Until recently, Merle had never set a paw on solid ground, never felt the kind stroke of a human hand and never tasted a dog treat.
The mild-mannered mastiff mix was bred to become a South Korean dinner entree.
But he was spared that fate by the Humane Society International, which recently rescued Merle and more than 250 other canines from a dog-meat farm in Wonju. Merle was among the first to arrive at St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey.
The center expects to receive about 120 of the rescued dogs, which will be available for adoption.
"We've had huskies, golden retriever, spitz, a variety of dogs from this farm," said Heather Cammisa, president at St. Hubert's.
Cammisa cautions anyone wanting to adopt one of the rescued dogs to keep in mind that they have spent their entire lives in cages. They will require training, understanding and love, she said.
The dogs are being rescued 11 weeks before South Korea celebrates Bok Nai, when large quantities of dog-meat "boshintang" stew are consumed.
Most South Koreans don't eat dog meat on a regular basis and young Koreans are particularly turning away from the practice. However, dog stew is widely popular during Bok Nai and served at thousands of restaurants specializing in the recipe.
"In our experience, many dog-meat farmers are keen to leave this business behind them, and come under increasing pressure from their children to end dog breeding and killing," Humane Society campaign manager Andrew Plumbly said in a news release.
The Wonju farmer is one such individual. He contacted the Humane Society last year and asked for help to get out of the dog-meat business, Plumbly said.
The rescued dogs and puppies are being flown to shelters in the U.S. and Canada and will be available for adoption.
The Wonju farm is the fifth dog-meat farm that the international charity has helped close down.