There have been moments in the first six months of Luna and Peanut joining our family where I have asked myself this, among other questions. “Am I equipped to help them?” “Are we making progress?” “Am I failing them?”
While these were the thoughts that I had in the second half of 2019, to understand where they came from we have to start in June 2019. In the early days of June, my brother and I waiting anxiously for the airport arrivals doors to open, revealing the crate carrying our recently adopted dogs. Sharing a large crate, Hoya (now Peanut) and Yunji (now Luna) looked a perfect mix of adorable and confused. We could barely think about anything else as we drove home.
After clipping the ziptie that held the crate door locked, we stood back and gave them space to take their first steps into their new home, more than 8,000 kilometres away from the only place they had ever known.
Peanut eagerly took the first steps out but nervously ran back in. Luna, with a more cautious approach, was first to step fully out and prepare herself to explore the house. It’s a memory that I treasure preciously.
But the excitement of the initial introduction quickly gave way to a less rosy reality. Luna and Peanut were dogs with a complicated situation. Luna’s first instinct was to hide from us: in the crate she arrived, under the table. Any small spot was a refuge. Peanut’s curiosity pushed him out of hiding, but he was so nervous around us that too many steps in his direction led to growling and some showing of teeth. Petting his head was a pipe dream we couldn’t even fathom at that point.
Patience was really key to helping them overcome their barriers. Every day, I’d come home from work and sit down on the floor, reading out loud and offering Luna a treat whenever she took a step out of her comfort zone and into the bigger world. Peanut, on the other hand, required pushing him a little. After three weeks of being unable to get any type of collar on him, one day we were finally able to put a slip lead around his neck. Unsure and nervous at first, he actively moved away from us but eventually he tired himself out and we started practicing walking around the house and placing the slip lead on and off his head. After many more days of small steps, he was ready to have all the right gear placed on him so that we could safely take him outside. The first walks were interesting. They quickly looked to us for guidance, and in fact, it was outside where we bonded the most. It had been a stressful couple of months since their arrival, but we were finally at a spot where we could feel some progress.
Since then, the road has been bumpy, with many ups and downs. They were quick and comfortable to take to crating but recently they seemed to have understood that crating means our absence and that means barking for a short period after they hear the door(which is shortening every time, fortunately). Big groups of dogs makes them a little nervous and they tend to stick to each other. There’s still a lot of work to do, but when it feels in any way overwhelming, all I need to do is go back to the beginning. Sit on the floor, with a book and some treats and these two incredible dogs show me exactly how far we’ve come. They place their heads on my lap. They come in for scratches and treats. They get excited to get some leashes on and head into the world for a walk.
Bringing dogs like Luna and Peanut into our family has not always been a walk in the park. It has been at times stressful, at times sad, at times complicated. But it has never stopped being incredibly rewarding. And it’s not a process that I’ve gone through alone. The Free Korean Dogs community is always there to help with incredible advice and inspiring stories of how they overcame similar situations.
So, “Can I handle this?” Absolutely. Because it’s worth the effort.
Written by Rodrigo Cokting