Sunday, March 2, 2014

A short story: The She Puppy

It's not often I venture to town. Not that I don't like town, but because I'm too cheap to pay for a taxi, too busy to really enjoy the walk, too energetic not to wish I was running instead of walking with my purchases, too scared of the drivers on the narrow road in the dark with no sidewalk, too cold from the blistering wind to deem it worthwhile.

But it happened. My first day after I finished my contract, I went to town. It was a surprisingly sunny and beautiful day and since I wasn't so pressured with work constraints I could truly enjoy meandering around. As I headed down a less busy street with just a couple restaurants and a preschool I spied a bounding puppy across on the other side frolicking playfully behind a young boy. 

It's been a long time since I had any pets and it seems just as long since I've pet any animals. The sight of this playful and delighted puppy caused me to stop in my tracks, and catch my mouth hanging open several times wishing to call to the puppy but not wishing for it to cross the street in case of cars and also not to abandon its owner. As I stood there, mouth silently flapping up and down with my indecision, the puppy spotted me and sensing a friend started to bound out into the road. At first I turned away to discourage the puppy's direction, but soon realized that it didn't matter what way I was facing because the puppy was still doing its wandering puppy frolic dance slowly across the street. The boy wasn't calling it nor going after it so I jumped into action as I saw a car coming its way. I picked up the bundle of energy and wet tongue and crossed to the other side of the street.

When I get stressed my Korean language skills cease to exist entirely so mumbling something under my breath I made a questioning look and held the puppy out to the boy. He shook his head at me. Huh? The puppy isn't his? There was only a little grandma sitting at the bus stop left and she was already violently pushing away a phantom puppy in her vicinity and speaking very quickly in Korean.

Well, now what? There was no one else around. There were no houses nearby. 

I did have plenty of time so I decided to take full advantage of my lack of animal love in the recent months and carried the puppy to a small area just off the street very nearby. She was so well behaved but had no idea how to act like a puppy. She didn't know what to do with a stick. She didn't know how to play fetch. She didn't know how to even go get something I threw a foot away. She didn't know how to play tug of war. And she didn't know how to roll around in the dirt and just be a puppy. She nuzzled me and licked my hand and squirmed abundantly but if I picked her up she was a little baby. I could hold her any way I wanted and she didn't struggle once.

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After "playing" for a half hour or so she climbed up in my lap and promptly fell asleep. I sat there and watched her and watched the people walk by. The boys would laugh and point. The men would ignore me. The girls would giggle. The women would start speaking immediately in very fast Korean and one even walked over and stomped her foot on the ground next to the dog as if to squish it?! 

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Dogs are pets in Korea, but they are all very tiny ones that people paint pink and purple and dress up. There are also guard dogs chained up outside that always bark if you walk by. But there aren't really any dogs in between in the villages. And yes, Koreans still eat dog. 

Needless to say, I enjoyed my time with her and when I realized I didn't have all day to sit there nor was I really warm sitting still, I was conflicted about what to do with her. I couldn't just go house to house and ask if she was someone's puppy - there were no houses and I don't speak enough Korean. I've never seen an animal shelter here so I didn't know where to take her for adoption. I decided to just start walking and see if she followed me. I really wanted to take her home with me, but I was only going to be home another couple of days and the road between town and home is most certainly not safe from young puppies. 

After I walked the rest of the way to said road I turned around and there she sat, looking up with those big puppy eyes and floppy ears. "Now what"? She asked. 

I sighed. I didn't really have a good way to take care of her and I didn't know what to do with her either. But my selfishness for some puppy love and my fear of abandoning her found me picking her up and carrying her all the way home. 

The close passing cars scared her but she just clung to me tighter and would reach up to lick my neck and chin with apparently gratefulness. 

Once we got home I put her down and she very hesitantly came inside. She was very nervous and yet excited. She also was hungry I knew so I started looking up what human food I had that would be ok for dogs because I certainly didn't stock dog food and wasn't going to walk all the way back to town to get some with my last five dollars. 

I figured out some food for her and threw down a spare towel on a spare blanket on the floor next to my bed. She immediately jumped on it and checked out every square inch before running off again to discover more hidden places. It wasn't soon though before she was back to the towel and curled up fast asleep. She slept the rest of that day. I fed her again that night and took her outside to walk around and potentially do her business before going to bed myself.



The next morning I woke up to a pee puddle in the middle of the floor. I wasn't surprised.

The she puppy was more awake than yesterday. I fed her breakfast and then realized it was poring rain outside. I tried to lure her out in it but she wasn't going to leave the warm comfort of her new home so I gave up and found an old sock for her and started teaching her tug of war. She was a fast learner and soon she was chewing on everything. It seemed half my day was spent taking something out of her mouth and replacing it with her sock. That night she stayed with me again. I didn't know who to call or where to go so I delayed doing anything.




After four more accidents on the floor she started whining relentlessly if she wanted to go outside. It took me a bit to figure that out because she wouldn't whine at the door but if I walked toward to door she would run after me. 

She spent two days and two nights with me. I taught her how to be a respectful puppy and she learned quickly although she also learned how to be a challenging puppy. "How about this mom? Can I chew on this? No? Then how about this?" Before I caught her one night she completely chewed through my external computer keyboard. One less large awkward item to pack home I guess :-/

On the third morning I packed up two blankets and her sock and we headed to the beach for my last sunrise in Seopjikoji. She followed me, nearly tripping me sometimes, all the way there and romped around in the sand and made a toy out of some hard seaweed while I sat curled up in a blanket staring at the complete cloud cover that was entirely obscuring the sunrise.



When she tired out and grew cold she came and curled up with me. We laid there together like that for twenty minutes until it was time for businesses to start opening and time for me to see if I could find someplace to take her.

She was so reluctant to uncurl herself and join me on my walk into town, but with a little persuasiveness she trotted right along behind me all the way to town. Once we reached the edge of town I picked her up and as I headed up the first street a thought occurred to me. There was a couple that owned a local pharmacy that spoke a little English and had been very nice to me during my stay. Their pharmacy was nearby so I thought I might ask them for help.

I entered the pharmacy, the she puppy in my arms and greeted the husband working behind the counter. He smiled when he recognized me and then laughed confusedly when he spotted the she puppy in my arms. I explained as clearly as I could that I had found her and couldn't keep her but didn't know where to take her. He nodded and said, "Follow me".

He led me outside the pharmacy and two doors down to what I learned was his house. He called to his wife and left me standing in the doorway as he returned to his business. I waited and soon his wife emerged with one of their children. It was almost the same greeting she gave me that her husband had given me. I found this comical. But the smile on her face remained as I again explained I was looking for help because I didn't know where to take her. 

Her daughter peeked out from around her and I smiled and held the puppy out for her to pet, but she shrank away and her mother took the puppy from my arms. I handed the she puppy over and slowly realized; this was her new home. My friends were taking the she puppy into their home as their new puppy. It made me so happy. There weren't many people I had met that I liked as much as this family in the small village and to know the she puppy would be taken care of, loved and even have children to play with healed my worried and sad heart.

Today I am sure she's frolicking around, content and fed in a warm home with kind and gentle people to care for her. 

Finally, a story with a happy ending.