Dog days

Pets are less common here, they are treated differently, and there are many feral cats and dogs on the streets.  We often ignore things we don’t want to see as a method of coping.  But last night we couldn’t ignore this cute puppy twitching and convulsing on the ground next to our building.  Someone had wrapped him in a blanket and tucked another blanket under his head.  We went home and called the vet to see if he was still open, grabbed a towel and a box and went back for him.  When we got back another neighbor had come by to bring him a bowl of porridge, but he wasn’t responsive.

The puppy, resting

We chatted with her for a second and figured out that neither of us knew where he came from, but that we would take him to the vet.   She escorted us to a taxi and tried to help give directions.  When we got out of the cab the driver looked at the sick puppy and said “I love you!” in English. Dr. Chan stayed open late waiting for us and stayed late taking care of him.
The poor fellow didn’t open his eyes on the ride to the vets or as the vet examined him.   He had a thick full coat, matted and muddy, but healthy.  His gums were a  light white pink, no fever, he had all the signs of a healthy dog.  Sadly, he wasn’t wasn’t waking up, he was twitching and convulsing.  Dr. Chen said he would give him an IV and some antibiotics and we should come back in the morning. He guessed that he was about 4 months old, but couldn’t guess the breed.  He was a very big puppy.

When we returned today he said that he was getting better and had drank, walked, and peed, but would need care.  He tested negative for heartworm and distemper, but was having seizures that were stopping him from swallowing.  Dr. Chen said that he would probably have a seizure a month, but be an otherwise healthy puppy.   We couldn’t take him with our 3 pets and our work schedule, and all of our friends are gone at work 9 hours a day, so the vet called the dog shelter. He said the shelter would take care of him until he found a home.  All told the antibiotics, food, boarding, and tests cost 82,000 won about 72 USD.

Close-up of the little cutie.

For all that we have heard of people mistreating animals here our neighbors really stepped up to bat for this puppy.  I hope he has many wonderful puppy adventures and finds a good home.  I was happy to learn that there is a stray shelter in my town.  Dr. Chen is an awesome vet, his services are limited in contrast to our vet in MN, but he is as caring and kind.

If you are in Mokpo and need a vet I highly recommend Dr. Chen.  He is an advanced  English speaker.  His clinic is very clean and comfortable and he is kind.  He is at Seoul Clinic across from Jin  Mart.  (tell that to the cabbie) his office number is 061-279-1175 he is open Monday to Friday until 7pm, Saturdays until 6pm and he closes for lunch from 12:30- 1:30.

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  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.