I gulped and slowly backed away towards the door. I wanted so badly to run, but I was too scared to even flinch. I closed my eyes and let the waves of nausea wash over me for a few minutes, gritting my teeth and clenching my sweaty palms behind my back.
I can do this.
Gradually, I opened my eyes to peer out at the hundreds of demonic beings facing me. Teeth bared, hackles raised, they all snarled viciously in my direction. They could sense my fear and I watched in horror as one by one they took turns to launch themselves at the fragile wire fencing – the only thing that separated them from me.
My eyes widened in horror and I prepared myself for my impending death.
“Ahn Nyeong Hah Seh Yo!”, sings a beaming Korean teenager as she rushes over to open the metal fence.
She giggled as she playfully shooed away the ten dogs that were surrounding her and excitedly led myself and my friend to a free table.
As we sat down, I slowly exhaled and let out a nervous, foreign-sounding laugh. I was still alive.
I was at the dog cafe in Seoul and I have a huge phobia of dogs.
Given the somewhat misleading name, the dog cafe is not a restaurant where you go to pick out that evening’s dinner. It is, in fact, a small coffee shop in the Hongdae district where people in Seoul go to grab a drink and hang out with friends, all while spending a few hours relaxing in the company of their new canine friends.
The owner of the cafe purchased twenty dogs of all different breeds to fill the cafe during the day and visitors are also encouraged to bring their own dogs along with them so that they can all play happily together.
As you can imagine, this rarely happens and the cafe frequently descends into complete and utter chaos.
Although it may sound like a fun and exciting way to spend an afternoon, the overpowering scent of urine and the masses of dog hair floating around the cafe don’t exactly make it a particularly pleasant place to hang out.
Even before you reach the street that the dog cafe is on, the sound of barking, squealing and yelping fills the air, causing passersby to look up at the nearby buildings in confusion.
Having said that, I found myself adjusting to the unfamiliar situation remarkably quickly. After I had been there for about five minutes I no longer noticed the intense smell of ammonia and started to find it perfectly normal to have dogs of all shapes and sizes run across the table, jump into my lap and pee all around my feet.
Once I was calm and my anxiety levels were back to normal, I discovered that the dog cafe is actually a fantastic place to people/dog watch. My friend and I ended up staying for over three hours and we were in hysterics for the entire time.
The scenes that unfolded around us were absolutely hilarious.
There was the look of horror on the face of somebody entering the cafe for the first time – especially when they’re bringing their own dog along with them.
There were the terrified girls who had brought along their tiny puppy with them and were surprised to see it getting mauled by a dog two hundred times the size of it.
I especially loved the lady in the corner who had purchased three hundred bags of dog treats and never had less than twenty dogs surrounding her table at any one time.
There was the ridiculously huge yet extremely elegant dog who refused to move for hours:
And then there was the guy who brought along a whole range of outfits with him and spent hours dressing up random dogs and taking photos of them:
Towards the end of my time there I even got over my phobia and held this particularly terrifying dog:
I’ve always been a huge fan of themed restaurants so despite my fears I was never going to say no to having the opportunity to visit the dog cafe. The drinks were extremely overpriced but definitely worth it to sit in a smelly cafe, where it’s too noisy to hear your friend speak while being surrounded by piles of dog hair…
This place is perfect for residents of Korea who own dogs or for dog lovers who are too busy to have their own pet dog in Seoul. For tourists, it’s a place you’ll visit, enjoy your time there and, unless you really love dogs, probably never will return to.
There’s even a cat cafe close by if dogs aren’t your cup of tea!