We have always loved animals, but our busy work schedules made it impractical to add a dog to our lives. For years I was feeding the birds and squirrels in our back yard as well as buying toys and treats for our friends’ adorable dachshund instead.
One day things changed. My father’s cancer had relapsed and tragically he took his own life on his 79th Birthday. This left my mother in a very bad shape. She suddenly aged and became increasingly depressed. In an attempt to bring her back to at least semi-normal life we took her to live with us. She got even more depressed, spending her day in an empty house while we were at work. With her not being able to speak English very well our options were very limited. This is when I started looking for a companion dog.
The moment I saw Sarah’s picture I knew she was the one. Over 5 years old, she had been used for breeding (her puppies sold on the meat market) until her heart started failing due to an untreated heartworm disease. A kind and caring person bought her from the heartless owner and she lived in a shelter for a year while undergoing treatment. She was still in Korea but scheduled to be flown to Toronto in mid-November 2017. I filled out the application form minutes after I saw her picture and read her story. EK visited our home shortly after and explained all the challenges of adopting a rescue dog. I spent a few sleepless nights wondering if this was the right thing to do – both for the dog and for my mother. But every time I looked at Sarah’s smiling face on the website, the anticipation of flying her over and giving her a second chance in life would make my doubts and fears seem completely irrelevant.
We will never forget the day EK brought Sarah to our home. Being a Shiba Inu and Jindo mix, Sarah looked so pretty yet so terrified. Stressed and jetlagged, she wouldn’t eat much during the first few weeks. She was very quiet and well behaved in the house, sleeping most of the time. It was a very different story when we took her outside for walks. Sarah would become a completely different personality, behaving more like a wild fox than a dog. Her very high prey drive meant we had to be very alert even though she was always wearing the secure Ruffwear harness and I had her leash strapped to my waist. She was never aggressive but totally unfriendly and untrusting of dogs and humans alike. A menacing growl was heard every time somebody approached her on the street. She had spent most of her life living outdoors and she loved being outside even in the coldest winter. As a matter of fact, she loved her first Canadian winter way more than we did!
The first time Sarah got in our car, she was shaking uncontrollably, and I had to sit on the backseat next to her during the short ride to the park. She still doesn’t like car rides but there is no fear and she now associates the car with going to the park rather than with a threat.
Finding a proper diet for her was a challenge as she had a very sensitive tummy and was throwing up almost every morning during the first couple of months. After trying various options, we found the best for her was the Stella&Chewy freeze-dried raw diet. Reading the ingredients list I know Sarah often gets better nutrition than her humans and it shows – she’s healthy, full of energy and her coat is so beautiful that she gets compliments from neighbors and strangers every time we take her out on a walk!
Being a Shiba Inu and a rescue dog made bonding with Sarah a lengthy and at times challenging process. Any affection towards her would make her anxiously run away to a remote corner. Till this day she would only stay on the main floor and never goes to our bedroom. The first sign of her settling in was when she started protecting her new home at night by barking at any potential threats (such as passing by cars or racoons crossing the street) as soon as we went to sleep. She was showing us that she was doing her job protecting her pack. Sarah’s very strong pack mentality also meant that every walk was a test of who should be the leader of the pack. One day my husband was walking her to the park and I stayed a bit behind to chat with a lady that was walking another rescue dog. Suddenly the other dog started barking at me and I will never forget how Sarah rushed to my rescue, dragging my husband along as well. At this moment I knew we were a family!
Sarah and my mom have become inseparable now and it is difficult to say which one of them is being rescued. My mom’s mental and physical health have dramatically improved and we often hear her laugh like never before. Sarah has also changed from being detached and apathetic to being full of life and energy (especially when chasing squirrels in the back yard). She greatly enjoys being brushed and any attention she can get from those she accepts in her pack. Sarah still doesn’t play with any toys and avoids cuddles, but we are optimistic!
It has been 10 months now and Sarah has totally changed our lives for the best. We are so grateful for the loyalty and love she gives us every day, for our long walks exploring parks we never knew existed before, for changing our diets to almost fully exclude meat and most of all for the pure joy of coming home to her that makes us focus on what is important in life. Coincidentally this is also what Sarah’s Korean name means in Korean – Love!
Written by Kate Gueorguieva