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Old Dogs, New Trips: The Korean Canine Exodus

It’s been a while.

As five-or-six years in Korea comes to a close, I figure it’s about time I become A Real Adult and do things that don’t wholly depend on escapism, ie. hiding in another country while people give me money to be awkward and English for half a decade. Of course, the best way to kick-start said anti-escapism is to already start planning the next adventure away from adulthood and go travelling.

I will get round to Life eventually. Really, I will.

I type this on the second floor of a Megabus in Leeds City Bus Station, awaiting the five-hour journey back home to the West Country. I leave here in Leeds one of my dogs (the other yet to be reclaimed from Korea after a particularly timely paperwork cockup), the perpetually ancient Hali (so named after 할머니; ‘halmeoni’, or ‘grandma’ in Korean; Meg wished to name her Nipples after her prominent teats but I refuse to name a dog anything I’m unwilling to shout across a park) who, after years of eating rubbish and being a decrepit nuisance in the Hwasun countryside is now greedily feasting off the dinner table and doing a remarkable impression of a happily moulting carpet.

The process of getting a dog from Korea is as follows: first, be a bonkers dog-person who’s willing to invest money, months and meticulous bureaucracy into your pup’s future wellbeing. Now that’s established, make sure to start the process at least four months in advance of travelling, more if (as in Hali’s case) your beloved beast is riddled with every bug and worm known to canine.

You will need:

* A rabies blood titre test: this is the most time-consuming part of the process as it requires blood to be drawn by a vet, sent off to a lab and tested.

* A microchip number for your dog – in Hali’s case she somehow shed her first chip after a week so make sure it’s still in there whenever you go to the vet.

* A pet passport with a clean bill of health covering rabies, parvovirus and heart worm. You’ll probably want this anyway so your best friend doesn’t spontaneously expire at an inopportune moment. You can get a passport from pretty much any vet – it’s just a booklet with spaces for the vaccination stickers and dates of inoculation. Especially for Rabies, make sure to keep up the annual vaccinations – even a day missed will invalidate the titre test and will start the whole process again.

PetMate animal crates – capable of withstanding damage and owners’ bottoms.

Now onto the actual flights. Unless you’ve got cash to throw around, flying directly into the UK is likely your worst option as our strict quarantine laws will add an extra few hundred pounds on top of your expenses. Flying via Paris or Amsterdam is the most advisable route, followed by either getting the ferry or, ideally, driving via rental car/loving family members on the Eurotunnel le Shuttle. Our journey last week took us from Seoul – Charles de Gaulle – (overnight stay at the shuttle Ibis hotel) – direct train to Calais Fréthun whereupon we were picked up by long-suffering family and driven back to the UK.

Rocking that ‘toxic Seoul air’ chic.

I can’t possibly recommend enough Perth Animal Hospital (https://www.facebook.com/perthamc/) in Haebongchon, Seoul. There’s a bunch of support groups on Facebook (check out Flying Pets Korea and Airborne Animals UK) that offer advice on the process and trustworthy vets, but if you’re in Seoul then Perth is your go-to.

I will also forewarn that this was the process pre-Brexit, when/if ever that actually happens. Predictably, nobody has any idea if or how it may affect animal imports to Korea via Paris/Amsterdam, so hopefully this article won’t be rendered totally invalid in a month’s time.

The journey is about to begin. Hali is vaguely aware that this isn’t where we usually go walkies.

Lufthansa’s VIP treatment trolley; only the best for mein Hund.

I knew I’d regret this photo if her old heart gave out…

We still have a living chien in Paris!

A little worse for wear and very moody but alive!

For a far more comprehensive and informed guide on what needs to be done, I’ve attached below a PDF written by one of the pros on the Facebook groups which outlines exactly what needs to be done. It’s a lifesaver and will be your bible throughout the process: taking-a-pet-from-korea-to-the-uk-finished.pdf

The writer shows a very uninterested Korean dog the French countryside.

“오마, 나 배고파” “Hali, we’re in England now.” “I am hungry, mother.”

A huge number of thanks to Lufthansa for looking after our puppy, Perth Animal Clinic for being so on-the-ball with Hali’s paperwork and to Leo Mendoza and all the animal nerds of Facebook for all their advice.

The perfect start to the last chapter in an old Korean dog’s story.
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How To…Be Beside Yourself

processThe Island. Star Wars. Jurassic Park. Never Let Me Go. Dolly the Sheep.

All of the above are renowned for being seriously profound/wooly, and for dealing with the controversial-but-still-pretty-cool subject of cloning. My laboratory facilities are sadly lacking, and I only got a C in Biology, but where there’s a will there’s a creative loophole.

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4482221537_a5ab45b90d_oClone photography is a hugely popular form of photomanipulation, the results of which A) can look fantastic, but more importantly B) are ridiculously fun to arrange, if somewhat undignified. While perfectly capable of being done on the fly, it’s a good idea to plan ahead a bit before getting into the action, particularly if you’re planning on having your clones interacting with each other, eg. shaking hands/crossing over/fighting to the death.

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The example I’ll be using here was the result of a free lesson in a large, empty classroom. With an hour to kill and several vacant seats available, I thought I’d stand/sit in for my students.4598967953_95375dfc6f_o (1)

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When posing for each shot – especially if, like me, you’re too mortified to ask anyone to press the shutter on your behalf as you flail around a scene on your own – it’s a good idea to remember as acutely as possible what your previous ‘clone’ was doing. For example, if you’re shaking hands with yourself, focus specifically on where your hands are positioned in the air and aim to take both pictures in rapid successions before you forget where you were.

Make sure the camera is as still as possible, and – for extra ‘realism’ – pick a single focal point and switch off your AF (autofocus). This will mean that many of your shots are technically out of focus, but will ultimately create a shot which, despite all evidence to the contrary, looks realistic.

Secondly, embrace the fact that, the more advanced or populated your scene becomes, the more likely you’ll have to drop a few of your shots when the foreground clones’ shoulders get in the way. Remember the DOF (depth of field) of your lens and try not to have one twit (ie. me/you) standing exactly in the way of the whole scene in the background.

Once you have your shots, stick ’em on Photoshop and queue them as layers (on CS6, File>Scripts>Load Files Into Stack). My personal recommendation is that you arrange the clones at the back of the image first and work to the foreground, as it makes your life easier in the long run.

Each photo in the composition, with various bits erased to accommodate one another

Your first few clones will probably snap nicely into the shot, provided you’ve kept the camera stock-still for every photo. As you add more shots, you’ll have to erase the empty space around the clone; provided the focus and lighting levels have been constant for each shot, the figure should still fit into the scene without too much difficulty.

If you struggle to keep the shadows from layering over shots too much, you can use the ‘Burn’ (‘O’ hotkey) tool to darken the environment and cheat slightly.

cloneroomAfter what could be an extensive period of fiddling with lighting and forgetting which layer was which and swearing a lot at the computer, you should hopefully end up with a clone composition photo. I personally like using them to convince strangers I’m from a family of identical octuplets, but if you want to use them for less sociopathic purposes then that’s good too.