Hello and welcome, Perry. Thank you for sharing Sisu's adoption story and process with us. Tell me about Sisu.
I began searching for a canine companion at the end of December, 2021. My go-to was adoption and going through a breeder wasn't something I entertained because I figured, "Well, there are so many dogs in shelters that need homes instead!" That was still very much true as I began my application journey for various pups through organizations across the GTA and in Southern Ontario. What I didn't expect? The lengthy applications and the fact that there was so much competition from other fur parents. Of course it's great that people are vetted so thoroughly before committing to a dog because it allows the shelter and the potential parent to assess whether they're ready for the commitment a fur child demands...but damn. What's the name of your current vet? Personal references? Can you send a video of your home and or photos of your crate? The backyard? What's the food you plan on feeding your dog? List two trainers you've contacted about training. How do you plan to discipline your dog? Do you believe in negative reinforcement? What does the term 'decompression' mean to you? List the type of enrichment you plan on giving your dog. List who will take care of your dog when you are away. The lists go on. Some shelters had more extensive queries than others. Many dogs were adopted before I even got a rejection email (yay! But also...womp womp). So I broadened my search.
Then I came across two beautiful eyes that stopped my heart. Sisu (then Morita) was a lab and border collie mix from a shelter called A Dog's New Life in Mexico. She was born in February of 2021 in Mexico and had an owner who starved her along with her sister (unknown reason - I would hope it wasn't with malicious intent but rather because food was scarce for themselves but there's no way of knowing now). Unfortunately, Sisu's sister was in such bad shape that she died. By all accounts Sisu was a playful, loving dog with lots of energy and a big smile to match. I fell in love and applied. Because of my recent dozen applications falling through, I didn't expect much. Then, a few days later I got a text from A Dog's New Life's adoption coordinator Jessica asking if I was still interested in adopting Sisu. I almost fell out of my chair.
Tell me about the process of adopting Sisu through A Dog's New Life.
The process from there was super smooth. Jessica asked me more questions about my home life and environment. I forwarded her pictures of the house and our yard so she could assess whether we had adequate space for our incoming pup. This lead to a call where Jessica asked more questions about my lifestyle, motivation for getting a dog, decompression period (the time a dog acclimates to a new environment and may display new or unwanted behaviors because everything, plainly, is so different). For once I was grateful for the lengthy applications I had filled out in the weeks leading up to our call because I had done so much research my eyes felt like they were going to roll out of my head.
Along with reviewing my application and our chat, I had to have Sisu exposed to cats to determine whether she had a high prey drive. I have four cats at home and couldn't risk an "excited or aggressive towards kitties" pup. Jessica put Sisu on a list to be exposed to cats through a foster's home. From there, she sent me photos and videos of Sisu cautiously walking alongside the cats and then sitting in front of them with her cute curled tail, completely at ease.
Once I had been approved with A Dog's New Life and I got the kitty confirmation I needed, it was time to book a flight. The dogs from the shelter need to be escorted with what's called a Flight Angel, a volunteer that flies down to Mexico and flies back with the dog or dogs. Within a week from the time of my initial chat with Jessica, I got confirmation that Sisu would be flying to Toronto from Mexico on February 14th, 2022, just in time to be our perfect Valentine.
Jessica was extremely transparent about the entire process and what the shelter would do with Sisu beforehand to reduce the financial burden on me for vetting when she landed in Canada. Sisu was spayed, treated for parasites (common in the area and easily spread in the communal area where the dogs spend their time), given a heartworm preventative, and had blood and stool samples taken 3 days before her flight to confirm she was medically sound.
Another dog named Marisol was adopted by a woman in Alliston, so luckily Sisu wasn't alone for the flight or journey to the airport. We were to meet at customs with a form indicating that we were adopting our dogs from Mexico through the shelter and paid a minor fee to have the dogs released to us. I didn't pay Sisu's adoption fee until after she was settled with me in Canada, which was very important to me. I mean, who wants to send $500 to a random organization in another country?
The process was amazing and the transfer that I completed the days following Sisu being in Canada was completed over etransfer. Jessica and the other staff at A Dog's New Life were with me every step of the way. Coordinating the flight. Messaging at the arrival. I still send Jessica pictures of Sisu and get her advice on doggy enrichment, feeding, and care. I cannot say enough good things about this organization. They are the real deal. They care. They connected me to the most beautiful dog that has already brought so much joy to our family.
For those who might be interested in adopting a pet from overseas, and so they know what to expect, what were the pros and cons of this long distance adoption process?
I really cannot think of any cons to adopting a dog from abroad, apart from the fact that perhaps some areas are more prone to certain issues i.e. TVT, though Sisu did not have this problem and A Dog's New Life was extremely proactive in providing treatment to dogs affected with the disease that were brought in.
The only other "con" I could consider was perhaps finding flights with the COVID limitations - I worried that with numbers rising restrictions may change and I wouldn't be able to bring Sisu home (clearly that wasn't the case).
So to anyone who is considering adopting a dog from abroad, do it. Especially if it is with A Dog's New Life. They do incredible work and my experience with them, as with many other's, was exceptional. With any shelter or rescue you consider, definitely do your research and try to see any reviews from previous fur parents. For shelters abroad, I would definitely do research on the country the dog is coming from (i.e. if there are any common illnesses or like indigenous to the area) in addition to your other vetting (you're interviewing the organizations as much as they're interviewing you!).
Finally, thank you for considering adoption and reading about my experience!
Regan is a certified Canine Massage Therapist (CCMT), has certification in First Aid and CPR for Pets, and some beginner training in Herbal Remedies and Aromatherapy for personal use.