On a beautiful spring day in May 2021, Yukari Yamahiro walked out of her doctor’s office near the corner of 4th Avenue and 12th Street in Brooklyn. The sun was shining and Yamahiro, just in the first trimester of her pregnancy, placed a loving hand on her growing belly as she made her way to the intersection and the rest of her day. She was on the phone with her mother, talking about her date as she walked. It was then that the woman approached her.
Coming from the direction Yamahiro was walking, the woman looked Yamahiro in the eyes and shouted a racist insult at him. She then spat in his face. The incident was one of many acts of hate against the AAPI community that have been reported across the country over the past year.
“I always thought I would be ready, if someone did something like this,” Yamahiro told Daily Paws. “I always thought I would defend myself. But I just froze.”
At first, fearing that she would be physically assaulted and the woman injuring her unborn child, Yamahiro crouched down to protect herself from her attacker. But as the woman continued on her way down the street, the shock gave way to a wave of relief and sadness and Yamahiro stood still, sobbing in the street until the police came and took his statement.
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Returning home from the attack, Yamahiro was devastated. She didn’t just feel raped by being spit on, she felt alone. Alone, that is, until she opens the door to her apartment and is greeted by Butter.
“It was the best thing,” she said, remembering the relief she felt when she saw the 3 year old beagle leap towards her. “It was just the best feeling in the world not to come back to an empty apartment. I wasn’t alone, I had that tail wagging. I was sobbing in the street but when I got home I was felt safe. “
Anyone who owns a pet knows how comforting they can be in times of stress or sadness. Not only did the little dog cuddle up to her and let her cry into her neck, but by giving her another living being to focus on, she kept her from holing up in her apartment and locking herself in. too long. Yamahiro still needed to take care of her and take her outside despite her fear and sadness, so the two kept on a leash and went out for a walk. Butter instinctively lured Yamahiro to her favorite dog park, even though she wanted to avoid people.
“I was terrified of going out,” she said. “I was going to wear a hat, sunglasses, a heavy sweatshirt, whatever I needed to hide. But the other owners saw me like that and asked me what was wrong and I told them about my morning. “
What she found in other dog lovers helped her see a nicer side of humanity. Yamahiro says she was moved by the support she received from other dog parents in the park, who offered to walk home and meet her at her apartment to walk with her the next day.
Butter may not have known it, but she ended up helping Yamahiro in an unexpected way. Not only was the little rescue dog there to greet her when she returned home, she was able to connect Yamahiro with a group of support people who would become friends when she needed community the most. Their love story versus hate won the Petco Love Stories competition, which recently awarded a $ 100,000 grant to Hearts and Bones, the Yamahiro rescue organization adopted Butter. Theirs was one of hundreds of incredible pet adoption stories entered into the competition, and was selected by Petco Love and Skechers BOBS as the Big Winner in December 2021.
“It’s hard to find friends in New York who aren’t from work or school,” she says. “But all the people I met at the dog park, they’re all different ages, races, cultures, but they’re all very empathetic.”
Yamahiro didn’t let this moment of ugliness and anger change who she is as a person. But now she feels like the people she met at the dog park are a closer community of friends than she initially expected. Over the next several months, she continued to take Butter to her favorite dog park, chatting and walking with her dog-loving friends every day.
The group now has a new member to the pack, a little boy that Yamahiro welcomed into the world in November. Mom and baby are both healthy, happy and doing well. The butter is there too, useful as always. With the amount of love this little mix of beagles has already brought into her life over their two years together, it’s no surprise that Yamahiro says Butter is a really big sister.