I have been a pet owner since Sept. 27 last year.
It was when my younger brother unilaterally decided to adopt a dog and brought it home with a day’s notice.
Never in my life had I imagined that I would cuddle a living thing and make cooing sounds, but the moment our family saw the then 10-month-old Pomeranian “Kong-ee,” we fell in love.
It changed my life in the most dramatic way ― every morning I wake up 20 minutes early to take him out for a walk and at night I take another half an hour stroll with him. When he is sick I wake up at night to the sound of him groaning, rub his chest and hold him for an hour or two, without feeling bothered. I clean up after him and tolerate his constant attempt to bite my hand in an apparent show of affection.
Because when he looks into my eyes in the dearest way possible, licks my hands and flips over demanding that I rub his hairless tummy, all cares just fade away. When he greets me at the doorstep even before opening the door, it makes me even happier to be home ― the stress I had at work, worries about the future and the gravest things in life cannot bring me down.
So I have to admit: Having a dog was the best thing that has happened to me.
“Companion animals give a great sense of security and stability to the owners. They are always available for their owners and they act as substitute family members to many people,” said Dr. Joung Yoo-sook at the Department of Neuropsychiatry at Samsung Medical Center.
|(Korea Kennel Club)|
In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control acknowledges that pets can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, trigyceride levels and feelings of loneliness while increasing your opportunities for exercise, outdoor activities and socializing.
And for those very reasons, more and more Koreans are choosing pets as their “companion.” According to the Animal, Plant and Fisheries Quarantine and Inspection Agency, families in Korea owned about 5.3 million pets in 2011, about 17.4 percent of all households. Dogs topped the list at 4.5 million followed by 620,000 cats.
Yet keeping a pet in Seoul isn’t always easy or simple. In the metropolitan area with more than 10 million people crammed into a limited space, pets are sometimes blamed for worsening people’s allergic and dermatological problems, their droppings are left unscooped on the streets and their noise could irritate people. Moreover, the idea of having to live with an animal in the same building bothers those who fear or do not like animals.
Some people who grow tired of keeping pets or become unable to keep them often abandon their animals.
|(Bae Ji-sook/The Korea Herald)|
“One thing people must do before adopting a pet is to understand their purpose in keeping an animal and their own environment. If they cannot afford to have large dogs, they should adopt smaller ones. They shouldn’t just check magazines or TV to find the pretty-looking ones,” said Park Ae-kyung, secretary general of the Korea Kennel Club.
To solve a few pet-centric problems, the government adopted a pet registration system that came into force in January.
Aimed at keeping records of all pets in the country, the system requires those who own pets more than three months old to register their ownership with the local administrative office.
The owners should insert into the animal a microchip (20,000 won) that contains information including its name, owner’s address and contact numbers or have the animal wear a radio frequency identification tag (10,000-15,000 won) so that the owner can be tracked if the pet is lost or abandoned. Local vets also do the registration for you.
“I am sometimes appalled by people who treat animals like toys ― get them when they feel like it and abandon them or abuse them when they are tired of it. One should remember that pets are to live with not to ‘raise.’ Please remember that when you are ready, animals will be ready to love you, too,” said Hang Sung-kuk, a veterinarian in Seoul.
Also, one should pay extra attention to their own health since in some cases animals can pose health risks for the owner.
“A very specific antigen in a cat can be transmitted through cat saliva. Sometimes they are carried on people’s garments. These can worsen allergic symptoms and asthma,” said Dr. Ahn Kang-mo of the department of pediatrics at Samsung Medical Center.
“As for dogs, their hair or dandruff can be critical to some people. There isn’t really a cure to worsened symptoms of allergic reactions caused by animals. Therefore, for those with respiratory problems, asthma or other allergic problems, the best treatment and preventive measure is to not keep pets,” he added.
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org)