Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dog On Good

Today is National Dog Day In the US, 
so let's talk rescue doggies.

We adopted our two doggies using an expat website such as Rescue Korea.  When you are an expat adopting a new little friend, you really need to consider thinking with your mind as much as your heart.  You need to do this to help preventing future hearts from being broken because of housing issues, transportation, vacations, etc.  That said, if you are financially and emotionally prepared for adopting a bit of joy, it's a wonderful experience.

The first little bit of wonder we brought home was Diego "The shark" Burrito.  Diego had been abused and neglected for years and his behavior issues turned out to be intense.  Which is something you really have to be prepared for when adopting an older dog from a shelter.  Once they settle into your home they are likely to eat all your furniture, bark at all the people, and pee on all the stuff until they figure out that you aren't going to be another person who lets them down.  

When this happens, it's going to take rock hard determination, a community of supportive people, and tons of research to make sure your new family member lives up to their potential.  For us, that meant learning to use alternative medicines such as Catnip as a mood stabilizer, saying goodbye to furniture while he was being trained, not traveling for a while so that we could build a strong relationship with him, and finally, it meant getting a second dog for him to love.  Which is how we ended up with our little, black sunshine - Nyx "The lizard" Money.

When I wake up the morning and when I get home at night, these two little bundles of joy make me believe in miracles.  Helping them overcome starvation, fear, anxiety, abandonment, and anger has made me a better person and I'm thankful for that.  It's hard for me to imagine, as they race around me for hours - playing their little games, that anyone could have thrown them away: Diego was to be killed in a shelter and Nyx was starved to bones and skin.  

What I have learned is that when you rescue a doggy and you stick with them through thick and thin, it changes both of your lives.  If you are worried about the doggy bonding, don't.  There is no love stronger than that of a puppy who lost hope and then found it again.  They will NEVER want to let you go (which can bring about it's own set of issues).  

That said, I'm also a realist and I don't recommend doing anything half-cocked.  There are important things to consider.  Here are a few of the issues that we have faced:

Expat Animal Lover Groups: Be very scared of the expat animal lover groups when you need advice.  Even the most benign request for help/information can release the The Kraken. Be prepared for some weird interactions and unfounded aggression.  Although, personally, I had excellent experiences with the two fosters I worked with, others I have known have not been so lucky.  In the end, I withdrew from all animal rescue groups because I didn't like seeing how they treated people who were doing their best.  Instead, we found our own community of expat dog lovers and enjoy our lives unfettered by the cray cray online.  Remember, Facebook groups are a choice.  You don't HAVE to join them just because they exist.

Language barrier:  If you are adopting an adult dog from a foreign country it most likely doesn't understand your language. When we first brought our dogs home we thought they hadn't been trained.  Turns out the joke was on us.  Our dogs were very well trained, just not in our language.  Once we started using Korean (their language) they listened almost perfectly.  In fact, one even knew tricks!  So, be prepared to learn a new language or retrain them in your mother tongue.   

Behavior Issues:  Dogs in shelters and off the street are not often dogs that have been treated well. This issue not unique to any one country.  Sadly, the mistreatment of animals is universal experience.  Adult doggies often have issues so intense they need professional help so know what your options are and have a support system in place. Also, consider this when looking at your budget and your adoption adoption options. Don't try to be a hero.  Adopt a dog you can handle, not the dog you feel the sorriest for.  I am very thankful we saved our little 'eggo beggo (our dogs have many names), but he is not for everyone.  For this reason, if you have children, consider adopting one of the abandoned puppies instead of an adult animal.  There are many puppies who need homes as well.

Transportation:  You and your new puppy are going to need to go places: the vet, a park or beach that allows dogs, the kennel when you travel, etc.  Most of the public transportation options are not pet friendly unless your doggy is very small and cute. Are you prepared to get your own wheels or do you live near the services you need? This is a very real issue for dog owners in Korea.  Be sure you have a plan for how to transport your baby doggy when they aren't feeling so well.  It's a terrible feeling to be trapped, unable to find a way to the vet.

Time:  You are going to have to put weekends away and travel on hold for up to a year when your new family member arrives.  Especially if you live alone.  There is going to be training and relationship that needs built.  This is perfect if you are a homebody, but if you love to stay out late and travel on the weekends, it might not be time for you to bring a furry friend into your life.

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