I’m so excited to finally introduce my fur baby and the light of my life, Yuki. She’s cute, white and fluffy with brown ears. She loves to play tug of war and enjoys belly rubs. For more puppy cuteness, check out her Instagram. So many questions pop up when it comes to having a pet in a foreign country. There’s three sides I’ve seen to having a pet in Korea. That’s the good, the ugly, and the super fugly.
Having a pet in Korea is becoming more and more common. Koreans are opting for furry companions more than ever before. I see people put their dogs in strollers and hold them like babies. They groom them, dye their fur funky colors and treat them like their child. This makes my heart dance with happiness to see these animals treated like members of the family.
As Koreans begin to understand the love, dedication and time a dog takes, there’s many dog stores popping up selling everything from doggy beds to doggy clothes. Having a pet is relatively cheap. The shots, food, and toys are inexpensive and more affordable than America. My local veterinarian speaks English and you can tell he really loves animals. Every time I visit, he always gives me treats or a toy for Yuki. She really likes him too and I feel very comfortable in the care she gets. Luckily, (knock on wood) I haven’t had an issue with anything I need for Yuki save for some dog training devices like a good crate and apple bitter spray to stop her chewing.
I’ve seen Koreans tether their dogs outside in all conditions of the year and only provide food, water, and a house. They don’t really bathe them, love them or train them. These dogs grow up frightened of many things and bite or bark from fear. I’ve seen dogs abused and have seen videos of them being sold for meat. Please, if you’re in Korea, I implore you to adopt and not shop. There’s many animal shelters and you can save a life by doing so. I recommend going onto the Facebook page, Animal Rescue Network Korea and fostering or adopting an animal to give them or help them find a forever home.
I went over to *Song Yi’s house in the mountains of the countryside. Her Golden Retriever mated with a Jindo (native Korean dog) and that’s how Yuki came to be. Once I saw Yuki, I couldn’t resist petting her and picking her up where she snoozed in my arms. Yuki had been born in the winter and was white like the snow coating the mountains around Song Yi’s house.
Song Yi wanted to get rid of the puppies quickly and asked me if I wanted to take Yuki whom I had been petting. She said once the puppies were adults she would take them out into the mountains and leave them or give them away to anyone.
As soon as she said that, I knew I had to save at least one of the puppies and I now had a new three and a half week old puppy. Yes, read that line again. She was only a month old. I made a huge mistake that’s taking me a lot of courage to own up to on such a public forum. I ignorantly didn’t know you couldn’t take puppies away from their mother before eight weeks. After I discovered my grave mistake, I had a choice of giving Yuki back to her mother and risking rejection or keeping Yuki and picking up the extra slack. It was one of the hardest decisions I had to make because it wasn’t one that would affect me but another living creature. Before I made my decision, I took Yuki to the vet and found out she had parasites in her stomach which where causing her diarrhea.
The Super Fugly
Unfortunately, many Koreans don’t invest time into loving their animals and training them. In my neighborhood, there’s a butcher shop and a tofu shop. Both owners received Jindos at the same time. The tofu maker quickly grew tired of his dog once it started outgrowing its puppy cuteness. He let it off the leash in an effort to make it go away. The dog would run around alleyways and main streets where many cars don’t adhere to the speed limits. I found this puppy multiple times and quickly returned him to his leash fearing for his life. One morning, I decided I would rescue him because it was breaking my heart to see him out in the cold, in a makeshift dog house, shivering until dawn. When I returned that evening from work, the puppy was gone. I waited for any trace of him and it still bothers me to think that I should’ve saved him earlier. The butcher treated his dog with love until it too outgrew it’s puppy cuteness and started biting neighborhood kids. There aren’t many laws protecting animals in Korea, but you can join the Animal Rescue Network Korea to volunteer at shelters or adopt.
I’m sure you’re all wondering, what happened to Yuki? For my dog’s health and well-being she remained with me. A week of medicine later, Yuki’s tummy issues were cleared and she’s now a healthy young pup. I’m learning a lot about how to train, love, and care for her. Is having a puppy easy? Heck no, and I’ve come close to pulling my hair out a few times because it can be so frustrating. Would I change it for the world? Absolutely not.
Yuki’s name comes from a special place. Since she was born in winter and she’s white, I decided to call her snow, but in Japanese. Yuki is a representation of the countries I love most— America, Korea, and Japan.
Yuki’s story has a happy ending, but there are so many dogs in Korea looking for their forever homes. Many animals end up starved to death and there’s a video via SBS TV showcasing the animal cruelty. Watch it if you dare, it made me cry a bit. I highly implore everyone to adopt and not shop. Check out all these reputable organizations below for volunteer and adoption options.
Animal Rescue Network Korea – There are daily postings of people looking to save animals, adopt or foster them. You can really make a difference by joining this Facebook group.
Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary – Since opening this sanctuary, Leo and his wife, Jin have given 300 dogs their forever homes. This place provides great volunteer opportunities and you can adopt your very own fur baby.
Domo’s Friends – This small non profit organization opened in July 2016 and rescues dogs from a high kill shelter in Yangju, South Korea. They mostly rescue last day dogs and give them a little more time to find their forever homes. Out of the 49 dogs rescued, 37 have found their forever homes.
Empathy For Life – This is a Facebook group dedicated to rescuing dogs around South Korea. Check out the page and see how you can adopt or foster an animal in need.
Shindog’s Kennel – Run by the famous Leo Mendoza, this is the only kennel in Korea run by western standards. Your pet will be in good hands while on vacation. Leo and his wife Jin truly love the animals and care for them.
If you decide to get a pet in Korea, I implore you to think about if you have time to care, love and train it. It’s a huge responsibility and if you’re a foreigner, bring your dog back with you to your country. There’s a wonderful Facebook group called Airborne Animals dedicated to helping you smoothly transition out of Korea with your pet. Don’t leave them in a shelter because that’s instant death for many pooches. I couldn’t imagine my life any other way without Yuki. Every morning, I grudgingly get out of bed at 7:30am to take her outside onto her pee pad, but when I see her happy face, I know I made the right decision. If you think Yuki is as adorable as I think, then don’t forget to follow her Instagram for daily updates.