From the day I was born, there was always a dog in my life. I’d never had one of my very own, though – they were always “the family dog”. When my boyfriend and I moved in together, I brought up the topic of us getting a dog. He was never a “dog person”, so the conversation continued for at least a year until he finally agreed that we could get a dog. I had known for years that my first dog would be a rescue. The dogs my family had were always purebred and from a breeder, but I knew that I wanted to open my heart to a dog who was in need of a safe, loving home.
Our first attempts at adoption with another organization ended up falling though as the foster decided to formally adopt the dog. We decided that this was a sign and wasn’t meant to be. So, we continued the search and came across Free Korean Dogs, an organization I had never heard of. After viewing the website and filling out an application, we were contacted by FKD and informed that Mongshil, one of the dogs we were interested in, was being flown to Toronto in just a few days. She had been rescued several months prior from a dog meat farm. We were quickly able to set up a telephone interview and an in-home visit. When EK brought Mongshil to our home, she was visibly nervous but so sweet. It took her a few minutes to gain the courage to approach me and another few minutes to approach my boyfriend. Our hearts filled with joy, considering the prospect of having her become our dog. Within 24 hours, it was confirmed that Mongshil would be coming to live with us! The very next day, she came to her forever home.
The first few days with Mongshil (whom we began to refer to as “Puppers”) were nerve wracking – I’d never encountered such an anxious dog. I had just assumed that she would immediately bond with us. While she did adapt quickly, she would not voluntarily leave the front room of our condo and would not use the grass pad we had purchased for her. After two days, she still had not relieved herself and we were starting to worry. We contacted EK, who graciously offered to come over to help us bring Puppers (it suited her, so that became her name) outside. Once we got her outside, she finally went pee – success! She was still so scared, though.
Weeks passed before Puppers would venture to other areas of our home, like the living room, and nearly two months before she would voluntarily come into our bedroom. She was very easily startled, and extremely nervous on walks, always walking with her tail down. She seemed to be afraid of everyone she encountered – adults, other dogs, and especially children. For the most part, she was very quiet. We never heard her bark or whine. We brought her on short walks at first, avoiding noisy areas. She was very picky with her food, and it took us a few months to find something she really liked (she’s now on a raw diet). We slowly began to introduce her to family and friends. It was very clear that she favored women, which we think alluded to her past. Anything that moved without explanation terrified her, especially vehicles. She would shake for the majority of our time in cars and on the subway, streetcar or Go train.
It took about six months for Puppers to settle comfortably into our home, but she has changed so much in that time, and truly became a different dog. She now walks with her tail up and wagging and has started to greet other dogs excitedly instead of backing away from them when they approached her, after slow exposure to our local dog park. We could tell that she looked forward to her visits there, as she would start to pull on the leash when she knew it was nearby. She finally became interested in toys – balls, mostly – when she saw other dogs playing with them. “Zoomies” in the hallway of our condo and at the dog park are now a regular occurrence, and it still makes me smile. She is comfortable around well-behaved children and has such a gentle nature. There is nothing she loves more than curling up beside someone who will show her affection – she’ll stay there all day, if you let her!
Puppers was, and still is, of great comfort to me after the sudden death of my mother. She is now an experienced public transit user and always has strangers coming up to her to say hi, which she loves. However, she is still a bit skittish – she will run out of the room in a flash when something falls on the floor unexpectedly – and afraid of any and all cleaning apparatuses (vaccuum, swiffer, mop, broom). She is easily startled if you approach her quickly, as well. We imagine she will always be this way, but it’s part of her charm. We are so thankful for the love and joy she has brought to our home and to our hearts.
Story and photos by Sara Freistatter