How we adopted Kimchi from Karama

This is the story of Kimchi, a miniature pinscher adopted by me and my husband from the Karama shelter.

I have been wanting to adopt a dog for a long time. We always had cats in our home, great pets but you can not take them with you for a walk or holiday. When it comes to dogs I am not a big fan of small dogs, my favorite breeds include the Weimaraner, Viszla and Greyhound. Since me and my husband both work and do not own an enormous backyard we decided a small dog would fit our life better. We still wanted an active dog that likes to go out for long walks, is smart and has a bit of 'spice'. Also we preferred a short haired dog and it would be a bonus if the dog would be small enough to use our cat-door so it can go outside into our small yard when we are not at home. After careful consideration we decided a miniature pinscher would be the dog for us. We knew it is not a breed for first-time dog owners but were confident we could handle this dominant and smart breed.

When I checked the Karama website to see which dogs were available I found there were 4 miniature pinschers at that time. There was a puppy, an adult (5 years), a senior (10 years) and a really big one (7 kilo's of minpin!). We decided to go with the adult one. With great help of the ARK community (thank you all who helped out!) I was able to fill in the adoption application and send it to Karama.

Karama is the municipal shelter and has a kill policy. The dog's owner has about one month to claim his dog back from the shelter. After the month the dog is up for adoption. If nobody wants to adopt it, the dog will be put to sleep. The shelter is filled with dogs who are all kept in small cages. Many of the dogs are pure breeds like poodles, labradors, husky's and shepherds. It makes you wonder how all of these expensive and well-groomed dogs ended up there and are not claimed back by their owners?

After sending in the adoption form I called Minnie, Karama's English speaker and she confirmed we could adopt the miniature pinscher. She also mentioned the minpin was in good health but was whining a lot. No wonder, I would complain if someone would put me in a small cage!
After two weeks we got the green light to pick her up. We had to wait for a long time in the waiting room before we could finally meet her. When they brought her I immediately noticed she did not look well. She was very skinny, was coughing and acted very passive. I asked the staff if they could take her temperature and it showed she had a high fever. I asked the staff for how long she had been like this and they said she was okay before and had eaten well. I still don't believe that was the case. The shelter's vet advised us not to take her and he would put her to sleep. Off course we fell in love with her the minute we took her in our arms so we decided to adopt her and take her to the vet in Seoul to see if she would have a chance of survival. At that moment I thought it might be a case of kennel cough and it should be easy to treat her.

In the car back home Kimchi (that's how named her) crawled up to me and was very sweet. We took her home where we noticed she did not want to eat and her body weight was only 3 kilograms (according to the Karma website it had been 4 kilograms when she was brought in). She was coughing a lot and did not have a lot of energy. We took her to Doctor Pet's where the lovely Doctor Lee took her in and made an X-ray. The result showed her lungs were filled with fluid and she had a severe pneumonia. Besides that some of her organs were enlarged and she had a high fever. Dr Lee advised us to put her in the intensive care for one week with oxygen, fluids and antibiotics. I found it really sad to leave our new family member behind at the vet but we did not have any other choice. Unfortunately she was not better after a week and ended up staying in the IC for much longer. We visited her regularly and slowly she started doing better. After a month we were finally able to take her home! She still needs to take medicine every day and go for check-up to the vet once a week until she is 100% recovered.

At home another journey started. We learned Kimchi was not house-trained, was afraid to be in a car, did not know how to walk on a leash, had separation anxiety and was aggressive towards visitors and people passing in the street. But she was also very affectionate, playful and seemed to be fond of both me and my husband. In the meantime we had read everything we could get our hands on to learn more about miniature pinschers and how to train them. We started with house-training her and teaching her how to sit and stay which she picked up quite well. She also learned that it is okay to stay alone during the night or when we are off to work. She still does not like to be left alone but she does not moan all night like before or tear up our apartment.

At this moment we are working on teaching her how to walk on a leash and not to be aggressive to other people. It will be a long journey but it sure is a rewarding one. I love to see her make progress and working with her also teaches me a lot about myself. Whenever she shows bad behavior it usually results from myself not being calm or confident around her. The next step for us is to have her spayed and vaccinated. Hopefully she will stay healthy and we can take her with us when we move back to the Netherlands next year!

How to adopt from Karama:

  1. Check the website to see if there is a dog you like. The list is updated almost every day:
  2. You can call Karama to find out more about the dog, but my experience is that they can not tell you a lot about the health status or personality
  3. Fill in the adoption application form and send it. This is the link to the Korean form:
    There is also an English form available, let me know if you need it.
  4. Call Karama to check if they have received your application. If you do not speak Korean have a Korean friend make the call for you or ask for Minnie (the only English speaker, I believe she is available on Thursdays, Fridays and weekends)
  5. Karama will call you to inform you on availability and pick-up date
  6. Pick up the dog on the date agreed. Fill in the paperwork. Make sure you have a leash and collar and a dog crate with you
  7. Karama does not ask for an adoption fee but wants you to spay / neuter the dog within 3 months after adoption at your expense. You need to email or fax the document that proofs you did this to them.

Good to know:

  • Dogs from Karama might have distemper or any other disease. Take the dog to your vet right after adopting it for a check-up
  • From my experience Karama staff does not know the exact details of each dog. There are a lot of dogs and only few staff so they might not notice if the dog is sick, not eating etc
  • We were allowed to take Kimchi for a short walk before our final decision to adopt her but basically you adopt unseen
  • Karama is a kill shelter. If you for some reason decide not to adopt then let them know in advance and give the dog the chance to be adopted by someone else
  • Besides dogs there are also cats, hedgehogs, rabbits, ducks etc in the shelter
  • At Karama you can only adopt, there are no possibilities for fostering
  • Adopting a dog from a shelter is a good thing to do, as long as you are committed. Please make sure you are able to cover any vet bills and are willing to spend a lot of time training your dog
Tags: adoption, Seoul, Karama, distemper, health check, dog health, animal shelters


allisondyoung's picture

This is wonderful information. Congratulations, Nina! Thank you so much for saving Kimchi, and for sharing your story with others who may want to look into adopting from KARAMA. :)

nina's picture

Thank you Allison! There are so many beautiful dogs and cats at Karama, if only they had a fostering program.

dbis's picture

Nina, I remember meeting you and your husband one day at Asan! It's so wonderful to hear about your journey about adopting a dog in Korea, and this post is really an informative and touching tale, thank you again for sharing your experience. You were able to make a difference to one dogs life and I really hope it encourages others to give KARAMA animals a chance too! Wishing you much happiness together with Kimchi!

nina's picture

Thank you Daisy!
Just noticed you are doing a wonderful job posting the Asan cats profiles on the site!