Fostering Dogs in Korea
When I was a little girl I was crazy about dogs. No, actually crazy.
My favorite movies were Airbud and Homeward Bound, I played with Puppies in my Pockets as much as my Barbies, and I watched Animal Planet as much as Nickelodeon.
There was only one problem:
My mom was deathly allergic. None of my close friends had dogs, everyone had cats. I always dreamed that someday I could have a dog, but it was always in the distant, distant future.
All that changed 6 months ago.
I’ve been living and teaching in South Korea for 2 years. Every year is uncertain, and every chance I get I leave the country to travel. Not a suitable lifestyle to get a dog. But that’s when I saw a post on Facebook, asking for a one month foster home for a big, white, fluffy puppy. I could do one month, I could commit to anything for one month.
At the time I was about to switch jobs and move apartments. It would have to wait. But fastforward 7 months, I’ve been fostering dogs for 6 months, I’ve fostered 3 different dogs and a cat, and it’s absolutely changed my life.
After I started fostering a lot of my coworkers and friends voiced their interest in fostering as well. One friend even adopted a dog from the group I’ve been working with.
Foster dogs and expats are a match made in heaven, but not enough expats know about the possibilities of fostering in Korea.
Many expats are used to having dogs or cats in their home countries, but like me their life abroad is unsuitable to long-term commitments like adoption, and bringing animals back home can be a long and expensive process. Usually we live alone in single studio apartments, which can be relaxing, but also increasingly lonely the longer you stay abroad. Many of us begin to wish for something to come home to.
In Korea buying pets from pet shops and breeders is still the most common and acceptable practice. Most of the dogs you see on the street are pure-bred toy poodles, pomeranians, shih tsus, and the like. But most Koreans live in apartments, and many of these apartments are not dog friendly, so many of these dogs end up in pounds or shelters.
Expats miss their pets at home and miss coming home to a friendly face. Shelters are over-flowing with cats and dogs in cages, desperate for someone to love and a happy home.
I never had a dog as a child, but since fostering my heart, mind, and body, everything has changed. It’s been incredible.
I have never been so emotionally stable in my life. Living alone, you can fall into your own thoughts all day. When you are happy, it’s wonderful and relaxing, but when you aren’t, it’s torture. You can fall deeper and deeper into your own mind, and your little worries can spiral out of control – at least mine did. With a dog, I am kept firmly in reality. You can’t dwell on silly worries, because you’re too busy worrying about your dog, playing with your dog, loving your dog. When I start to worry and stress, my dog puts his head on my lap and my worries evaporate. How can I worry about myself, when I’ve been ignoring my baby.
Sometimes just going out of the house for a minute can help a person get out of their head and feel happy again. Living alone abroad you can easily spend an entire day at home. But just going for a walk twice a day with a dog is so powerful in keeping you happy, healthy, and sane.
Although not every expat can stay at home with their dog during the day, I still believe that for most dogs a comfortable studio apartment and a loving owner is so much better than being kept in a small metal cage with a hundred other barking dogs.
I only look for short-term fosters. Half a month to a month and a half at most. This way I can plan around my travels. But longer fosters are available as well.
Fostering dogs has helped me so much, and I know I’ve helped the dogs so much. If you are interested in fostering in Korea, please contact me! I’d love to help.
Do you have a dog or cat at home? Are you a lonely expat abroad, as well? Or have you adopted a pet abroad? Tell your story in the comments below!