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How to adopt a dog in New York City – our experience

I was very excited to share the news: a month ago, Thiago and I adopted a dog. I preferred to keep this news for a while because I wanted us to live this moment “privately” first and also to have time for things to settle down. We are learning a lot through this process and, of course, I thought that sharing our experience here could help anyone who is also thinking about adopting a dog here in New York City. In this post, I’ll tell you a little more about our story, the adoption process with Korean K9 Rescue, the adaptation process, tips, and much more!

Our journey

I’ve never had a dog, nor my husband. I didn’t grow up being the person who loved animals – quite the opposite, dogs scared me. I think because, in many of the places where I had contact with dogs, they were much more guardians than pets. Also, my parents have never been pet lovers – my dad was bitten by a dog when he was little, and my mom, despite not being against pets, always said that having a pet was a big responsibility and that it would create an attachment she wasn’t ready for. It is also worth remembering that she has always been very concerned about cleaning and, therefore, inserting a pet into our routine was not something she considered.

But time passed, I left Brazil, came to live in New York City and I think it was here that I realized that I wanted to have this expeirence. New York is a city with many dogs. There are roughly 80,000 unique dogs registered in New York City in a given year, The New York Times reports, and there are about 500,000 dogs in the city. On a quick walk around the city, you will see dogs of all breeds and sizes.

Thiago always shared this wish with me but it’s that thing, right… a wish is just a wish. If you want something, you have to make it happen. I was sure of one thing: I didn’t want to die without having had the experience of having a dog. Last year, we started pulling strings. I started exchanging information with some friends and also researching how to adopt. I spent hours on PetFinder – probably the most famous pet adoption website here in the US. We applied to some and while we heard from home, we never heard from others…

It was around that same time that I discovered what I had read a lot on the internet – it’s not the easiest thing in the world to adopt a dog in NYC. In mid-2021, New York Magazine published a cover story that said adopting a dog in the city has become more competitive than getting into college. YEP. Every rescue has its own process, but usually, it involves filling out a long application where you have to show them why you’re going to be a good dog owner, provide contact references, prove that your building allows dogs (another very important detail to take into account ) and also show where you live.

Despite the fact that PetFinder is a great website to look for dogs, what ended up frustrating me is that there are several rescues publishing their dogs there – and for each rescue… a new application. Finding a dog for adoption can be as time-consuming as applying for jobs lol  – I’m serious. So… we ended up getting tired.

Korean K9 Rescue

This year, we talked about the possibility again. After a period in Brazil and meeting the kitten that my brother adopted, I was more convinced of how nice it would be to have an animal. Before you ask me, yes, I love cats, but my heart beats for dogs. By Golden Retrievers specifically – and there are hundreds of them in New York City, before you start judging me, lol.

Around the beginning of March, I heard about Korean K9 Rescue. A girl I follow posted that she had adopted a dog for them and I started following their Instagram profile. Korean K9 Rescue is a non-profit, No-Kill 501(c)(3) dog rescue organization located in Queens, New York City and South Korea. Their facility in Bundang, South Korea houses dogs rescued from dog meat farms, high kill shelters, slaughterhouses, and strays. They provide hope to rescuers and activists whose dogs would otherwise have little chance of survival without adoption. The adoption rate in Korea is less than 15% but it is significantly higher in the United States where they bring most of the dogs for adoption. Over 2,000 dogs have been rescued and successfully adopted through KK9R.

The adoption process through Korean K9 Rescue

Korean K9 Rescue organizes adoption events almost every weekend and we have been at one of these events to learn more, get a better understanding of the process, and see the pups up close. A few days after that event, they posted about a Golden Retriever available for adoption. I thought: it’s now or never. We decided to fill out an application right away, provided references, and crossed our fingers. Everything went very well. After this, they scheduled an online interview via Zoom – we also had to show our apartment – and right after that, they talked to our contacts. We also had confirmation from the building management that we could have a dog, of any breed or size. We were very excited – everything was moving forward and I concluded that the old story – when it’s meant to be, everything works out.

Our application was approved without further ado, but the Golden Retriever already had a match with another candidate. But since we were already approved, we could adopt any other dog within a month. At first, we didn’t want to choose another dog. We were too attached to the Golden and didn’t think it was right to simply choose another dog. However, there was another adoption event that weekend and we decided to go again and meet the other dogs. There are always new pups and these events are a great opportunity to get to know them beyond Instagram photos and videos.

Ricky and Dalbit at the adoption event

And, at this event, we met our Dalbit. Dalbit was 6 months old – and we had ZERO interest in adopting a puppy, as we knew the challenges involved. However, I think that in this world of adoption there is destiny. It was like that with us. Dalbit didn’t even come close to me on the day of the event, but we thought he was super cute. We also liked another puppy – Ricky – who was with him. We came home and a couple of days after thinking and talking we decided to talk to the rescue about our interest in the two of them. Ricky had already been adopted, and Dalbit was still available.

The next step was to arrange a video call with Dalbit’s fosters – Korean K9 Rescue puppies don’t stay in one physical place. The rescue has volunteers who temporarily take care of dogs arriving from Korea until they find a forever home. The couple (thank you!) who were taking care of Dalbit had nothing but only good things to say about him – and we ended up convincing ourselves, after that video call, that he was the right dog for us.

That all happened at the beginning of the week. We would pick up Dalbit the following Saturday – and until then, we had a huge to-do list: buying the items from his supply list (the rescue sends a personalized list), hiring a trainer (they require that), buying food, and attending online training. It was crazy cause we didn’t have a lot of days, but everything worked out. On Saturday, March 26, 11 am, we picked up Dalbit and brought him to his forever home: our house.

First days and adaption

I’m not going to lie: the beginning was too hard for me. Not that I thought it was going to be easy, but I definitely didn’t expect it to be this hard. Everyone says that pets teach us a lot and Dalbit got into my life making me learn more about myself. I realized that I may not be the most open person to radical life changes – yeah, I know, it seems ironic, since I moved to another country, right? And another thing was that I was just more sure of something I already knew: that I’m a control freak. And right, we’re talking about an animal that doesn’t speak our language, which has been through a lot before arriving at our house, which was, in a way, also adapting to us.

Dalbit also made me realize that it would be crazy to adopt a Golden. If a dog his size has given us enough work, imagine a Golden! Do you know that quote that says everything happens for a reason? Well… Today when I see Goldens I still find them charming, but I don’t care as I used to. I remember that the day we decided that we were going to tell the rescue that we were interested in Dalbit, Thiago asked me: why do you want a dog? My answer? To give love and receive love.

Today I can say that my wish has come true and comes true every day. However, that love and bond didn’t happen instantly. I spent a few days questioning our choice. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I was super frustrated with his accidents. I blamed myself for not adopting a cat. I felt miserable. Guilty for my feelings and at the same time exhausted and sad. In one of my Google searches (I’ve lost count of how many things I’ve researched about dogs in this short period of time lol), I found several articles about Puppy Blues. I was relieved to find out that what I was feeling was normal. Also, my friends were very supportive – especially one of them, who has also adopted a dog and confessed to me that she had the same feelings in the beginning. Thiago was amazing – one of his virtues is certainly patience, and he has an easy way of dealing with things.

The days went by, we got to know more about him, he got to know more about us, we got more confidence in the process – he did too – and everything just improved. In fact, everyone told me that it would get better, but you know, when we are in the middle of the storm… everything seems so far away. He’s still going to learn a lot – after all, he’s a puppy, he’ll be 8 months old at the beginning of May – but we’re already in love and we’re happy with everything: watching him play, eat, sleep, even pee and poop in the right place.

About our dog

Dalbit is a Korean Jindo / Corgi mix. His name means “moonlight” in Korean – we could change his name, but, after a while, it didn’t make any sense, plus I love the meaning of it! and we are ready to dance with him until dawn! He and his sister were rescued from the Jeongeup city shelter, where their mother was found choking from a collar that was too small. Dalbit loves to play with his toys, fetch balls, sleep on his cozy mat, loves to stare at the window, and, of course, he is food motivated!

How much does it cost to adopt a dog?

Obviously, adoption costs vary by rescues. In the case of Korean K9 Rescue:

  • The fee for puppies is $700 + $300 cargo fee.
  • Korean K9 Rescue pups are microchipped, vaccinated, and neutered/spayed – Dalbit was neutered when he was already with us, but the procedure was already included, it wasn’t extra.
  • In addition, the rescue requires you to hire training sessions – I’ll talk about that below – which cost $900 (6 sessions).
  • Finally, there’s a list of items you need to buy, from food to a collar, from a crate to toys – I’m guessing we spent at least $400 on buying everything he needed.
  • You also have to pay a license to have a dog in NYC – it costs about $8 a year.

It’s not cheap to either adopt a dog in New York and maintain it. It’s very important to keep that in mind.

Training sessions

As I previously mentioned, Korean K9 Rescue requires you to hire training sessions (they recommend a professional). But honestly, even if they didn’t demand it, it would be something Thiago and I would do for sure. It’s our first dog, we didn’t have any experience and we knew that professional help would be great for us and for Dalbit.

The rescue recommended yus Raquel Stone, from Mountain Bound K9 Training, and the best thing we did was schedule a session for the day after Dalbit was adopted. She was so supportive and gave us several tips. We still have a few more sessions with her and I should come back to update this post when we finish the sessions.

Food

Korean K9 Rescue takes a holistic approach and the dogs are fed a diet of fresh food – real food. We knew absolutely nothing about dog food, but now that we have entered this universe, we realize that there is, at least here in the US, a very strong movement against industrialized dog food (kibble) – which apparently is not that healthy – and in favor of real food. Browsing Pinterest, it is not difficult to find various dog food recipes and luckily there are brands that specialize in this niche. One of them is Just Food for Dogs, which Dalbit has been eating since arriving in the US.

The brand was created after founder Shawn Buckley started cooking for her own dogs and saw an immediate difference in their health. She hired a team of veterinarians and specialists to develop healthy, nutritionally balanced meals. There are several meal options – beef, chicken, fish, turkey. You can buy it on the website or at Petco stores – a pet shop chain here in the USA.

Then you think: oh ok, since it is real food, I could cook it myself. Yes, you can! Just Food for Dogs sells the supplement to be added to the recipe, in case you want to buy the ingredients and make it yourself. Dalbit has already tried the turkey and chicken recipe and he loves it! Also, the Just Food for Dogs team is super cool. I had questions about the frequency of meals and quantities and they really helped me to figure it out. The brand sells the meals frozen or in TetraPack packages.

Favorite products

We bought a lot of things for Dalbit and here I decided to highlight the most useful products:

Final tips and advice

I’m not a dog expert – this is just the beginning of our journey – but you are not born knowing everything, right? So if you live here in NYC and are considering adopting a dog, here is my beginner advice:

  • Check with your landlord if you are allowed to have a dog. Rescues ask for proof of authorization.
  • Evaluate your routine – and try to take a few days OFF during the first days with the dog. It’s not easy, and it will be better if you have no other worries.
  • Remember that you have to take the dog for a walk (and relieve himself – Dalbit, today, pees and poops outside only) – it’s a daily commitment.
  • Do the math and have money for emergencies, as you never know… Also, research not only upfront but maintenance costs.
  • There are several services for dogs in the city – from daycare to hotel, from dog walker to dog sitter. Talk to friends to get tips and recs, because sooner or later, you’re going to need them.
  • Get Pet Insurance – we are still deciding which one to get.
  • Consider being a foster first and temporarily taking care of dogs for rescues. Several of them need volunteers and it can be a great test. I wouldn’t surrender my Dalbit – but if I could have given myself one piece of advice, it would have been to have been fostered for a while first, so I could better understand the routine with a dog.
  • Get pet insurance! We haven’t decided which one we are going to get, but it is important!
  • Last but not least, I couldn’t recommend Korean K9 Rescue enough! At first, I thought they were very picky – despite knowing the reasons for it – however, I realize how essential their instructions were for our process, not to mention that Dalbit had some problems at the beginning and their support was essential! I recommend checking out their website for any questions about the adoption process and also following their Instagram page.

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