Thursday, March 13, 2008


희망 (pronounced Hee-mong) is the name of our new puppy. And the process of making her ours is quite a story full of ups, but many more downs.

I wish I could say that it was one of those typical stories where we saw her sitting in a lonely cage, sulking with her head down while children and adults alike were walking by her to get to the more popular puppies and dogs. I wish I could say that we went to the pound and saved that four year old dog that just recovered from the mange who will most certainly be passed over for the younger, healthier and, no doubt, cuter dogs. However, the experience of buying and taking 희망 home might be all too typical and that is why I am writing this post.

고운 and I had been discussing getting a dog for some time. Nothing too serious, but we both knew that we would love to have one. So, one night after finishing dinner at her moms house, we ventured to Chungmuro (충무로). Chungmuro is the number one place to buy puppies in Korea. Breeders from all over Korea breed their dogs and wait for the very frequent puppy auctions so they can sell as many puppies as they have bred. It's quite a business, but therein lies the problem: it's only a business to these breeders. Having not met any of these breeders or been to their farms, I can't claim to know how genuine their love for these animals are, but judging by the prices, I can attest for their love of the won. Hundreds of animals are dispersed throughout the busy puppy district each week and hundreds of animals go home with new families. It seems wonderful, right? Here's our story...

We went to a couple of stores and found some cute puppies, but couldn't manage to negotiate the already inflated price as well as we had hoped. As we became increasingly frustrated, the neighboring stores' big-glass windows displaying cage after cage of puppies easily drew us in for another look.

The small crowded 2 by 2 cages housed between five to eight dogs. The were rolling around in yellow shredded paper bedding that was stained with puppy diarrhea. There were about four or five employees there just ready and waiting to "help" you through the process. I pointed to a little beagle and the worker removed her from the pin and placed her on the table in a protective circular cage. Like all puppies, she was wild. Licking, jumping, running and so eager to put on her best face in hopes of finding her new family. All beagles are cute, but this one had a grimace that we just could not get over. Sadly, we returned her and kept looking. Then 고 noticed this tiny little pup that was quietly minding her own business in the corner of the busy cage. We pointed her out and they removed her and placed her on the table. She immediately changed her mood and started going wild. She was our dog.

We starting negotiating the price.

"350,000 won," the employee quoted.

Immediately we fired back with a lower price. "200,000 won!"

He laughed and started going on and on about the dogs sex and all the costs that they have to pay. I didn't believe a word he was saying. I usually don't buy a word any salesman claims. We stayed strong and watch his price continue to fall. Finally, we landed on 225,000 won. (That, by the way, is a little more than 225 USD.) We asked if she had shots and they said it had, but it was practice to NOT provide documents confirming such vaccinations. Why? They could not and would not respond further. Having a little faith in mankind, I ran to the ATM and returned with the cash to find that the salesman had already "boxed" our new puppy up and was including extras like a cheap bed, three baggies of food, a can of chicken and a bottle of expired shampoo (exp. Nov 2006). The excitement of having a puppy outweighed the concern the "extras". At some point from the time I returned with the cash and being handed 희망, a contract was produced quickly and signed even quicker.

We got her home and attempted to build a make-shift barrier for her to sleep in during the night. She whined and somehow broke free and spent that night (and most others) right in between me and 고운. The next day we took her to the vet to get an opinion about our pup. He looked at her poop, took her temperature and said she looked fine. We returned home that afternoon and continued playing with the newest member of our family. A couple hours of on and off playing and sleeping, she started having diarrhea and was vomiting. We called the vet and were instructed to bring her back.

After looking at her, he asked us where we bought her. We told him that we got her from Chungmuro. He did not say anything one way or the other, but his face and the level of concern changed very quickly. He decided that we should take a Parvo and Corona test. We started getting very worried. I had a roommate in college who had a beagle that had to be euthanized because Parvo had so badly infected his body. We did not want that to happen to our little 희망이. The results popped up on the strip. She had Corona and was showing signs of Parvo. It was horrible to hear, especially when you look at the sweet little face that it has attacked.

We gathered ourselves and walked home. We found the contract that we had, perhaps hastily, signed the night before. It said that if the dog dies within three days of the purchase you can exchange it for another one of the same sex and breed. If it dies between four to fourteen days, then you can get another dog at 50% of the price you paid for your now dead puppy. After that... nothing. We were shocked. We should have thought about the underlying meaning of such a clause, but between the excitement and the rushed atmosphere of the purchase, we simply let it go.

We brought her back to Chungmuro and talked to the guy there and told him. They again claimed that she had her shots and that "This dog is not sick. Look, her tail is wagging." This did not sail this time. We demanded that they do something. It was decided that they would keep her for the week at the attached hospital for care, treatment and observation. That kind of accountability eased our minds (just long enough to pass that three day mark?). We left her there and, with smiles on our face, returned home to clean up the place and get it ready for her return.

The next two days were long. We missed her so much. It's amazing how much an effect a dog can have on people. We only had one full day with this dog, but were heart-broken. We had both shed tears on several occasions. On Tuesday, we decided to go visit her. We walked in the doors and were greeted by four employees that did not know our story. We told one of them and he went and got 희망 from the back. She was not in the hospital. She was in the back. While they were getting her and 고운 was talking with a different employee, I walked down the line of cages. Now, I was a lot more sceptical of these dogs, and with that eye, I noticed something: most of the dogs had diarrhea. I know that puppies can get this and that it doesn't mean that they have Parvo or a virus, but our puppy did have two deadly diseases and she was in those cages just four days before.

희망 surfaced from the back and recognized us immediately. Her excited whimper was so sad and encouraging at the same time. She was very energetic and playful. We hugged her so tight as she nibbled on our ears, nose and hair. While I had been inspecting the cages, 고운 had talked to several different employees and all had given us different stories regarding 희망's care. In the end, we figured out that they had not treated her, not given her shots, not observed her, not put her on a diet and had simply left her in a cage. They lied about everything they promised they had done or would do. One employee who seemed genuine told us that we should take her home and at least be with her in a stress-free environment.

We took her home and then found a new vet as well. The new vet said that the only thing we could do is make her comfortable and see if her body can get over the infection. After days of diarrhea (but no vomit), her stool became firm and formed. She had beat Parvo AND Corona virus and she had done it all by herself.

We bought her new food, toys and even a few treats. She was doing great! So, we brought her to the vet to get all of her shots started officially. She was going to be fine! Hours after she got the shots, the loose stool started again. It was on and off again, but didn't make us feel good. We called the vet. He said if it continues, then we need to head back in. It didn't. Again, her poop became solid and we were feeling great.

About four days ago, she started coughing. We let it go for one day and then we called the vet again. They said bring her in. They looked at her and determined that it didn't sound that bad and they gave her some meds. It was a four day course. Each day that passed her cough got a little worse. Her sweet little eyes started becoming red and gooey. Yesterday I noticed that she was drooling and acting a little unusual. We brought her in AGAIN. As I was walking her wrapped in my light jacket I could feel her coughing and shivering, but her body was very hot. The doctor took one look at her and knew what it was. It was Distemper.

Distemper is arguably the deadliest virus that a canine can get. Of course, Parvo and Corona are a very close second and third. I linked Distemper because I will not be able to continue writing if I have to describe it to you and imagine what our little 희망 is going through. The doctor told us our options: give her the costly treatment which yields a 50% recovery rate or put her to sleep. The second one was not an option, so we opted for the treatment. The doctor and his assistant started prepping her for the IV and sedatives. I was out of the room when this started. I have seen this before and I have a VERY quick and tearful reaction to anything dog related. However, 고 at this point had become too emotional and had to step out of the room. I felt horrible for 희망 facing all of this without a familiar face, so I returned to the room. Her gentle whimpers and cries sank my heart as they set her up on the IV. After it was all in, she calmed down and with one quick last look, she was taken from us and brought to the back where she will quietly try to beat yet another virus.

I am in tears while I right this. Thinking about her back there all by herself kills me. The thought of her in pain kills me. The thought of her sweet,innocent and unanswered cries kills me. And the thought of her dying all by herself without us there with her kills me.

희망 has proven herself a fighter and I know she can fight yet again. No puppy should have to face these kinds of obstacles when they enter the world. However, we can't change what has happened to her and all we can do is be strong for her and ourselves.

I should add that the name 희망 means "hope". So, let's all have 희망 for OUR little puppy, 희망, who is fighting for her life in a very dark world. We love you and miss you so much, 희망!!!


고 called me at work. The vet called and said that she was not getting better and that they need to try another type of treatment. Grim...


Mom said...

So very sad...we are praying for little Hope!!!

Kristin said...

Hope has been in our prayers since we heard the news the other night. We're so sorry you all are going through this. I can't imagine how tough it would be but you're doing the right thing by treating her and we're believing she's going to pull through this one too- she's a fighter!

Alvin Kim said...

Do not ever buy dogs from Chungmuro. They are all from puppy mills. I bought a Miniature Pinscher and it died in 4days.

Alvin Kim said...

Do not ever buy dogs from Chungmuro. They are all from puppy mills. I bought a Miniature Pinscher and it died in 4days.

Alvin Kim said...

Do not ever buy dogs from Chungmuro. They are all from puppy mills. I bought a Miniature Pinscher and it died in 4days.