Real Talk and Tears, with the Taiwanese Animal Rescue Superhero, Sean McCormack - The Online Dog Trainer

Real Talk and Tears, with the Taiwanese Animal Rescue Superhero, Sean McCormack

Today’s Guest

SEAN McCORMACK – Founder of Animal Care Trust ACT

Accountant turned animal-rescuer, my guest today is Sean McCormack, founder of the Taiwan SPCA, head of the Animal Care Trust, and an all-round great guy. He’s worked with the likes of Cesar Milan, Ian Dunbar, Jane Goodall and, well, me!

Sean’s rescued thousands of animals, and his sanctuary is currently the home of over 200 dogs and cats -- and a flying squirrel. Many are adopted out or released back into the wild, but those who aren’t live happily on the SPCA property—a no-kill shelter. 

Unlike many traditional “rescue” centers that primarily take on surrendered pets, Sean actually rescues dogs who’ve been caught in traps, injured by other animals, or just homeless and in bad shape.

Sean’s got some amazing and touching stories to tell, so get comfy and take a listen!

You’ll Hear About

  • [3:15] How ACT is different from most SPCAs
  • [5:02] Sean’s 12-hour hike to rescue Sandy the dog
  • [14:40] How the animals are helped by the Animal Care Trust
  • [18:15] Calming fearful street dogs
  • [20:40] Sean’s connection to The Online Dog Trainer
  • [22:15] The journey from an accountant in England to a dog rescuer in Taiwan
  • [23:25] Day to day life rescuing animals in Taiwan
  • [25:10] The benefits of hand feeding
  • [28:50] How Jane Goodall, and Becky Barron have inspired Sean on his journey
  • [33:15] The power of calm energy around the dog’s
  • [39:20] How we can support Sean’s work
  • [41:20] What it costs to run a rescue center like Sean’s
  • [45:20] Sean’s touching rescue (and human) philosophy

Links & Resources

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher to get automatic updates.

Cheers,

Doggy Dan Signature

~Doggy Dan 🙂

Voiceover: Welcome to The Doggy Dan Podcast Show helping you unleash the greatness within your dog.
Doggy Dan: Hi there everybody. Doggy Dan here, from the Doggy Dan Podcast Show I am genuinely so excited to be doing this. Because this is basically the relaunch of the Doggy Dan Podcast Show, which has been dormant now for about five or six years. But this is like the Phoenix rising, rising up from the ashes, and today, I couldn't think of a better person to kick it off than a gentleman who founded the SPCA of Taiwan. He has met Jane Goodall, he's met Cesar Millan, Ian Dunbar. He lives in Taiwan. He has two children now. He's married. I only found out the other day that he had a second child a few days ago. He's from Kent in England, but he lives in Taiwan.
Doggy Dan: He's the founder of the Taiwanese Jiu-Jitsu, as far as I'm aware. He's an incredibly good guy and I can honestly say that even though I've never met you, I feel like you are almost a brother. You are a brother, a brother who I am just so honored to know because, in so many ways you are doing the other part of the work that I can't do because you can't do everything, but you're doing it. And so I'm so honored to be able to support you and what you do. Sean McCormack, welcome.
Sean McCormack: Hello. What a nice intro. Should we just stop there?
Doggy Dan: Well, I realized that I didn't actually comment on the fact that you are also the current head of the ACT, which is the Animal Care Trust. For those of you who are wondering ACT, what does that mean? 

Sean, how are you?

Sean McCormack: I'm very good, thank you. I mean life has suddenly become a lot more interesting. We've got a lot going on with the new baby and stuff. But I'm very good.
Doggy Dan: I must admit it's an incredibly strong man who can agree to do a podcast show - I think it's three days after you had a child, and not even make an excuse or say you can't do it. Just the love of the dogs runs through your veins. Really does.
Sean McCormack: Oh, well yeah. Anytime we can get to share a little bit about what we do or some of the important policies that we have that benefit animals. Yeah, I’m all for it.
Doggy Dan: Take it away Sean. For those of you who have no idea, which is probably most people to be quite honest. What do you do, tell us about your incredible establishment that you've set up, because it really is an amazing not-for-profit I guess, that you've set up? For those people who don't know, where are you and what happens? Tell us all about it.
Sean McCormack: So we're in Taiwan and we're based in Northern Taiwan and that's kind of the extent of our reach, although we will go down to the South of the country if necessary. So we call ourselves an animal rescue charity, but in the genuine sense of the word, I know you have organizations that call themselves “rescues” and they're actually shelters and incredible work they're doing. But we are the literal sense of the word rescue, meaning people call us because there's an animal in distress. And it will be any animal, mostly dogs, but cats, we've rescued monkeys recently, birds and we'll go all out to get them the help they need.
Sean McCormack: And it usually means, because most stray dogs in Taiwan are feral, usually means quite a bit of a ... Not a battle, but it's a bit of a challenge often trying to get these animals to a vet. But we rescue them, we patch them up, we rehabilitate them, not just health-wise, but we get them used to people and trusting people. And then we do our best to get them adopted. And for those that can't get adopted, for the wild animals, always the goal is to release them. And for the companion animals, if they can't get adopted into a very good home, then we provide lifelong sanctuary, including [Afoo] the cat who's making herself known behind me here.
Doggy Dan: Beautiful. And I know this is a podcast show, but I must admit, something that made me sit up and take notice was a recent post that came up on my feed and it was on Facebook, The Dodo. Where it said a gentleman had traveled for like 12 hours in the jungle to rescue a little doggy. And I looked - and there you were tramping through the dark. Can you tell us a little bit about that? What was that about? Because that was just extraordinary. Tell us the story if you can. I'm sure you know the one, I can't remember the name of the dog, but you know the one?
Sean McCormack: And the dog is Sandy, we love all our rescues, but some are favorites for many reasons. So in Taiwan, one of the biggest problems we face, and it's probably the reason for 30 to 40% of our rescues, is there are lots of gin traps. That's the leg-hold traps like a bear trap, they step on it and for them, these teeth close on their feet. There's a lot of these in Taiwan for catching wild animals to eat, also as a deterrent for stray dogs, unfortunately. And also wire snares, where the animal steps into it. And then some kind of spring device snaps it shut on the animal's leg. Sometimes not the leg, sometimes somewhere else, neck or waist or something, and then holds them until the poacher can come and take the animal away.
Sean McCormack: So we got a message on Facebook as a hiking group in a very remote part of Taiwan, there are no roads in ... There's a flat kind of hiking trail that there's a couple of 4x4s that are just situated on them that sometimes go up and down. But there was no one around the day we went, it's a two-hour climb up to this location followed by a four-hour hike. And it's a guest house where people stay when they're hiking before they then have a night’s rest before they head back down again. So it's six hours in, six hours out. And this lady had seen a very friendly little guy. And both front feet had been cut off by probably snares because when it's a very neat injury, it's usually a snare. Kind of like, you can imagine a cheese cutter going straight through something. And when it's a trap, which is the metal teeth, it's not such a neat amputation should we say. So she shared on Facebook and people were saying, "No one's going to go up there to get this dog, it's in the middle of nowhere."
Doggy Dan: Just to clarify, the dog is in serious trouble, it can't walk, it can't feed itself. It needs veterinary help but there are no vets up there?
Sean McCormack: No, not up in the remote villages. And I just got back from my 50th birthday celebrations in England. I was extremely jet-lagged, but of course, I said no, I'll go. And I did the research and Google maps said that I could drive there. So I thought.
Doggy Dan: Good old Google maps
Sean McCormack: It's only wrong a few times. I contacted my friend Ross. Now Ross runs a ... he calls it a high mountain hiking tour group and he takes people on more extreme hikes. So I just asked him, Hey, Ross I don't know if you're free. I'm going to need help with this dog. But it says ... Maps say that we can drive-in. He says “What's the location?” He knew exactly where it was, knew exactly the guest house where the dog was. And he said, there's no way you can drive there. It's impossible. It's a one-kilometer climb at the beginning for a start. And he said, well, I'll take you up there. Which I'm so glad about because there's no way I could do it by myself.
Sean McCormack: And so we drove down to the base of the trail that goes up to this village and he paid for us to stay in this like a bed and breakfast or a hostel kind of thing. Which was pointless because we didn't get any sleep. I'm still jet-lagged. He doesn't sleep much anyway, he's got tons of energy. So we had a glass of wine trying to sleep. It didn't happen. The alarm goes off at 3:00 AM, actually 2:30. And we started the climb at 3:00 AM because he said, if we're going to get this dog out, we've got to be up there and out before it gets dark at night. So 3am start-
Doggy Dan: Yeah. Because in the Dodo video, you're starting the walk and it's pitch dark and you've got headlamps on.
Sean McCormack: Yeah. And it was very steep steps for half the climb. And then it's like a rocky trail. By the way, I've got to say, the locals who live up there, go up and down this couple of times a day. They're amazing.
Doggy Dan: I must say. It had me laughing when I saw you and you looked exhausted. And then you said “I’ve only done 10 steps” and it's like, Oh, my goodness.
Sean McCormack: And that was genuine. I mean it might've been 20 steps, but it really was ... Because I'm thinking I'm jet-lagged. I've not had any sleep, I’ve got a 12-hour hike...
Doggy Dan: Prepared well with the red wine.
Sean McCormack: Yeah, well it was only a little glass. But Ross is used to inexperienced people joining his tours and he just kept his calm. And calmly led us up and got me chatting, and before I knew it, we're talking away and making progress. Anyway, cut a very long journey short. We arrived in the village ... The Dodo got a few facts wrong. We arrived there actually about five hours later. We made really good time, even though it was a six-hour hike for most people. Mostly flat once you get past the initial climb. So that was a relief. And then we approached the village and Ross-
Doggy Dan: I loved this bit …. Can I tell them this bit? The bit I loved when I saw this was this sudden kind of exclamation of, “hang on, What happens if we can't find him?”
Sean McCormack: Yeah. Well, we talked about this you see. I do so many rescues where the dog’s not there. And I'll stay for a few hours. I have to drive back home. I'll get up at dawn, try again
Doggy Dan: And you know this as well as I do that half the time, the dog’s just kind of see you and it's scared and it's hiding under a car or hiding in the  ... just watching you.
Sean McCormack: Absolutely. And people say, "I'm sorry, he's usually here every day." It just happens so much. And we were talking about this. My major concern was ... we were both concerned the dog might not be there because he's not chained up or anything. We'd already got permission from the people in the guest house. They knew the original owner of the dog and they'd agreed we could save the dog, but no one had chained him up or anything. We're both concerned about if he's going to be there or not. My major concern was whether I'm fit enough to go up and down and not completely be like a dead weight for Ross.
Doggy Dan: Sean's main concern is his fitness and survival.
Sean McCormack: Yeah, survival fine. Ross bought all the equipment. He had all kinds of stuff to get us out of there. And Ross' main concern was even though we had permission from these people to get the dog, he was worried that another local might see us and it might look like we're stealing the dog. We both speak enough Chinese, but still, there might be a question, where are we taking the dog. But we approached this guest house and we went to the spot where the dog was seen.
Sean McCormack: They took a photograph and it was this kitchen area with these ovens. And when that appeared on The Dodo, people were claiming this dog was going to be eaten. But he just sleeps in these ovens because they are warm when they're not being used of course. And you can see the Dodo video, we're like, "Oh no, he's not here." We've just done all of that for nothing. And now my immediate thought was, we need to kind of do a little search of the area he's probably near a building somewhere. And then we both looked towards the building and these piles of plastic chairs outside and we both spotted him. And he came-
Doggy Dan: Yeah, it's beautiful. What I'll do is, I'll put the video ... Well, I'm not sure what I'll be able to put on, but I'll put a link to the whole video for those people who want to watch it. But it is hilarious watching Sean have to make his way down and try to carry the dog. And like you say, the most amazing thing was this little doggy just sat there happy as can be all the way back down the mountain, he was just so happy to have been saved.
Sean McCormack: We were so lucky in so many ways because we didn't know how big the dog was. You can't tell from the photo. The woman said she thinks he's friendly. But you don't know. And even if he is friendly and not too big, there's no guarantee he's going to put up with being carried in a backpack. But he was absolutely the perfect patient.
Doggy Dan: Look, I don't want to spoil the story for where he ends up. I'm going to leave that bit.
Sean McCormack: Okay.
Doggy Dan: But it is a happy ending and that's what I love about so much of the stuff that you do Sean. Often, it is a very happy ending so much because of the effort and your determination. So for me, that was one of the-
Sean McCormack: Well, it's addictive. It's addictive when you've managed to ... Our kind of motto is, we're transforming the lives of suffering animals. And when you do that, it's such that there's little ... There's no other word that I can think of apart from, similar work is as rewarding as taking an animal that's suffering or a person of course, and taking away the pain and giving the best life forward ... [Afoo] I will feed you later. She's complaining to me.
Doggy Dan: I have a similar saying, it's funny Sean that I know of no greater joy than bringing kind of life to another being. And a being is it's a human being or an animal or-
Sean McCormack: Exactly.
Doggy Dan: So can you tell us, Sean, a little bit about ACT, how many dogs have you got at the minute, and how many dogs have you saved? Just a very ... just for listeners-
Sean McCormack: We keep a running total on our website because we've logged every single rescue. Some are not rescued. I would say maybe 1% of dogs that come to us from homes they come with information. But generally, we've now, I think we're approaching 1000. No, nearly 2000 animals in 20 years.
Doggy Dan: So these are 2000 animals that you've actually rescued literally from the woods, the streets?
Sean McCormack: Yeah. Hit by cars, skin disease, injured by traps or snares, sometimes from abuse, sometimes from other animals hurting them. We rescued one that got attacked by wild pigs on New Year's Day. So it's about 2000, which compared to other rescues is a small number, but those rescues are bringing in unwanted dogs. We're actually going out and spending days having to track down the dogs, wait for them, set these humane traps to catch them. Or other animals, monkeys and cats and things too. And we rescue right now or we bring in about 150 per year. And in our care right now we've got just over 200; 50 something cats and about 150 dogs and one flying squirrel. Oh, and we got pigs coming soon.
Doggy Dan: Brilliant. Animal farm. Beautiful. So tell me the 150 dogs, where do they end up? You just foster them out and find homes for most of them or...?
Sean McCormack: Well, in Taiwan it's ... I kinda compare it to England. When you pick up a stray dog in England that dog is almost always used to people and easygoing. So it's easy just to grab them. And if they ... if you can't find the owner, then you can get them adopted. But in Taiwan, they're often second or third generation strays. So they're used to people because that's where they get their food, but they're not used to being touched or walked or things like that. So it's not easy finding the right home for these dogs. We do our best and we are very good at ... we use a lot of your techniques actually. We're very good at taking dogs who are really just uncertain and giving them security and certainty so that they can accept being part of a human family and enjoying it.
Doggy Dan: Are many aggressive? Are they aggressive or more fearful, would you say?
Sean McCormack: Very few are aggressive. They just wouldn't be tolerated because they’re street dogs
Doggy Dan: I've noticed that on the videos, just watching as you approach. Most of them are just ... they back away, they back away, they're just scared. And then when you put a hand on them, they seem to go, ah. They can feel the love and the energy come through and they know they're not going to be hurt. And they're almost happy to be held.
Sean McCormack: Yeah. When we meet them, sometimes they go a little bit ... not crazy, but they put up a bit of a fight. And then always we teach people who are with us, we don't say their name repetitively, we don't speak in a high voice. We speak calmly while the dog is going, a little bit crazy and we put the hand on. Because they can't bite you when they're in the net if you put your hand in the right place. And we just let them know, look, we're here, we're touching you, and it's all okay. And they'll always calm down. So we only have a couple in foster homes. We get maybe 40 adopted every year. That's going to change because we've got an adoption manager coming soon. So we build these sanctuaries.
Sean McCormack: Our policy is if somebody wants to adopt one of our dogs we go through, not a very strict process, but just a very careful one. And we tell ourselves, "Okay, is this dog going to be better off in the long term, in that person's home or with us?" Because we have these beautiful sanctuaries. We have these gardens where the dogs live with ... they're paved, and they have grass, and they have these almost typhoon-proof dog houses. And they go for walks and they get to switch gardens around them. In Australia or New Zealand, I'm sure you've got big ... People usually have big yards for their dogs. Not in Taiwan, most people live in apartments. So for a dog to be living in one of our gardens and going for walks every day and we feed fresh food. All of our dogs and cats get raw meat and bones-
Doggy Dan: And they've got all the other dogs to socialize with as well hey.
Sean McCormack: Yeah. In groups of ... we try to stick to groups of six or seven. Which according to who you listen to is ... if you do get packs of wild dogs, they're usually around six or seven. Although there's the question of what a pack is. And is it just a family group that hasn't split up yet or is it a group of male dogs courting a female in heat? But regardless, you rarely see feral dogs in groups of more than six or seven. So we try to replicate that in our sanctuaries.
Doggy Dan: So you did mention earlier that you use some of my techniques. Now, of course, this podcast show is not about my training techniques. But I wouldn't be doing myself justice if I didn't mention the fact that, that's actually how we met I think. Going back all those years, it was something to do with the training, and you use the training or something. Do you remember? Can you remember?
Sean McCormack: Yeah. Because we'd followed other trainers and got mixed results and I can't remember how we got in touch but I was asking you about your course and you were very kind enough, knowing what I do, to let me in for free. And there was stuff in there that I hadn't seen in other places. Like holding the collar to calm a dog down and things like that. And it works. So we were very careful about ... we don't employ staff who feel sorry for dogs and who get excited around dogs or panic around dogs. We make sure that they actually feel ... Well, we give them some training, but it's mostly about their attitude that’s important. But they must be the right energy around the dogs.
Doggy Dan: Totally.
Sean McCormack: And even if a big donor comes, that donor is being too loud or too ... like pitying the dogs, we don't let them stay. Because it really sends a bad vibe through the place.
Doggy Dan: It's incredible.
Sean McCormack: Dogs can start actually fighting each other because they sense that something's wrong.
Doggy Dan: Yeah. So tell me, Sean, how does a man who ... were you born, I think or you lived in this-
Sean McCormack: I was born.
Doggy Dan: Born in Kenton, England. How do you end up running a dog rescue center in Taiwan? How does that happen?
Sean McCormack: Well, it's simple. I'm a very flawed human being and running a rescue, it allows me to have an excuse for all of those things that I'm lacking. Why are you so late? Why are you that messy? Why did you have no money? What does your car stink? I'm sorry. I rescue animals. Oh, okay. It's an excuse for the person that I am.
Doggy Dan: That's brilliant.
Sean McCormack: Know I've had many, many jobs. I think I counted something like 30 jobs before I was 35 and then I did my first animal rescue.
Doggy Dan: What sort of jobs did you have, out of interest?
Sean McCormack: Well, when I was younger I was an accountant. When I left school, I became a chartered accountant.
Doggy Dan: There you go. So every chartered accountant who's listening in their car, driving along going, "I am tired. I am not fulfilled. This is not adventurous. This ..."
Sean McCormack: I honestly believe you gotta do what you love. You've really got to have a passion for your work. Because it's the biggest part of your day. And when it's your passion, it doesn't seem like work. You can keep going forever.
Doggy Dan: So how did you actually end up in Taiwan? Tell me about that. I want to know.
Sean McCormack: Well, my friend was here, he was traveling around Asia and he said, Hey, I'm in high school in Taiwan. You should come. It's amazing. He said you make really good money teaching English. And that was £1,000 or so at the time. If I like, I can go for a few months. And it just went on from there. That was 20 years ago.
Doggy Dan: Good on you. Good stuff. So tell me about the real challenges. I mean your day to day, kind of what you do on a day to day basis.
Sean McCormack: Well, most days are the same I guess. And that's why I have difficulty following a schedule. We don't know what day it is. We honestly don't know what day is ... So generally, we don't have an alarm clock unless I have to get up early to do a rescue. Because we work really around the clock my wife and I. We don't believe in setting an alarm. We get up when we need to get up and that helps us have more energy. But basically, we used to have most ... not most, but a lot of dogs in and outside our house, but now we've got a little family. We've been slowly moving them all into a new sanctuary we’ve built. Basically, we get up, we take care of the dogs immediately in our care, feeding, and cleaning. And my wife tends to take care of the ... We've got two charities, we've got a UK charity that I take care of, and we've got the Taiwan charity and my wife takes care of the admin for. But there's a lot of messages to respond to people sending us messages about animals in need of help.
Doggy Dan: And have you got many assistants? I mean, I know what it's like feeding three dogs, nevermind 150.
Sean McCormack: Oh yeah, we've got help.
Doggy Dan: Just tell me, can you answer one question? When you feed the dogs, do you put the food in bowls or do you scatter it on the floor? I mean, I've seen some hilarious videos of sacks of food just being poured out as a ... What's your approach? I've got no judgment here. I'm just curious.
Sean McCormack: If I've got to run off to a rescue, and I know it's far away, I will just throw the food down in the garden. I know that the faster ones will get the most and the slow ones will get the least, but at least they get something. But that's maybe one time in every four months. But no, we feed by hand. And by hand, it doesn't mean that-
Doggy Dan: You actually feed by -
Sean McCormack: Yeah, well we actually ... When I met Ian Dunbar, he said this is a very important thing for helping dogs to trust you and get close to you, feed by hand.
Doggy Dan: It totally makes sense.
Sean McCormack: And there's also the health benefit. We feed raw, so dogs never say no. When you put a bowl of dry food down, they can look at it and go, "Oh God again." But when you give them raw, they never ever say no. And so seeing them eat is crucial because if they say no to their food, there's something wrong. Either they're being bullied by other members of their group, in which case we'll move them somewhere else or they're running a temperature or there's something else not quite right. So feeding by hand is so important for an early warning signal for a dog's not feeling very well or not feeling comfortable in his group.
Sean McCormack: And when we say feed by hand, it's not always from our hand into their mouth. We tend to throw them a little bit, just because it's not dangerous. It's not safe to put your hands too near their mouth because you can be trying to put food into one dog's mouth, and another one might try and steal it, and there goes your finger. So we just give a little bit of a throw. And when we get a new dog, because if it's shy we'll let them hide in the corner. The feeding time we throw it to them, but every day we're throwing the foods a little bit shorter, a little bit shorter until they're sitting with the rest of the pack waiting for their food.
Doggy Dan: Brilliant.
Sean McCormack: And we teach the staff not to feed any dogs that are jumping up and down, four feet on the ground. They'll get their food sitting down, the ones who get fed first and even puppies get this.
Doggy Dan: Brilliant.
Sean McCormack: They get it within two bits of meat. Oh and I sit down, I get the food, you don't want them jumping up.
Doggy Dan: A lot of it ... I mean, I think one of the most misunderstood things is how easy it is to use food to train a dog. Of course, there's more to it than just using food to train the dog, but using the food can be so, so powerful. And also not using food when you don't need to. If you've got a dog who can't sit, and you constantly give the dog all the food just for coming when the dog's called. Well, one of the simplest tricks is to stop using all the food for the recall and then just only give it when they go to the toilet outside or sit.
Sean McCormack: Yeah. Well, you know what the dog is most ... let's say not fixated on but what they see as the greatest resource, you use that to your benefit. And it's usually food, but sometimes it's attention, sometimes it's a toy. We don't use toys in training, just because we don't have a lot of time for that at the moment.
Doggy Dan: Yeah, I was going to say just time, and it gets a bit complicated. Easier to just use a piece of meat. Why not?
Sean McCormack: But food and attention. Because it's just there. It's very ... they have toys, they play with toys. We don't use that for training shall we say, we use that more for recreation.
Doggy Dan: Brilliant. So something that I just ... this is a completely random question, Sean. But I know which people have motivated me in my life and you know, for me, you're somebody who's achieved their dreams. And so I'm kind of ... Well, I say that, obviously ... probably haven't achieved all your dreams, but you are where you are. Let's just say that.
Sean McCormack: Yeah.
Doggy Dan: Who's motivated you, which people have made you kind of ... if you look at all the people who've changed your direction in your life, which are the people who kind of had an impact on you in some way, shape, or form for the positive?
Sean McCormack: There are many.
Doggy Dan: Totally.
Sean McCormack: The first one would be, there's a lady called ... well, she was called Becky Baron back then, I think she remarried and might have a new surname. But, I was in the US and the Florida Keys and I got involved with a wildlife rescue and that was it. I was rescuing wild animals and I was just in love with them every day. And she really inspired me because she was there 24/7. She was a very good trainer. I don't trust authority very much, but she proved to be a really good leader because she led with genuine authority and a genuine passion for animals. And I would do anything that she asked me to and she trusted me. She taught me how to help her with a lot of the surgical things that she was doing. And I just realized, man, I could actually help animals and maybe get paid for it. She didn't get paid very much, but I figured she lived, and she was the first one that made me realize that I might want to be looking at this as a career.
Doggy Dan: Brilliant. I think what I love about this question is it just shows how life is so varied and so random and you can't plan it because when you went to see Becky Barron, the animal rescuer in the Florida Keys, you'd never dreamed that she was going to be effectively your career advisor.
Sean McCormack: Yeah, it's true. And I wouldn't even call it a career advisor. She was just inspirational.
Doggy Dan: Totally. All, I mean is the role that she actually played for you was this is the direction. Your-
Sean McCormack: Career director-
Doggy Dan: Yes, your career-
Sean McCormack: Guider.
Doggy Dan: Anybody else?
Sean McCormack: She was very happy to have someone do that of course. She was very happy to encourage someone to be helping animals.
Doggy Dan: Anybody else? You can think of?
Sean McCormack: Yeah. After that, when I was in Taiwan and I was teaching English, I'd just split up with my then fiance, and I was thinking should I just go back to England. It's not working out. And I met Jane Goodall.
Doggy Dan: Oh, that's right.
Sean McCormack: She was friends with my ex-fiance’s new boyfriend. It was good, it was a nice healthy, friendly breakup. My ex got me into a meeting because Jane Goodall's event got canceled and she was looking for something to do and she invited some like-minded people to her hotel room just to talk. And she sat in there. We sat in her room for three hours listening to her. And she's an amazing speaker. She's so quiet but so impassioned and so inspiring. And she just turned to me and said, I hear you rescue dogs. Why don't you start an organization? And I thought, my God, how can I say no? Jane Goodall is probably the biggest idol I've had in my life, and so I was telling everyone I was on a mission from Goodall.
Doggy Dan: A mission.
Sean McCormack: And, she's been giving me her support ever since. She writes me letters sometimes, and ... ‘Afoo’, you're not in this one, you're not in this podcast.
Doggy Dan: That cat is getting angry.
Sean McCormack: Yeah. I was very inspired by Cesar Millan, who I know has mixed reviews, but when you really understand dogs, you know that Caesar really, really knows what he's talking about.
Doggy Dan: Totally.
Sean McCormack: Not just the amazing stuff he does with dogs. But how he keeps on going despite some pretty horrible things happening to them.
Doggy Dan: Yup. His heart is for the dogs. He understands energy. I've got nothing but gratitude and respect.
Sean McCormack: I mean, the stuff we don’t like is the physical stuff that he does, but you don't have to do that. If you just copy what he teaches about energy and controlling yourself before you control the dog... Just that is enough to produce miracles with dogs, and I mean miracles, it's amazing.
Doggy Dan: Energy. I remember something Cesar Millan said, he said, my greatest tool ... I was thinking, Oh my gosh, here we go, what is it? The leash, the clicker. He said, my greatest tool is energy. My energy. I thought, what? But now I understand that when you've got amazing, calm energy, you don't even have to do anything. I mean, some dogs, I sometimes pick up the leash and the dog just sits, calms down. I give the owner the leash, the dog starts jumping up and down on them.
Sean McCormack: Yeah. It's amazing, isn't it? But trying to get that through to people who want to blame the dog's problems on anything but themselves... That's the most frustrating thing. Because these people love their dogs. But if you don't say to yourself, even if you're not to blame, you must say, "This comes from me." Because if you don't, you're basically being a victim and you can never control your life if you've got something else to blame it on. But when you say, this is because of me and I'm going to fix this, now you're in a position to take control.
Doggy Dan: And you know this is such a huge point which I never intended to cover off but recently, I've had to face up to this with my children, with my wife, with my relationships, with other humans. That it's easy to say, "Oh, I don't have the friends around me that I want. The people around here aren’t my sort of ... people. And my wife is just, not the way I want it to be. And my son and my children, they're just not the easiest kids, that keeps annoying me and I have to shout." That's just blame, blame, blame, blame, shaming them, telling them they're all wrong.
Doggy Dan: And it wasn't that long ago, I had to go on a bit of a soul searching trip, which maybe I'll share it one day. And I came back a different man because I realized that was probably the key thing I had to change. I had to go, "You know what? No more. No more blaming other people. Because I can't control anything my wife does or chooses to do. I can't control my kids or dogs or my friends. All I can do is look at myself and say, how can I change?" And when I changed, all of those things started to change.
Sean McCormack: Because people are reacting to us.
Doggy Dan: Yeah. Totally.
Sean McCormack: This is what I'm looking forward to now I've got kids, that's one of the most valuable life lessons I've managed to pick up along the way, is that, don't blame everyone else for what's going on around you. Ask yourself, how can I do things differently? Well, that was in a book. I can’t remember who wrote that book, but he said, when you're having problems with your dogs, the first thing you gotta ask yourself is, "What am I doing to encourage this bad behavior and what can I do within myself to discourage it?"
Sean McCormack: Basically, it's within us, but the majority of problems, even if ... Now people who play the victim will take offense to what we're saying. But that's the whole point. Even if I was walking down the street and I got mugged because people always say, "If I'm mugged you’re going to say, I should say to myself." Well, I'll say you could have done something differently. It's not that I'm blaming you for what happened, but you can't go through life now thinking that you're a victim and you're going to get mugged. You could've gone down a different road. You could have worn different clothes, you could have been walking with someone else.
Doggy Dan: I just want to jump in here very quickly just to say, I think bad things do happen to good people as well.
Sean McCormack: Absolutely. Well, these are good people that it happens to. What I'm saying is-
Doggy Dan: No, I'm with you. I get you.
Sean McCormack: If you have this attitude that bad thing happened and I'm a victim, there's nothing I could do. You could be right. I'm not saying it's your fault, but if you change the attitude and say, "Right, how can I do things differently?"
Doggy Dan: Totally.
Sean McCormack: You're just going to go through life much better. And we know ... Just the mugging scenario again, I know from reading travel books, they tell you don't walk around this area looking at your map, walk through this area with your shoulders back and your head up. Because people won't mess with you if they think you're confident.
Doggy Dan: And you know as well as I do, it's the same with dogs. The dogs know if you're confident, they know if you're not confident. And yeah.
Sean McCormack: Yeah. That's why I mentioned it because that is how we help so many dogs. We don't use any negative energy. We don't pity them.
Doggy Dan: No.
Sean McCormack: We don't shout at them. We'll shout to them. We don't get aggressive with them. We don't beg them. It's all about us. And I'll tell ... my staff's always amazed when I give them this lesson about how to walk a difficult dog. And I say ... I'm watching the dogs freaking out on the leash, I say, "Stop, focus on yourself. Shoulders back, head up. Imagine a perfect walk." And they do that and the dog senses this and falls in line. But all the time they're looking at the dog and saying, look at my dog. I'm blaming the dog, the dog plays up-
Doggy Dan: They're looking at the dog and the dog’s looking at them and everyone's going, “who's leading?” You're looking at me. I'm looking at you. Well, what's happening, what's wrong?
Sean McCormack: You can't control a dog until you've controlled yourself. And that's the reality.
Doggy Dan: Yeah. I have one ... a beautiful saying, which my wife uses. She trains horses. And it ties in with something we said earlier, which is this. When something goes wrong, so say the rider gets bucked off a horse. She says, what happened before? No, what were you doing? What were you doing before the thing that happened, happened? So for the rider who gets thrown off, what was the rider doing before the rider was flipped off before that happened?
Doggy Dan: And it's the same with the dogs when something happens or an incident happens, you can ask yourself, what was I doing before the thing that happened. And very often you can actually go, "Ah." It might even be that you are walking to the kitchen with too many things in your hands and you drop something. What were you doing? You're trying to cut a corner. You're trying to balance a tray with a cup on top of the tray full of water and your mobile phone was on it as well. And then everything slid off the tray. Take that one away with you guys.
Doggy Dan: Sean, we don't have that long left. I mean we could go on for hours but I'm actually thinking why don't we do this another time as well? Because I've got so many questions I want to ask you. Could you tell me a little bit about ... I mean, I know people can sponsor you, but I'm not too sure about exactly how to go about it, or if people want to see the videos if they want to see you if they want to see photos of the dogs and stuff. I mean, I'll put a blog post together. A podcast kind of shows notes with all of this. But if people want to come to your site and maybe have a look at the dogs, what's your site? What's the best way they can get in touch with you? Where would you direct them to?
Sean McCormack: Our most actively updated social media are Instagram and Facebook. We have the website, but it's fairly static so you can definitely have a good look at what we do and see some of the amazing transformations we make. And that's, actforanimals.org. Act and the word for, F-O-R. But, the English Facebook page is ACT-Animal Care Trust. We had some problems on Instagram so the posts on Facebook have slowed down. So we're hiring a social media manager to run it. Because Instagram suddenly has stopped doing automatic posts from Instagram to Facebook. And that's how we did the majority of our Facebook
Doggy Dan: Got you. Yeah, too much changing names.
Sean McCormack: Or you can also find us on Instagram, which is the most lively one and that's Act_ For_ Animals.
Doggy Dan: And we'll put these links on TheOnlineDogTrainer.com, and have a look under podcasts, for this podcast, all the show notes and transcription of the whole thing, all the links, the whole load of our videos or stuff you can find will all be there. Fantastic Sean. I'm sure you're always happy to receive a couple of dollars donation. Is that...?
Sean McCormack: Absolutely. We're pretty much hand to mouth. Things are picking up, but we don't have a lot of admin costs.
Doggy Dan: Can you give us an idea of like, I don't know, anything that you are allowed to share or can share? I mean just, I'm always fascinated with what it costs and all that.
Sean McCormack: Yeah. Well, we've got, one, two, three, four, five, six. We've got seven, eight animal care staff.
Doggy Dan: That's great.
Sean McCormack: Seven animal care staff right now. And of course, they've got salaries, but Taiwan's not a very expensive country. They have salaries of about a thousand US a month each. All in all, I think we are spending about 600,000. Taiwan dollars which is about £15,000 UK, which these days is about, I don't know, $20,000 US a month. A big portion of it is vet bills because the animals we rescue are really in a bad way. But Taiwan vets are not too expensive. It's just that we rescue so many.
Doggy Dan: But that's $700 US per day, is it?
Sean McCormack: What, our costs?
Doggy Dan: $20,000 US a month? Yeah.
Sean McCormack: $20,000 US a month is, yeah. I guess it is.
Doggy Dan: So, I mean, that's pretty incredible, Sean. I think anywhere, 150 dogs-
Sean McCormack: 150 dogs, 150 rescues per year, we run a vehicle, we've got three facilities., we've got two dog sanctuaries. We've got one cat sanctuary, they go as sanctuaries, but they also double up as a rehoming center. When we rescue a dog, for example, it's mostly dogs that we rescue, could be other animals. It usually takes two to three days - that’s the average, though it can be immediately.
Doggy Dan: Very different from being dropped off on your doorstep is what you're saying.
Sean McCormack: Yeah. And we have to drive to them and sometimes a two-hour drive or more to get there. So there are other costs like that, but we don't have a lot in the way of admin costs because I'm the main animal rescuer and I spend 60 hours a week doing animal rescues. But I'm also the guy doing the admin for the UK charity. Well, I get paid as the animal rescuer, which is not very much at all. And the admin side is voluntary, so admin costs are really very low. Like a 5%. So when people donate, it's almost all going to animal rescue and care.
Doggy Dan: I just appreciate you sharing this Sean and for what it's worth, anybody listening who's wondering, I have seen ... you don't even know this Sean but I've seen you in a few situations where I've gone, "My God, that guy is going above and beyond for those animals." There was a ... I think I asked you for a testimonial once. Well, I said, would you be happy to do something and just ... and it looked like it was like 99% humidity and there were so many dogs around you and you are ... it was just clearly so hot and you were still just doing what had to be done. You were doing the work. And I was like, "Wow, that is not easy in that heat and that humidity.”
Doggy Dan: And then there was another time I saw you and you're getting ready for the birth of, I think it was your first child and you were like saying, "We’ve gotta move out of this house because the baby's coming." And I think you had like seven or maybe ... I don't know how many 17 animals are still running around. And your love for the animals just came through so strong. It almost made me laugh and I was like, "Man, that is a man who is doing this for the animals"
Sean McCormack: We just believe ... we never say no. We have limits, like regional limits. We can't obviously rescue every single animal all of the time. And there are other groups doing rescues too. But if there's one that we're asked to help and it needs help, we never say no. We work out how, later on. So that does mean that sometimes we get ... and it sounds like a lot of dogs in the house. We've got a huge roof, a huge yard, a huge balcony. There's only about seven inside, which is a lot for most people. But for us it's nothing.
Sean McCormack: We just believe in, just get them, and work out the logistics of how we're going to pay for it and take care of them later because that's what I would want if I was suffering. If I was in an accident, I wouldn't want people to say, "Oh, well actually I haven't got the resources to help them." No, I'd like them to get me the help I need. But the only reason we could do it is, other people. And I genuinely believe that angels are real. They just happen to come in human form. We ourselves have been saved so many times financially because we do get stuck every now and again. And when we post a picture of a suffering dog on Facebook, people just chip in to pay the vet bill immediately and they're so willing to do it.
Sean McCormack: And that is what ... you asked me, who inspires me? And I should have said earlier on, it's the people who support this. It doesn’t matter how much they give, but knowing people want to see us succeed in helping more animals, genuinely that's what keeps us really going when times are tough. Because knowing that other people believe that this is an important thing for us to be doing as well. So when you give a donation to any charity, but especially small ones, be aware that you're not just boosting their finances. You are boosting their spirits. Because it's so nice to know that someone's got your back, as it were.
Doggy Dan: I got tears in my eyes.
Sean McCormack: It's because it's so late over there. It's time for your bed.
Doggy Dan: I mean, guys, you can't see me. You don't know if it's real. But you could probably hear, that's the passion. That's love. That's why I love you, Sean. I can feel it. And you talk about the people being the angels. That's how I feel. It's just, wow.
Sean McCormack: Oh my. You’re gonna make me tear up now. This is good though, it's really true, and we don't say it willy-nilly. We've saved ourselves so many times. Our second daughter died at birth and we were left with a massive ... I was going to say vet bill, a massive hospital bill. We're over it. We know it wasn't meant to be. And within 36 hours or within an hour, someone had set up a GoFundMe for us. And within 36 hours, we'd raised US$10,000 to pay our hospital bill. The bill was to cover ... my wife reacted badly to the drug that was delaying labor and she had to come off of it. That's the one that comes free with the healthcare system here. But the one that would work for her was very expensive. And a friend of mine just said, “How much is it, Sean?” And it was like US$300 a day. He said, just get it done. I'll take care of it if you need. So that meant we could do it.
Sean McCormack: And then she was there for two weeks. So this final bill was huge and we didn't earn much money and all these people came forward. People, some we don't even know. They just knew that we're animal rescuers who were in need of rescuing ourselves. And I can't tell you how that made us feel. We feel genuinely indebted and we pay it forward now. If we see people's GoFundMe, we'll pay it forward. But kindness, it's very ... what's the word? It does far more than the initial act. It does so much more for the people you're helping and encourages others to do the same. So genuinely we are eternally grateful for anybody who supports. We see ourselves as the vehicle with no fuel, and people fuel us.
Doggy Dan: I totally get it. You're running on an oily rag, just whatever people put in for that day and it just keeps happening. It's the miracle. Yeah. It's trust. It's faith.
Sean McCormack: Exactly. They don't know who we are. Most of them don't have ... haven't even come here. But yeah, it's knowing that there's trust and there’s faith - that's good for the planet, I think.
Doggy Dan: Well, guys, that's a wrap. That's it. Totally unplanned. Totally unscripted. The tears were real. Totally unscripted. I felt the love. Hope you felt the love guys driving in your cars. Sean, I don't know what to say other than a big thank you and thank you for what you did and for coming on The Doggy Dan Podcast Show.
Sean McCormack: Well, thank you, Dan. Thank you for what you do. You've helped so many dogs by your genuinely gentle, but highly effective methods. That's what people need. And thanks for doing the show and let's do it again. I've got a lot more to share, like our diet. I'd love to get that across at some point.
Doggy Dan: Brilliant. Well, let's do it. And so just to recap guys, everything will be transcribed of this show. Everything that's been mentioned, I'll put it on my website with links to Sean's social media places. And yeah, that was real. That was moving. Keep focusing on your energy, guys. That's the thing. Stay in charge of your own soul, of your own day, of how you're feeling, you're in charge. You can be in control of yourself. And yeah, one more big thank you to you, Sean. Till next time.
Sean McCormack:

Doggy Dan: 

Thank you, Dan. 

Yeah, thanks mate. Have a great day everybody. Till next time, that was The Doggy Dan Podcast Show.

Voiceover: You've been listening to another episode of The Doggy Dan Podcast Show, bringing you one step closer to creating harmony with your dog.

Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan is the founder of The Online Dog Trainer, a wildly successful online training program for dog owners. His goal is to continue to share his unique approach to dog training with like-minded people who wish to make a difference in the world of dogs. His training methods focus on creating and building the connection between dogs and dog owners, and are shared and used around the world.

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