seem to be so great, it’s hard to imagine why you’re doing it.  Then you get up in the morning and are greeted by wagging tails and smiling faces that remind you.  After everything rescue animals have been through, one happy, drooling face is always enough to make it worth it.

Six of Camilla’s eight Mastiff’s have found love and life in their new homes.  She created a Facebook page for the new families so we can share photos, stories, and updates about our dogs.  The page is my favorite place to visit when I’m feeling down, and I imagine its even more uplifting for her.  Tomorrow a new face will be added to that page, when Moomkin is in my arms and I finally get to start sharing photos of his new life.  It’s been a long wait, over seven months now!  For Camilla though, the wait has been far longer, as has the love and joy she’s found in Moomkin.

It’s never easy to say goodbye to animals that we’ve rescued.  The faster the process, the easier the parting.  Camilla has loved and cared for Moomkin for over nine months, saving his life and restoring his trust and faith in humans along the way.  Her regular updates have always been full of emotion, as she wrote about his sunny personality, his love for digging, his playfulness, his doggie friendships, his joy in life.  There is no doubt in my mind that Camilla loves this dog, and that, for her, tomorrow will be a day of happiness and sadness.  Already we have shared tears, anticipating his departure and arrival.

It does not escape me that the cause of my joy will also be a part of her loss.  I want her to know how grateful we are, that she loved Moomkin and his friends enough to keep her promises to them.  I want her to know how humbled we are, that she is trusting us with his future.  I want her to know that she will not be forgotten, that as Moomkin’s story unfolds, she was always be the anchor and the reason he got a second chance.  Where ever Moomkin goes, whatever he does, whoever he saves, all will be because Camilla loved him.

And so to the woman who will have to say goodbye tomorrow, I want to say thank you.  Thank you, Camilla Larsson, for your faith in us, and your love of Moomkin.  I promise to love him with everything I have, to share his story so others can be saved, and to never forget the part you have played in saving his life, and mine.

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