Yuna's Adoption Story: Welcoming My First Rescue Dog

Overall, I remember those first three weeks pretty well. But some of the struggles that I documented were quite surprising to read over one and a half years later.

February 23rd, 2020

This is the story of Yuna’s adoption.

We initially published this story as 6 separate posts, the first of which was nearly one and a half years ago now.

An adorable dog peering out of a circular blue playground equipment piece.

With Yuna’s 4th birthday coming up, I decided to take a stroll down memory lane and read through all six parts.

This post combines all six parts into one. I also inserted my own commentary in italics–commentary from the “experienced” me after having Yuna for a year and a half, and knowing all her quirks.

Without further ado, let’s begin the story.

Prelude

Renee, they called her. She was a yellow Labrador, 2.5 years old, insanely cute.

The original online listing in which I found my rescue dog, who the shelter named Renee.
Initial online listing for Yuna/Renee.

I had found her online at Ginger’s Pet Rescue. The moment I tampered with the idea of adopting her, I sent out an email inquiry.

It was so impulsive. But I was in Seattle, doggy heaven. If I didn’t get a dog now, who knew if I ever would.

Part 1: First Impressions

I wasn’t smiling the first time I saw her at the rescue.

Ginger’s Pet Rescue told me Renee was flying in from Korea on September 1st. They said I could adopt her on that day if I attended their adoption event.

Well, there I was, standing in front of her cage. Looking at her in the flesh.

Concern spread through my face. She scared me.

This dog was stressed. Having just gotten off a long flight and thrusted into this new environment, she was restless.

She barked incessantly at the other dogs at the event. She darted around the limited space of her cage, and I saw her knock over her water bowl in distress.

Looking closer, I noticed a small bloody wound right above her nose. Apparently she was so agitated that she banged her snout against the cage.

Renee's first lay on her new bed in her new home.
Yuna's first time on her new bed. You can see the small wound on her snoot.

The volunteers were forced to put a cloth over her cage to cool off a bit in isolation. While I could not see her, I heard her continued frantic pacing in the cage.

I stepped to the side, anxiously waiting for her to calm down.

One and a half years later, I still remember this vividly. Yuna being absolutely restless to the point where she needed isolation. I question that memory sometimes. It was, and still is, the complete opposite of her usual demeanor.

Soon enough, a volunteer decided to take her out of her cage for a walk. It would give her a chance to get away from all the commotion and stress.

I watched from a distance as the volunteer allowed Yuna to get her bearings outside. When it seemed like she became more composed, the volunteer called for me to assist him in walking her.

Still nervous, I approached Renee, who honestly couldn’t have cared less about my existence. She paid me absolutely no attention.

The volunteer accompanied me on my first mission: to help Renee find a bathroom. We headed toward the surrounding grassy areas.

He took the reins at first. As an extra precaution to Renee’s anxiety, he double-leashed her with both a collar and harness.

While he guided Renee across the grassy lot, he shared some invaluable advice to me about dog care.

Before long, I got a crack at walking her. The moment I took control, I felt huge tension in the leash.

She was pulling and tugging toward her whimsical destinations, all 64 pound of doggy muscle and fat. Moreover, having held a leash (two, in fact!) for the first time, I was overly mindful of pulling back too hard. I wasn’t sure if I’d choke her.

We found a couple places to potty, and though she still seemed to have a mind of her own, I think we were able to get off the right foot and paw.

A picture of me walking Renee for the first time near the adoption event.
First walk with Yuna, at the adoption event.

I actually had pre-chosen a name for her–Yuna. And just like that, a couple signatures later, Yuna and I were on the way home.

It’s funny how I made that sound so quick and simple: it definitely was not just “sign here sign there ok you’re good.” Some volunteers debated whether a Lab was a good fit for me. They spent a lot of time warning me about how high-energy they were and how much time I would have to devote to them. They showed concern about my lack of experience combined with my impulsive urge to adopt her so quickly. I don’t blame them. But I knew what I wanted. I wanted a Lab.

Part 2: The First Day

Oh, she was putrid.

She made my car stink. She made our house stink. Everywhere she walked, she made stinkier.

Yuna was a stinky girl.

Again, it’s funny because I remember how bad she smelled. But this is also a memory I question sometimes. Now, Yuna actually smells nice because I wipe her down with a grooming wipe every night. She could go many weeks without a bath and still smell fresh. I didn’t know how long it was since her last bath/grooming session for her to get THAT stinky.

We had purchased a few dog supplies on the way back. The basics, like food, bowls, and even a few toys.

But nothing mattered more to me than the bottle of shampoo we bought. Before we could do anything with Yuna, I was intent on giving her a thorough bath.

That, in theory, did not sound difficult. Apply shampoo, scrub, and rinse. But as with many other things, there are always surprises.

I tag-teamed with my roommate for this. Man, we were such noobs.

First off, we didn’t apply enough shampoo. Yuna wasn’t covered in suds like the soapy dogs we Googled.

Moreover, we didn’t know how to effectively communicate with her. She sat like a statue in the corner of our small shower tub, making it difficult for us to scrub down her whole body.

And perhaps worst of all, we did not have a very good drying solution. All we had were two extra towels. They were no match for one wet dog.

So, as a result, Yuna came out of that bath pretty much as stinky and dirty as when she went in. Resigned, I scheduled a bath and grooming session with a local Petco. They would go on to do a phenomenal job.

They still do! It’s getting harder and harder to get a reservation with them now…

After Yuna naturally dried off a bit, we tried having some fun with her. We began by introducing her to all the toys we got.

To my surprise, Yuna acted indifferent towards every single one. I had the impression that Labs were dogs that would go at any toy you threw at them.

She is still quite indifferent to toys, but has gotten better over time. She still rarely initiates play. You have to initiate it most times in order to get some play out of her. A lot of people who interact with her for the first time don’t know this. They just throw a ball and expect her to fetch it–good luck! You have to really bring the ball to life and get your whole act into making the ball the most interesting thing in the room. That’ll hype her up to chase after it.

I forgave her indifference, thinking she was just tired.

Despite this, I felt Yuna warmed up quickly to us. Everywhere we went in the house, she would follow, curious but sluggish. She never wanted to lose sight of us.

She would always pick out a spot where she could see at least one of me or my roommate.

Not long after, she recognized her bed. Ultimately she just wanted to take a nice nap.

Yuna napping on her bed after coming home from the adoption event.
Zzz.

There were still a bunch of dog supplies I had to get. I tiptoed my way to the front door and made my way out as silently as possible, trying not to wake Yuna.

My roommate would later tell me she woke up anyway. Apparently she got up from her slumber, followed my scent all the way to the front door, and then circled back to her bed for another nap.

I came back later, arms full of dog supplies as well as McDonald’s for me and my roommate. Dinner time.

First, Yuna. We were not sure how long it was since she last ate, and thus fed her a pretty generous portion of kibble.

She wolfed down the entire bowl.

When it was time for the humans to eat, we had our first glimpse of just how heartwarming a dog can be. Though she still smelled, she lay peacefully at our feet beneath the dinner table while we went at our McDonald’s.

I hope she realized this was her new forever home!

Yuna laying under the dinner table, taking a nap.

Part 3: The First Night

Though the first day felt extremely long, day became night fairly quickly. It was time for Yuna’s first night.

Almost nobody tells you that their first night with a new dog was pleasant. I knew this going in and expected a sleepless night.

My bedroom is nice and cozy. I have a setup where I place Yuna’s bed right next to my own twin-sized bed.

The good news is, she was already extremely familiar with her bed. It was probably the only thing she grew attracted to instantly upon entering our apartment.

Just as before, she cozied up in it like it had always been home sweet home. It was a cooling memory foam mattress so she wouldn’t get too warm sleeping on it. Also, because Seattle seems infamous for not installing air conditioners in most apartments.

I turned the lights out at 11:30, and Yuna seemed ready to just doze the night off on her bed. I had no trouble passing out either. It was a long day.

However, I soon woke to the sound of thumps on the wall, mixed with extremely quick panting. I glanced at the clock–12:30.

I peered down next to me and saw Yuna’s big eyes staring back at me. Her tail was wagging, banging against the wall. Sorry roommate.

She was laying down for the moment but appeared hyper and restless. I grew concerned at her fast breathing–fast and shallow, almost like hyperventilation.

In an attempt to calm her down, I cranked my ceiling fan to the highest setting and gently pet her head. But nothing alleviated her quick panting.

I got up and motioned to the water bowl I left her near the door to my bedroom. Did she need a drink perhaps? Nope, that wasn’t it.

Well, dogs have their own reasons for keeping you up the first night. Many say it’s because they miss their families, or in Yuna’s case, her previous owners.

Of course, I didn’t know who her previous owners were. Nor do I know if Yuna even remembers them.

According to the rescue, she was nearly sold to the meat market before they rescued her and flew her here to Seattle on a one-way ticket. How long she lived without a true owner I’ll probably never know.

All I did know was that she seemed very anxious about the current situation, so I stayed up a little longer to keep her company.

I observed her closely, and it was clear she was still tired, yawning at frequent intervals.

I now know that yawning is a stress signal for many dogs. Yuna wasn’t tired, she was stressed out of her mind. That also explains the hyperventilation.

I forget how, but I think I dozed off watching her yawn, and she probably fell asleep right after.

But it would again be a short slumber. This time, I woke to the same quick pants, interspersed with cries and whimpers. Clock: 4AM.

I peered down at Yuna, concerned again. I decided to open my bedroom door. Yuna rushed outside to the living room.

Perhaps she needed to potty? I wasn’t very good at reading the cues yet, but I didn’t really want to take her out for a potty break at 4AM anyways.

I sat down on our sofa and tapped the spot next to me. Yuna understood this one and jumped on the sofa, sitting nicely.

I again tried teasing her with the toys. Limited reaction, but this time she accepts a tennis ball in her mouth and chews on it for a bit.

Yuna laying on a sofa in the middle of the night, surrounded by her new toys.

For a good while, I tried sleeping on the sofa with her, but it wasn’t super comfortable for either of us. We retired to the bedroom again.

I then made a controversial decision that might impact my sleep for a long time to come.

Controversial?

I jumped back in bed, and tapped on my bed. Again, she understood this perfectly and hopped on next to me. She curled up and got real comfy.

Haha, I don’t consider this controversial at all anymore. I love having Yuna cozied up in my bed. Sure, you run out of real estate sometimes… but it’s so worth it.

Remember, she still reeked. Hygiene was a real concern, but I felt like I could sacrifice that tonight for the warmth and feeling of sleeping next to a giant fuzzball.

It was a peaceful night until around 6:30AM. I decided to wake up for good and take her out for a morning walk.

As she jumped off my bed, I noticed she left it in shambles. It smelled like a wreck and it was clear that Labs definitely do shed. A lot.

Yeah buddy, they are never going to stop shedding.

Part 4 – My Dog Ate My Budget

The day I got Yuna happened to be the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, and that should’ve meant a relaxing long weekend of free time and play. For me, it was 100% Yuna.

I quickly learned that the first few days of getting a dog, while communication between the two of you isn’t very well-established, can get stressful at times.

Much, or all of that stress was self-imposed. I was quite sensitive to every single action or movement Yuna made.

Every so often I would steal a glance at her, just to check out what she’s doing and make sure she’s still being a good dog. If she changed her lying position, or moved to a new spot, I always tended to overanalyze why she did what she did.

While it seems like giving her all this attention was a good thing to do, it definitely left no time for me. I would voluntarily break my concentration on tasks just to keep tabs on Yuna.

Yuna under the bright lights laying under my desk.

I did not leave much time to take care of myself.

In fact, a couple times, after I fed Yuna her food, for some reason I had this subconscious thought that I had fed myself already too. I missed a few breakfasts and nearly a few dinners because of this.

I did? That seems very uncharacteristic of me. I hope I was exaggerating.

The one thing I did not expect in adopting a dog was how expensive it would be right off the bat.

Sure, I had a budget in mind, but Yuna ate that up pretty quickly. Especially since she had to come all the way over from Korea.

It was still probably cheaper than reserving a puppy from a litter, but the numbers still have me scratching my head.

In addition to that, costs of food, snacks, toys, bowls, bed, and other pet essentials you need–cleaners, shampoo, freshener because our house stinks–all rack up fast. Check out our shopping list here.

I definitely bought all these things without too much regard for finding the best deals, simply because I needed them. If I had a do-over, I wouldn’t just grab the first items I saw off the shelves!

The other thing you realize about having a dog is that they’ll have to be alone eventually. It was difficult to leave Yuna by herself. Even while I used the bathroom, she got a little fidgety and knocked on the door sometimes.

I remember during one of our first vet visits to Yuna, I brought up possible separation anxiety. Silly me. Her behavior wasn’t anything close to separation anxiety. Some dogs literally dig a hole in the wall when their owner leaves. Yuna just whimpered a couple times but was otherwise extremely calm. Normal doggy behavior. Still, just the whimpering made me go ballistic. Talk about inexperience.

Thinking we should give Yuna a “being alone” test, my roommate and I decided to leave the house for a short time–about an hour and a half. Before leaving, we set up a camera facing the door to capture our guinea pig dog’s reaction.

We heard a few whimpers after locking the door, and the video confirms this.

Luckily, Yuna is a pretty mature dog who doesn’t really claw or chew at furniture. Nothing was damaged when we returned… except maybe a little part of Yuna herself?!

She seemed to develop a sort of trauma for the rest of the evening. My roommate and I decided to meal prep for the week ahead, and while we were cooking, Yuna laid right in front of the door.

I would’ve loved to think she was guarding us from evil, but chances are she just didn’t want us wandering out the door without her again.

Yuna laying in front of our door, as if guarding us.

Anyways, definitely be prepared for the changes in schedule and spending you will face immediately after getting your furry companion.

Part 5: Settling Into A Routine

I’ve heard from a few dog owners during walks who say that caring for a pup is “all about consistency.”

When you get a new dog, you want them to fall into a routine so that they get used to your lifestyle and ease into the new environment.

For many dogs, it takes a good month or two before they get cozy in a new set of circumstances.

Caring for Yuna who definitely take patience and consistency. I wanted her to feel at home ASAP, so I defined a schedule for her early on. I’ll share a typical weekday:

8:00AM – Wake up, get myself ready

8:30AM – Breakfast. For me and Yuna.

9:00AM – Be out the door with Yuna (on the way to work). This is a long walk, around 30 minutes or more.

9:30AM – Arrive at work. Let Yuna chill.

1:15PM – Lunch break short walk, mainly for potty break.

1:30PM – Return to office, let Yuna chill again.

5:30PM – Leave office, begin the second long walk home.

6:15PM – Arrive home, dinner time.

9:30PM – Final potty break.

9:45PM – Return home. Wipe down paws, go through grooming routine (brush teeth or brush fur, depending on what’s needed)

12:00AM – Bedtime.

I have been following this religiously, and yes, Yuna does get to go to work with me!

This schedule is still very accurate!

Yuna looking happy at her first day of work as an office dog!
Yuna's a working dog!

A routine not only refers to Yuna’s macro day schedule, but also in the micro–the details of each of her daily activities. Perhaps one of the most important is her eating.

The first day she came home with us, she wolfed down nearly two and a half cups of kibble in one sitting. So she found the food at least agreeable.

Our aim was to get Yuna to slim down. So from the next meal on we fed her one level down of her suggested weight group, which meant about one and a half cups per meal.

I decided to implement a policy of leaving her bowl out for 15 minutes and then cleaning it up, finished or not.

I figured that after repeating this a few times, this would give her an idea of how long she had for dinner time.

For her quick potty breaks, I also decided to take an identical route every time. It was just a quick 5 to 10 minute loop involving two crosswalks, and there were ample opportunities for her to take care of her business.

The stress that I felt the first few days naturally subsided over time. As I learned more about taking care of her from observing her behaviors, I was able to achieve a better balance of my own life.

This, in turn, helped me enjoy having Yuna a lot more.

Whenever she displayed another one of her peculiarities, I approached it less with a mind of overanalyzing all the possibilities of her behavior, and more of just enjoying the moment and learning more about her personality.

Yuna and me, giving each other funny looks.

I would’ve told the first-week-dog-owner-me not to stress over everything. Because nearly everything–the vet, the rescue, the daycare, the local Petco, the Internet–are all there to help you understand how to care for your dog. And how to settle into your routine so you can have the best time with your pup.

After that, it’s up to the dog owner. I contribute my part by being as consistent as I can. I think it’s the surest way to get Yuna closer to behaving like her usual self every day.

Part 6: Three Week Evaluation

It’s been a little over three weeks since adopting Yuna at the time of this writing. I think I have observed enough samples of her behavior to have some idea of her personality.

I wanted to use this final part to give a few points on where I think Yuna could use some improvement, and also highlight the areas in which I think she excels.

Starting with her weaknesses first (so we can end this on a good note!).

Yuna doesn’t walk very well on leash. Perhaps it has to do with the new environment, or the fact that her old owners in Korea didn’t take her out much.

I notice other dogs following their owners close during walks, unfazed by all the distractions around them. Maintaining a loose leash the whole time.

Meanwhile, Yuna tugs so hard on her leash it leaves marks on my wrist. I hope we can work on this over time.

Today, this is still a minor problem. It’s not nearly as bad as when I first got her. Yuna actually is able to keep a loose leash most of the time when I’m walking to work–but admittedly, that is a very brisk walk.

Whenever I slow down to a casual stroll, Yuna will rush forward every couple of steps. She definitely has lots of room for improvement here, but she has already made great strides. We’ve been following this blueprint to improve her leash walking–it’s helped us out a lot so far.

Yuna isn’t super well-socialized with dogs. This is definitely related to the previous point. I’m sure many dogs struggle with this, but Yuna lunges hard at other dogs while she is on leash (at dog parks or at daycare, she is fine).

She is a very social dog, eager to meet everyone she sees on a walk, and gets frustrated when she sees other dogs but cannot greet them.

At the beginning, she tugged so hard on her collar toward other dogs that you could hear her choking herself. I have switched to using a harness as a result, but her habits still remain.

In some cases, she barks and whimpers when she cannot meet another dog. However, I see her gradually improving in this area as we go on more walks and experience more of these situations. It just takes more time and practice.

Practice was key. Yuna is much better at this now, though obviously far from perfect. She has stopped lunging entirely, and never chokes herself anymore. She will still perch her ears and stare at a dog if one is nearby, but if I raise my pitch and voice and call for her she will usually respond and eventually come back to me.

With a treat, we are able to walk right past a dog in close proximity to us. It’s much less reliable without the treat, but that is already an insane improvement from her first few weeks. We are working on weaning out the treat.

Yuna seems to be a somewhat picky eater. In the three weeks that I have had Yuna, I couldn’t quite figure out her eating.

She was overweight when I got her, so I decided to feed her a smaller portion each day according to the weight class below her current weight. But she doesn’t even finish that portion. She eats very inconsistently, sometimes gulping down the entire meal, and other times leaving half of it untouched.

A yellow Lab standing on her hind legs in a yellow rain jacket, reaching for a delicious treat.

I have experimented with dry kibble, wet canned food, and an unsightly mix of the two. I have tried slightly microwaving her kibble to enhance the flavor. I’ve even tried mixing two flavors of the same brand of kibble.

Nothing seemed to consistently tickle her taste buds, and anything that seems to work well for one meal is unwelcome the next.

I have heard of stories where many dogs in Asia eat the same food humans eat–whether that’s because there is not really kibble readily available, or the owners are just less mindful of their dog’s diet. I can only speculate, but perhaps Yuna got a little spoiled. Or perhaps she’s still just adjusting to the new environment and new food.

Now this was just insane to read about. Yuna being picky? Nowadays, she’ll eat anything in her bowl!

Now onto the list of positives!

Yuna is housebroken. This was a huge benefit and one I totally didn’t expect when welcoming Yuna. The moment she stepped into our house, she seemed to know to not jump on furniture. She even knew that our bathroom and kitchen were off-limits.

Best of all, she has never had an accident at home to date. That box of one hundred absorbent pee pads will just have to collect dust.

Ah, I still have that box of pee pads. I’ll probably be gifting them to a new dog owner soon.

Yuna is calm. There are times when you just want your dog to chill out, and this is definitely Yuna’s default mode. She is not always steaming with energy. She’s quite mellow and tough to get into a playing mood unless you initiate it.

Moreover, she never barks at home. This is a huge plus when bringing her to work–most of the time she just lays there, not being disruptive. Overall, a very civilized lady.

Calm is the word. Sometimes, Yuna is in the office and some coworkers aren’t even aware she’s there. That’s how quiet and well-behaved she is.

Yuna is well-socialized with humans. She doesn’t display any sort of aggression toward other humans, and absolutely loves to greet new people. Whenever someone new walks towards her and expresses interest in meeting Yuna, her tail goes off and she is more than welcoming to pets and scratches.

If you make eye contact with Yuna and smile, it’s over. You HAVE to greet her and pet her now.

Yuna is trainable and smart. Labradors have a reputation of being smart. Yuna was initially pretty tough to communicate with. She was pretty unwilling to accept even the highest caliber of treats from us (like real chicken), but she got a lot better over the weeks.

From not understanding her name, to now being able to respond to “sit,” “shake,” and “down,” Yuna is still very trainable. I think she’s definitely capable of learning some neat tricks down the line.

This one is an interesting one. While I definitely think Yuna is smart, I would have to disagree with her being very “trainable.”

Can she still be trained? Of course. It just isn’t as easy because Yuna will often just give up after she fails to do a command a couple times. A great example was the process of her learning “sit pretty.” It took months of short, consistent training bursts to just get both her paws off the ground. And whenever she felt like giving up–well, that would be it for the day. You had to just try again tomorrow.

Yuna doing a lazy sit pretty trick in front of a brilliant beach in Seattle.

Even if you ramped up the value of that treat, she would give up if you didn’t give her a treat for her efforts. But she still did eventually learn the command, so she is definitely capable.

Yuna also is pretty bad at discerning words (although her “sit” and “stay” are rock solid). She will often just do a command (either “shake,” “down,” or “sit pretty”) in response to anything just to see if that’s what you wanted.

Well, we should definitely spend some more time on this.

Yuna’s coat is beautiful and soft. The rescue listed her as a yellow Labrador, but she is definitely mixed with something. I wonder if she has some Golden Retriever in her, because her coat is a lot softer than your typical Lab, and is a more vibrant shade of gold than a lot of other yellow Labs. It feels great to touch and cuddle up to.

Yuna is still a mystery box! There are still so many things yet to discover in Yuna, it is like trying to unlock different achievements. There’s the time she did her first etch. The first time we figured out how to get her to run like a lunatic around the house (zoomies). And her reactions to smelling all sorts of weird human things like carrots and coffee (note: coffee is poisonous for dogs).

Getting Yuna has been an absolute joy and I hope she continues to surprise me (in positive ways) down the road.

Yuna working hard on a stuffed lion, tearing it to pieces.

Well, that was the first three weeks of Yuna’s rescue story. We hope that in reading it you were as entertained as Yuna was tearing apart this poor stuffed lion.

Final Conclusion – 1.5 Years Later

And that’s a wrap! Overall, I remember those first three weeks pretty well. But some of the struggles that I documented were quite surprising to read over one and a half years later.

Yuna being picky? Me mistaking her normal dog behavior as separation anxiety? There’s a lot that seemed so out of sync with our day-to-day experience now.

But it just goes to show how things can be rocky at first with a new rescue. It’s not just the dog that feels off–you may feel off as well having introduced this huge new responsibility in your life.

It all pays off though. Trust me! It did many times over with Yuna.

And now we’re sharing our experiences to other dog owners on this blog and on Yuna’s Instagram! Be sure to follow us for more free dog tips and daily Yuna updates.

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