Guest article by Johnny He
When I first decided to bring a dog into my life, I did not really intend to rescue because of the uncertainties that come with the process. However, while learning about adoption options, I came across a jindo dog that I felt was the best fit for what I was looking for. I became more interested in the faithful breed along with its Korean roots. It greatly saddened me to discover that a breed, known for its selfless love and bottomless loyalty, was often subjected to abuse. I really wished to make a difference for these dogs and give them the second chance that they all deserve. It felt like a valuable opportunity has shown itself to me to make a change and learn. A rescue adoption has really taught me a very important lesson on compassion, bravery, and patience. Pairing up with a new rescue, and watching Taavi power through hurdles had been a healing process, for me as well.
First Few Months: Fear and Anxiety
Upon arrival, when Taavi entered his new home he showed really anxious behaviours. While he left his crate almost immediately, he was extremely cautious of his surroundings– it was clear that he was not quite ready to show any affection or be touched. Fortunately, he didn’t have too many issues learning how to use pee pads. During the first few weeks, I spent a lot of time sitting near his side and trying to hand-feed him as much as possible, all while making sure not to cross his boundaries and safe spaces. I had thought this process would follow the expectations of the classic “3-3-3” model which refers to the 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months after bringing a rescue pet home. However, that was not the case. At around 3 weeks, I became quite nervous because there were almost no significant changes to Taavi’s behaviour.
Taavi at Home
I tried to stay patient. I hand-fed Taavi, tried to encourage him to play with toys and other mental puzzles, had other dogs visit, and tried therapeutic aromas and music, but nothing was working. I reached out to a few others and it seemed like waiting was the only option.
Soon, it became 2 months. Then 3 months. There were no significant changes. I could tell he was comfortable at home as he started to play with some toys, but only when no one was around. But in terms of adjusting or decompressing, there was still much left to be desired.
At this point, Taavi had barely left the second floor of my house. I have no idea when it was the last time he saw outside. I was guilt-ridden, seeing how fearful he is and that I couldn’t do anything to help him but wait. At this point, I was still unable to touch him much less get a leash on him.
It was around this time as well that I felt he needed a vet visit. His nails were growing unreasonably long and I found some blood on his toys. Perhaps a cracked tooth? I wasn’t sure but I wanted to be positive. Plus, I thought maybe the vet will also have some suggestions on how to help him.
The Vet Visit and the Aftermath: Feeling Defeat
Of course, as Taavi wasn’t able to leave the house, I only had one option with regard to vets: a mobile clinic. I contacted my local service who had turned out to be some of the sweetest and most patient vets and technicians. But to our surprise, Taavi behaved way worse than we had anticipated. Taavi went into an intense defensive panic mode upon wearing a leash (it was his first time). It was so difficult to watch. It showed how deep his trauma was: he exhibited signs of biting (towards the leash), bowel incontinence, and a desire to flee. It was a mess, for sure. The vet had no option but to surrender trying to give Taavi a diagnosis. It was then they told me that, even in their years of experience, Taavi would be considered an extreme case. They prescribed him some anxiety-relief medication, but until he got better, it was impossible to have him checked.
It was at this moment that I was completely defeated. I had no idea how to help Taavi. I had all the support around me, but seeing him each day, cowering in fear only fueled a heavy feeling of guilt and remorse. Eventually, 4 months have passed.
Training and the Change
After spending these 4 months with Taavi, I understood that his fear of humans is incredibly deep-rooted. He started to trust me slightly, but even up until now, no touching nor leashes within his vicinity. Positive reinforcement simply wasn’t working. I felt that it was necessary to give him a little push to help him. I was fortunate enough to come across a local trainer, Julio from DoggieBasics. I explained to him my situation with Taavi, and unsurprisingly he knew that this could not go on. We worked together for a month and he became a regular at my home.
The training focused on overcoming his fear of the leash and stairs. We spent the first two weeks under his careful supervision to desensitize and expose Taavi to wearing the leash. We mustn’t encourage the same behaviour that he exhibited during the vet visit, so we were quite careful when taking the leash off. We had to show Taavi that wearing the leash isn’t something negative or to be feared. Once he was able to wear the leash, that’s when the big change happened.
The leash became a symbol of trust between Taavi and me. It gave him a sense of security that I was around. I used the leash to guide him through many other future obstacles, which include the hurdle of crossing the stairs to the first floor where he could access the backyard. It took another week or so, of course, but it worked. I was actually really shocked at how all this came to be within just one month of working with Julio. At 4.5 months after having Taavi, he was finally able to leave the house for the first time.
Learning to Trust
After taking his first step outside, that marked so many opportunities that Taavi and I could achieve. We were able to start potty outside and go out for walks. This marked the beginning of Taavi’s journey to trust me as his owner. Fortunately, it was clear to me that Taavi really loved going outside. His tail rose for the first time I’ve had him for nearly five months. He sniffed the grass, he sniffed the flowers, and everything else that stood before him. It was truly a moment to be remembered; all the hard work and all the patience were finally taking fruit as Taavi made his way through the park.
Of course, at six months with Taavi, he still shows signs of fear of humans- even with me. But his trust is very apparent now. I can (for the most part) freely pet him. He looks at me excitedly when he knows we’re going outside. He started playing with other dogs and toys. And this is just the beginning of our life together.
Subscribe for Updates
Get our dogs in your inbox once a month, along with our latest news and events. We never send spam, and you can opt out at any time.