Oct 12th is the big day. That’s when a lovely sun stained Shih Tzu from South Korea will be coming to my hometown of Nanaimo, B.C.

When Sue, a very close family friend, came to visit my parents one night, she very casually mentioned that a friend of hers was constantly trying to find her a new doggy companion. My mom clearly thought this was her cue: “Well Sue, if you want a dog, does Noelle ever have a dog for you.” I turned to Sue, “Are you looking for a dog?” Sue looked at me with a wry expression, “No.” And that put an end to that.

The next morning I slept in until 11:00 a.m. only to wake up to a most pleasant surprise. My dad was completing his morning exercises: “Sue called you. She wants to adopt a dog from Korea.” And the rest is history as they say. Well, not quite yet, but very soon history will be made for one lovely lady and one lovely little pup. But, let me back up a bit.

I first met Icarus when I began volunteering at Asan Shelter over seven months ago. I was first taken with another gentlemanly Shih Tzu named Sanderson. When Sanderson was moved “up on the hill” as ARK volunteers would say, I met his new pen mate Icarus. When I walked Sanderson, Icarus would moan and wail plaintively, and so I began walking Icarus, and a deep, lasting doggy friendship was formed. Icarus had character: he had a steel trap memory and an overbite. In fact, it’s probably the cutest overbite I’ve ever seen. Sofia, a dedicated dog rescuer, and Icarus’s current foster, said his crunchy little face reminds her of a toilet brush. I’m inclined to agree.

Wet Shih-tzuIn any case, over the following six months, I would become quite attached to the little guy. We shared walks, cuddle time, and treats. When Icarus was moved to the bottom of the hill, I could hear his plaintive wails and cries from miles away. The minute he spotted me come Saturday afternoon, that was it: he had me wrapped around his little paw. I’ll never forget the first time I picked him up: he wriggled wildly and spasmodically in my arms. He would yelp (in a good way) from excessive excitement. He was just SO HAPPY to be held. He couldn’t contain himself he was so full of vigour and enthusiasm. That’s exactly when I decided to call him Icarus.

Although Icarus has no false pride, unlike our mythological friend who fashioned wax wings in which to fly to the sun, this doggywog radiated joy, warmth, and exuberance. His bright orange fur only confirmed that this was the right name for the likes of this Shih Tzu. Yes, Icarus the Shih Tzu flew too close to the sun, but his wings never melted. He was lightness itself. He still has wings, and now he’s using them to fly to his new home in Canada!

Shelter volunteer walking a dogOn my last day at Asan, I thought it was quite possible that I would never see Icarus again. I remember that day quite vividly: I walked him last. It was my final dog walk in Korea. When we returned from our jaunt, the taxis had been called, and it was time for me to put him back in his cage. I’d left his lunch sitting in his cage for our walk. When I returned, it was gone! I frantically ran around the shelter accosting the remaining volunteers: “Do you know where Icarus’s food went? I took him for a walk, and now it’s gone!” The little guy lucked in that day. The volunteers gave him an extra can of food and they threw many fresh treats into his cage. I think this was all done in an effort to appease me as opposed to the rather clueless Icarus. That was the last moment that I saw him before departing Asan, and a few days later, before departing Korea. There he sat, in his wretched little cage, happily chomping away on various meat sticks, and dog biscuits.

And now, here I sit typing away. I literally have six more sleeps from today (as I write this, it’s Oct 6th, 2011) until I’ll be reunited with the sunny pup named Icarus at Vancouver Airport in Canada. I certainly never saw this coming, but, then again, why should I be surprised? I should’ve known that Icarus would find a way to soar back into my life. And, I can’t say that I’m not overjoyed about the news either.

Shelter volunteer holding a Shih-tzu

Although Icarus is one lucky pup, there are so many others who have not met such happy endings. And, in truth, many have never come close to touching the sun because they’ve never really known an affectionate or loving home. That doesn’t mean they don’t radiate warmth, love, and sunshine. If you want to add a bit of sunshine to your life, then please help by fostering, adopting, or donating.

Written by Noelle Pare. Photos by Hamish Nelson