Guest article by Justin Ho
After having gone through a tough moment in my life I was looking for something to help me refocus my priorities and bring me some companionship and happiness back into my life. I decided to stop procrastinating with things in my life and take more initiative in discovering my interests; one of them involved raising a dog.
I knew this would be a big step and a huge responsibility in my life; it would include involving my family to raise the dog correctly. My parents were never fond of animals. It took many debates but in light of recent personal events they decided to support my decision with a compromise; nothing too big (for my mom) but also not too small of a dog (for me). I researched many adoption agencies, but none offered the service or the breed of dog that I was seeking. Then someone referred to me the Jindo breed and told me to check out Free Korean Dogs. That’s when I fell in love.
I explored the website and was convinced that EK Park and her band of volunteers had their hearts in the right place and would be able to help me find the perfect match. I met with the adoption manager, Sara Liao and we went over the application when I was finally approved, she set me up with everything I needed and had given me the perfect birthday present!
On January 25, Leaf came into my life and I couldn’t be happier, or so I thought. I had prepared my house and myself for Leaf’s arrival for weeks, researching everything I needed to know about how to prepare your home to how to train a dog. However, the overwhelming fact was that I was a first-time owner of a dog and had no hands-on experience.
The first couple of months had been one of the toughest periods in my life. I was now responsible for another life and had no experience training or communicating with Leaf. She was absolutely scared of everything. This was stressful and I had not imagined it would be this challenging. It came to a point where I fell ill due to stress from school and from caring for Leaf. I had hoped that all her behavioral problems were not a result of her abandonment issues. As we know from ourselves, trauma takes time to heal and is unique in each individual. I turned to several people for help, looking for tips on topics ranging from potty training to feeding schedules. When experienced owners say it’s a process, they mean it. I had to use trial and error to understand the strategies that work best for her. Some worked brilliantly while others failed, to no avail. I had decided that instead of looking at this whole experience as a hardship, I would take it on as a challenge.
I began analyzing her behaviour and tried to see everything from her perspective. This tested the limits of my patience and at times pushed passed it. It was very hard to keep a positive mood around Leaf as we were experiencing hardships with one another. We often forget how many experiences we have been exposed to since childhood, but every rescue dog coming into a new environment is like a child seeing something for the first time. Simply walking down a street on garbage day is normal for us, but for a dog, it’s such a strange sight to see all of the new roads, cars, and even trash bins everywhere. As with all first-time owners, I have done quite a few things that I would like to change looking back in the past, but no first-time owner is perfect. It seemed like it was one step forward two steps back. Ultimately, I had to take everyone’s advice and mold my own techniques and patterns that would fit how I wanted to teach her and what I wanted her to learn.
Her progression had been really slow during the first couple of months and I had deduced a theory that she may have not encountered snow before. This factor had also deterred her potty training for a while in my belief. One of the biggest hurdles I still had was getting my parents to enjoy her company and to be able to let her roam free around the house. With each small successful step in training came another new challenge in her skittish behaviour. To try and get Leaf used to others I first had to develop a trustworthy bond between her and I. To others this process might have taken more than months, maybe even a year, but Leaf was such a smart dog. It took a lot of dedicated consistency with teaching her boundaries and structure. The more time I spent with her with positive emotions the more she reciprocated.
Coming to the present day and Leaf now has all her confidence back. She is such a happy pup and is not scared of everything anymore. It was hard to imagine that just 3 months ago she was so scared to walk across the hall in my home and can now run downstairs and sprint into the living room with a big smile on her face. What is also amazing is how much she has changed my parent’s views in such a short amount of time.
I had expected this process of acclimation into our home to have taken much longer than this but with her adorable smile and her need for cuddly affection, my parents are not scared of dogs anymore and absolutely love her. Thinking back to all the hardships I had in the first few months I wished I had waited until I had fewer things on my plate so as to not have the amount of stress I had succumbed to, but that would have meant I would not have ended up with Leaf. She has now officially become a part of our family and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
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