Meet Mary: Rescuing A Puppy in Korea

Last month, when I thought about my life in Korea, or the immediate future, having a pet was not one of my thoughts or aspirations. I love to travel and am always hesitant about acquiring what I like to think of as “permanent possessions”, or something that can’t be left behind or replaced. I don’t have an eReader or a large camera and I resist buying clothing that I’ll ultimately get rid of before my next big move. There are multiple international flights in my foreseeable future. For someone who travels, owning a dog is pretty much last on the list of things that will make life easier. But sometimes… life doesn’t really care about any of that.

A photo was uploaded to the local expat Facebook group: a sad, tiny puppy face in need of a bath looked right at the camera. The note said, “Can someone come pick up this puppy for me? I’m at the bus station, about to catch my bus, and this puppy is being kicked around. She’s alone.”

This sad face needed some help.
This sad face needed some help.

Rescued shortly thereafter by another expat, she was given a temporary box and place inside. As the cards fell and a day passed, the messenger explained that he couldn’t actually keep the puppy. Someone else would have to find a home for her. Several people expressed interest, but all of them needed to check on one thing or another first, like their landlord allowing a puppy or roommates being okay with it. I volunteered to puppy sit her for one night, when most other people were out of town.

When I met her, she was terrified. Tiny. Afraid of everything. But, she was far from aggressive and her underlying sweetness was hard to miss. She came into my home and followed me around from room to room, determined to keep me in sight. She was missing patches of hair, scratching continuously and clearly underfed. She really needed some love.

Meet Mary.
Even abandoned and sick puppies want belly rubs.

But by the end of my puppy sitting responsibilities, the verdicts had come in and all those who had expressed interest in taking care of her had run into issues. They wouldn’t be able to take her in. She was still homeless.

Korean dog shelters are not all bad, but there’s been plenty of shady dealings to read about in the news. Some shelters were found selling dogs to dog meat factories (illegal in Korea, but not enforced). The closest one was an hour away, by car, anyways. As well, Korean culture typically has very little concern for the wellness of dogs, housing them in cages outside for all hours of the day. Spaying and neutering are uncommon, and most dogs are seen as dirty animals, not to be kept in your house. There’s no general consensus that dogs need loved, not merely fed and watered. These factors all coalesced, and the thought of sending a young puppy with a naturally sweet demeanor to the shelter, where best case scenario, a family would feed and water her in a cage outside, became a non-option.

And so, the only option remaining was to live with me. This is how it came to be that I adopted a new puppy. I named her Mary.

Mary, sitting pretty at home.
Mary, sitting pretty at home.

Further Reading: The Legality of Dog Meat in Korea & Korea’s Dog Meat Trade: An Overview [Heads up: sad!]


Have you ever had to change your plans drastically because something came up? Was that something an adorable four-month-old puppy? What would you have done with Mary?

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23 thoughts on “Meet Mary: Rescuing A Puppy in Korea”

    1. my landlord has no problem with it and is even warming up to Mary a little bit these days. it’s a good set up!

  1. Awwwwww. I’m such a dog lover but, like you, I travel a lot so have resigned myself to the fact that I’ll probably never own one. I would definitely have done the same as you though, Sally. That’s so lovely of you to take her in. <3 She is absolutely adorable.

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