The following is part of a series of interviews with adopters about their rescue pups. This particular interview is with Justine about her dog Isu whom she rescued a little over 5 months ago. Isu is a giant loving teddy bear who smiles at everyone he sees. He is doing well and is learning how to get along with his kitty sister Maxine.
1. How did you find Free Korean Dogs?
I would search through Petfinder once in a while and a posting that led to Free Korean Dogs popped up, and over a couple of weeks we found out more about Jindo specifically, and how it could be a good dog for us. After diving into the site and reading about FKD’s cause, we thought it was time for us to welcome a dog into our home.
2. What made you choose your pup?
We’ve had a cat for 4 years and it was crucial that our dog would be cat-friendly. We had originally inquired about another dog, but he had already been adopted – Isu was another choice as he seemed good with cats. Something about his demeanor in his videos and his photos made it felt like he was meant to be with us.
Very straightforward and thorough. Each step was pretty exciting – it felt like we were getting closer and closer to having to having Isu home with us. There was a lot of communication with EK to make sure that our home would be a good fit for Isu, and that we were ready to have a dog of our own. She was very honest about what to expect and definitely did not try to sugarcoat the process. It took maybe about a month, from application to actually Isu coming home, but it was well worth it.
4. Tell me about the day you got your dog, how did you feel?
The night before Isu came we were so excited that we couldn’t sleep. The volunteers that helped him through customs (Jacqueline and Nathalie) were amazing. We were very anxious about the customs process, but they helped make it go so smoothly while getting us super excited about meeting him. Seeing him for the first time after the customs agent brought him over was quite emotional and we couldn’t wait to get him home.
EK warned us that we would have to rent an SUV to bring Isu’s crate home – she wasn’t kidding, it was huge! After carrying the crate up 3 flights of stairs, we finally let him out in his new home. He was a little bigger than expected! He came out with his tail wagging and he did a slow survey of the apartment – then did a loooong pee on one our plants. He did a couple more laps and did a couple of big poops by our fireplace. I guess he had been holding it in for a while, so we couldn’t blame him (he hasn’t had an accident indoors since).
After settling into the apartment, he definitely warmed up to us quickly. We would lie down beside him and give him pets and he gave us lots of kisses. He was smiling and wagging his tail the whole day and well into the evening. We set his crate up in the kitchen and his “area” was the kitchen and the living room – the rest of the apartment (and the cat) was separated by a glass door that we closed in the evening. When we said goodnight to him, he was still smiling and wagging his tail behind the door – he didn’t understand that it was time for us to go to bed! It really made us realize that this dog had so much unconditional love to give, and that we were his people now. Definitely cried myself to sleep that night!
The first week definitely had its ups and downs. Dog life took some adjusting to – even just dividing up who gets to feed who and who gets to walk the dog when was a challenge. Isu adjusted pretty well and made himself comfortable in our home right away – he even slept in his crate during bedtime. We made sure to follow FKD’s rules and keep walks to short distances. We watched a lot of K-dramas with him (he was into it) and found out that he was responsive to a few Korean commands. We started using these Korean commands to teach him basic commands in English.
Food-wise, he wasn’t into his kibble until about a week in. We fed him warm rice and boiled chicken in broth for the first few days, and I gradually started mixing his kibble in. He also didn’t poop until 4 days after he arrived home.
One funny thing during the first few days of having him was when we would sit down at his level, he would come up and try and hump us. He’d done this with some of our friends that met him for the first time too, as well as certain dogs.
6. What are some of the difficulties your pup has/had?
He was not great during his walks for the first month – he pulled everywhere we went. After a couple of months and when we were confident that he wouldn’t try to escape anymore (he never really tried), we switched him to a front clip harness – the difference was night and day!
He wasn’t great with certain dogs either – especially large dogs or younger male dogs that are around his size. He would lunge at them and try to fight them and was difficult to reel back in. We actually worked with a one-on-one trainer that helped him bond better with us and in turn, really made him trust us and listen to us. One of the things she noticed was that he wasn’t super food-dependent, and she had us hand-feeding him his meals like a game (we still do it once in a while because he loves it). It’s been 4 months now and he’s much better – might still lunge at other dogs that he doesn’t like but is much easier to reel back in.
The biggest challenge we have with him now is integrating him with our cat Maxine. When we first got Isu, we started introducing them through scent swapping, limited vision, etc. and it was going really well until Maxine was diagnosed with feline kidney disease. She’s a lot better now and her illness is under control, but she’s still afraid of coming into the living room/ kitchen area when he’s around, and sometimes he’ll lunge towards her direction and scare her off. When it’s his bedtime we’ve been gating him off so that Maxine can hang out with us on the couch, but we’d love for them to live together harmoniously soon.
7. How long did it take your pup to adjust to life in Canada?
Not very long at all. He loves going for walks and people, traffic, cyclists, etc. didn’t bother him at all. We thought that the time difference would affect him, but he would go into his crate during bedtime on his own – we’ve never had to put him to bed. It did take him a couple of weeks to adjust to going to work with me though – for a while, I would have to carry him up and down 3 flights of stairs (not an easy feat for a 40lb dog). I remember it being a huge milestone the first time he went up the stairs on his own.
We had some difficulties in the beginning, but honestly, he’s perfect for us! Everyone always comments about how chill he is – and he’s always smiling or hamming it up for belly rubs. I think it took us longer to adjust to having a dog than him to adjust being with us!
8. What does your dog do that is hilarious? Favourite quirk?
Nowadays, he sleeps right at the front door of our apartment. There’s a little crack that lets the cold air in, and once in a while we’d catch him with his one ear out the crack. He also hardly ever barks (I think he’s barked 5 times since we got him), but sometimes when he’s in deep sleep he would do soft little “woof woofs”.
He loves pets, but he loves butt rubs more. When he’s playing with us sometimes he’d just turn his butt towards us for a scratch. He’s just one big fluffy goof.
9. Did you rename your dog? What is the story behind the new name?
We played around with different names but decided to honor where he came from and keep Yi-Soo – however, when we saw his Korean customs documents, we liked how they spelled it in a simpler way – Isu.
10. If you could do it all over again, would you?
1000% yes! He’s changed our lives for the better with how much love he has to give. Every morning he’s so stoked to see us. When he’s out for walks we love watching people smile at him – he’s always smiling and in turn, makes us smile with him. He’s such a perfect fit for us and we can’t even imagine life before him. We’re so, so lucky to have him and so happy that we’re able to him a loving home.
Interviewee: Justine Edralin
Interviwer: Tatiana Thompson