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Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins

1 Peter 4:8

Having grown up in the US, I’ve been accustomed to dogs, big and small, We never had a dog as a pet in our family but many of our neighbors had them and I was asked on more than one occasion to pet-sit even though I had no real experience with the daily responsibilities of a dog. All sizes and breeds of dogs can be commonly found in any American town or city with many canine creatures often becoming more than a pet and fully integrating into the family unit.

My husband, three kids, and I moved to Seoul 8 years ago and after incessant pleas from the junior family members, we decided to adopt a furry friend into our household a couple of years ago. We had no idea what type of dog we would be getting when we went to the shelter that fateful day with each kid latching onto a different breed that caught their interest. Two hours later, we drove home with a nervous Siberian husky hunkered down in our car. Huskies are considered a large dog by Korean standards and are not commonly found throughout the peninsula. When my second daughter walked our new pet, Suki, for the first time in our neighborhood, she felt a newfound sense of power as people in her path parted like the Red Sea. Most locals have either of two reactions when coming into close range to Suki, awe and wonder or fear and repulsion. Unfortunately, the majority of the time it is the latter.

Because huskies are high-energy dogs, we usually walk Suki three to four times daily for 30+ minutes. During those excursions, I’ve had the distinct displeasure of people running out of elevators when we entered, freaking out and screaming as we passed by, and mothers hurriedly picking up their children and running past us crying in fear. I’ve had countless people stop and reprimand me on the need to muzzle on my dog; yell at me to get away from them; or see us, freeze, then walk in a different direction. This is all in reaction to us simply being present nearby or walking near them. Some days, I brush it off and try not to make eye contact or pay attention to people nearby. But on many occasions, my patience wears thin and I get frustrated. I know I am not alone as other big dog owners in Korea have empathized with me. Understandably, some people have had a past traumatic dog experience that has tainted all future interactions for them but I know this is not the case for all. This unnatural fear of my dog is usually borne out of plain ignorance.

I began trying to avoid people on my walks with Suki. I relegated myself to the service elevator in our apartment whenever possible, led my still groggy pup outside at the crack of dawn for our first walk, and re-emerged after the lunch crowd went back to work in the afternoon.

While in the rut of pondering my shelf-life in Seoul, a Korean-American friend from the US visited. She and her family have been close friends with us since our kids were little and we see them every summer when we visit Houston. She is a pastor’s wife, works full-time as a nurse in an Oncology hospital, and is the person always doing the most menial, unassuming tasks at church without complaint. Always smiling and positive, she is the go-to mother figure that young parents ask to pull out their kids’ loose baby teeth because she is so gentle and nurturing. During her visit, I invited her back to my place but remembered she too has a deathly fear of animals. I went out of my way to ensure she never got near Suki and even tried to prevent a visual encounter so she would not become uncomfortable. Because of the love and fondness for my friend, her fear of my dog didn’t bother me at all. After her visit, I realized that is the perspective I need to have for all of the past and future meetings people would have with Suki.

1 Peter 4:8 tells us “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I’m not saying that all the people afraid of Suki are sinning but if I had more love for others, I would better handle their fear-based reactions. I would be more patient and understanding of any slight that I felt and want to help them realize their fear was unfounded. God calls us to love each other, whether they are a friend or foe, believer or non-believer. Usually, it’s easy to love our friends and family but obviously more difficult to love strangers especially ones who go out of their way to avoid you or give you a lecture about your family member. But if you can ask yourself, if that were my mother, son, husband, friend, etc, how would I react? That might help you see beyond that negative interaction and look at the human being to extend love to. Although it’s an area I’m working on, when I have an unfriendly run-in with someone on our walks, I will try to put that person in the shoes of my beloved friend.