What a dog brings to your Korean experience…

First, a dog brings all sorts of lovin. Remi is always happy to see us. When we get home, he hops right off our bed, which he keeps warm for us, to say hello. When we’re mellow, he sleeps next to us. Because it gets warm in our 9th floor officetel, we often keep the door propped open with a bamboo screen stretched across to keep the animals from escaping. This also lets Remi keep up on the comings and goings of our neighbors, which he does with a friendly bark now and then.

Like back home, Remi brings a sense of adventure to coming home. Every once in a while we forget to put away some food, and he decides to remind us to put everything away by taking the food, eating what he can, and leaving the wrappers all over the house. Good boy! Show us what we forgot to put away! Good boy!

But the best part of having Remi along is that he’s a great ambassador of American friendliness. There are a few people – kids, mostly, and drama queen girls – who see Remi and make a little show of screaming in terror, but they’re mostly in the minority. Far outnumbering them are the Koreans who stop and smile, or wave out of car windows, or who stop us on the street to give him a pet.

Last week we were in the park for our morning walk. We saw a couple of ajjumas (older ladies) sitting under the pagoda. One of them took an immediate shine to Remi and called us over. We went, of course, because it’s just wrong not to keep the ambassador of American cute from his rounds. We got Remi to hop up on the pagoda, and the old lady burst into a huge grin as she petted his back.

We tried to speak with her, but our Korean is limited to the words ‘ipa ge’ (cute dog) ‘chak-an ge’ (kind dog) and ‘haraboji’ (grandfather). She smiled at our attempts. She was maybe seventy, with a deeply lined face and thin, dyed black hair. Both of them looked like this, actually; they could have been sisters. Each had a set of bridges that would make American dentists weep: cold steel wirework holding dingy false teeth, but who could care, with their positive attitudes?

One of them held back, a bit reserved, though she began to warm up as the conversation continued. She pantomined the question of whether Remi was a boy or a girl; we told her he was a boy, then made a scissor motion to indicate that technically, he was a gelding. She giggled at that as well.

After a few minutes she gave us a piece of hard candy for the dog, who chewed it into pieces and swallowed it mostly still whole. Then it was time to go.

And that’s generally what Remi gives us here in Mokpo: a bridge to the locals, meetings we’d never have otherwise, and a whole lot of good mojo.

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Update:  One side note.  Tiny, small, micro dogs are the norm here.  We brought his toys, leashes, and brush.  We haven’t seen any replacements.  Remi hasn’t had a dog bone since he left home.    If you are reading this and packing your dog for  the big move, pack everything.  Especially clippers.   We haven’t found a groomer that has the supplies to groom him.  We bought a clipper for $35 dollars, but it isn’t strong enough or large enough to cut more than his toe hair.  We cut his hair with a mustache scissors now days.

If you are a friend wanting to send a care package, Remi would love a bone to gnaw on.  He never liked the plastic ones, but he loves everything else.  He especially loves Bully sticks.  YUM!

Update #2

Online shopping is a medium sized dog owners dream.  We order Remi’ dog food, the cat’s litter, and Remi’s replacement Kong on Gmarket.co.kr  It always arrives in a day or two and shipping is free to $2.  Oh, and as with most things in Korea, it comes with ‘service.’   Gmarket is a hassle to get started, but then it is a lifesaver.

4 thoughts on “What a dog brings to your Korean experience…

  1. No bully sticks? Oh no! I’ll have to pack some…… I’m leaving to go to Korea in just a few days…but my girlfriend is coming the following semester..with our 20 pound terrier/schnauzer mix.

    I worry about people not knowing how to act near a dog…Kids gasping or these drama queen girls shrieking can startle a dog..that is not cool..and would almost certainly make me upset. How do you deal with that?

    Also, that’s a great perspective you have on viewing the mess when you come home – your dog is just being a dog =)

    • I’m not sure about bringing hide through customs, good luck on that one. Our online order was cancelled due to customs restrictions.
      In regard to people’s reactions, we just remember that we are visitors in their country, in their culture. Everybody handles it differently. I am extroverted, I look at Remi as an ambassador. We greet people who look nervous, tell them he is kind “chakan gay” and smile. They tend to calm down. Our friend with a 20 lp Cocker spaniel is introverted and kinda keeps on going.
      If it really annoys you then stay away from busy places. We went to a busy beach this weekend during a national holiday. Everyone was celebrating and late at night people were drinking and it was super crowded. Remi got a lot of attention. The next day we went to a slower place with fewer people.
      See you at orientation!

  2. You’re absolutely right. I will learn to be more understanding, and hopefully pick up phrases like “friendly dog” too =) I will think of my dog, Fidget, as an ambassador too – improving others’ perspective on dogs.

    This is exactly why I look forward to travel. I will most certainly grow.

    Thank you for the great post.

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