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John: My Loyal Companion From Korea to Belgium to the United States 🐶❤️

Updated: 4 days ago

cute dog lying on top their parents' legs
John laying on top of my and my husband's leg

John came into my life barking and left just the same. Today, I said goodbye to my oldest fur baby, John. While stationed in South Korea, I went out with my boss to get lunch at Waegwan's McDonald's. Right after getting our meals, a frantic bark caught my attention.

We got out of the car to look at the commotion. My boss said, "Look, that looks like the queen's dog."

Back then, I didn't know what the Queen of England's dogs looked like. To me, John looked like a little ferocious lion mixed with corgi and pomeranian. Unfortunately, a man was about to kick him. When I found John in the crowded street, a man lifted his leg to kick him in the face. But this ferocious little thing was determined to fight back; he had the man by his sock and was unwilling to let him go, even though the well-dressed man was fixing to get into a cab. Before the man's foot connected, I reached John.

"Hey, what are you doing?" I asked the man in my most ferocious voice.

He replied in Korean in a similar tone as mine. We went back and forth like this a few times: him yelling at me in Korean and me in English with a few Spanish explicit for flavor. Yet it didn't last long; the man had a place to be, so he said one last thing I didn't understand and got into the cab.

There we were, John and I, at the curb of a busy South Korean street, looking at the cab with the well-dressed man in it zooming away. John turned back and cocked his head like he would do plenty of times when perplexed.

I said, "Hey there, little guy, you want to come with me?"

John cocked his head to the other side.

I could see at that moment that this would require more influencing, so I ran to my boss's car and got a chicken nugget. At that, John's short legs began to move. This would be the first sign that food would be a motivating factor for John. 🍗🐾

Many years later, John will be known in my family as the swiper of food. If anything were left unattended, he would figure out a way to eat it. He did this to my son plenty of times and my stepdaughter. Each time was more hilarious than the first. The incredulous expression on the kids' faces as they turned to look back at their plate and saw it empty was unforgettable. Little to say, everyone in the family learned to keep everything high (especially food) so John wouldn't get to it.

But, back to the story...

I brought him home and asked my landlord to make me a sign asking anyone if they knew John. I then went to the vet downstairs from my apartment to check for a chip. After a week of not hearing anything and close to the Christmas holiday, I turned to my son after work and told him, "Merry Christmas. Do you want to keep him?"

I knew the answer before he even said anything. My son's eyes lit up, his lips curved into a smile, and he nodded ferociously. "Yes."

I then raised my finger and gave my son the speech about poop and feeding responsibilities because this would be another living being to take care of.

What I didn't know was that John would be taking care of us just as much as we did him.

"So, what do you want to name him?"

My son had an absentee father, which was a void in his life, so when he said John, I was taken aback but not completely surprised he gave him his father's name. So the ferocious lion I found in the streets of Waegwan became John.

a mom and her dog
John and I in El Paso our first assignment after coming from Belgium

From that day forward, John became my son's best friend. I often heard, "Come'ere John," as my son traipsed around the house to play another game with someone joining him.

John also became our protector and my loyal companion. John didn't like men, which had to do with the mistreatment I saw and whatever I hadn't seen, but with my son, John loved him even when he became a man. He would bark and nip at anyone who would come near me or my son.

I remember this man got close to my personal bubble at a soccer game for my son. "He bites," I told him as I felt him approaching from the back.

John's superpower was his ability to disarm anyone who would look at him with his cuteness, and then if they were a villain without any warning, boom!

So that's what happened here. The man looked at me with anger and shock in his eyes. I shook my head and said, "I warned you."

"You need to train that dog," he told me.

I shrugged and moved to another side of the field to cheer my human baby. What I should have said to that man was, someone needs to train you. But hindsight and all…

Little things like that cemented the three of us as a family during my tour in Korea. After I finished that assignment, John traveled with us to others. From Korea to Belgium and eventually to the United States, John had more stamps in his metaphorical passports than some grown folks with means to travel. Thus, our adventures together spanned continents, and there were so many laughs and frustrating moments. Still, John was always the perfect travel companion, offering comfort and companionship wherever we went.

But John's role in my life extended beyond being a travel buddy. He had an uncanny ability to vet every single boyfriend I brought over. Once my son got bigger and needed more space in his twin-sized bed, John moved over to my queen-sized, and honestly, sometimes the human child too. As we traveled together, we all packed ourselves in my tiny bed.

John, like my human baby, would sleep sideways. Each night, it was a soccer match with human feet and paws kicking me in various places. John never had to worry about his place in the family hierarchy. He was up there, meaning anyone new would automatically fall beneath him.

And John would walk bowlegged like the kind of man that wears schmedium shirts to the gym and only works his upper body. His swagger made him look like a lion in our home, his jungle. His discerning gaze and subtle judgments on the men I would bring over saved me a lot of heartache, and I am so thankful. If someone didn't have the patience to win over John, I knew they were the wrong person for me because they would not have the patience with my son or me. John was the cutest of gatekeepers, ensuring that only those who truly cherished me could pass his rigorous inspection.

It took time, but eventually, John gave his seal of approval to my current husband. I remember the day he curled up next to him on the couch as if to say, "This one's a keeper." And he was right. John had an instinct for recognizing genuine love.

For fourteen incredible years, John was my companion. His wagging tail and excited barks greeted me at the door whenever I came home, no matter how long I'd been away. He offered me unconditional love, a bond that transcended words and transcended borders.

Today, as I say goodbye to John, the pain of letting go is indescribable. So much so that I had to nap after returning from the vet. The tears flow freely, and my heart aches without his presence. I woke up from my nap and pulled my leg up as I swung them down to be mindful of John, who would inevitably be curled up by my feet. But today, for the first time in fourteen years, he was not.

a sleepy dog laying by his mom's feet
John laying by my feet

In that moment, today's moments replayed in my head. The memory of putting John in his car seat, driving the nine miles to the vet and hearing his barks as he let the crew know he had arrived and was not happy, and then leaving the vet office with an empty car seat and his collar, hit me as if a ton of bricks landed on my chest. My vision blurred with tears as I stared at the empty spot where John would have been and cried for what seemed like the thousandth time today.

But I don't regret any of it. I don't regret finding John or defending him against people who didn't understand it was their lousy energy he was reacting to or the kicks at night. If I had to return in time, I would jump back in my boss's car to get McDonald's and do it again in a heartbeat. I would relive every moment, every adventure, and every cuddle.

Because the love and memories we shared, from South Korea to Belgium to the United States, are priceless. My faithful companion, John, will forever hold a special place in my heart. 🌍❤️🐾


If you are a fur parent and can relate, follow the blog and subscribe to my newsletter. When John entered his senior years, I wrote Mrs. Franchy's Evil Ring, and I was intentional about putting him in the book to immortalize him. Knowing that he will always live inside the pages of my first full-length novel brings me some peace. That is the one real-life character in the book. You can head over to the shop to check it out. Today, hug your fur babies a little tighter.

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