Adopted Dog Shows Family the Power of Love and Acceptance

For Hyun Jin and Chris, Paju became the center of their family, and helped them open communication with their parents about their loving, happy life together.

Hyun-Jin + Paju

When Hyun Jin and Chris adopted Paju, they knew that some unexpected changes might be part of life with a dog. As Paju adapted to his loving home, he also brought his extended family together—along with their unconditional love and support.

"We see their approval and acceptance of us grow through their interactions with Paju. "

When we adopted Paju, we fully anticipated major changes to our routine and lifestyle, and those changes came: we are more active and physically healthier than we were before. We make more effort to be patient and kind. We’ve made new friends with other dog parents and fortified friendships with old ones. In general, we are more tired and worn out but also more fulfilled and happier. We always joke about how difficult it is to remember our life before Paju, but it’s the truth.

One unexpected positive change, however, has also been the most meaningful one. Chris and I both recently came out to our parents. As the children of Korean immigrant parents, we were conditioned to expect the worst. Instead, our parents surprised us with a mix of concern, empathy, and love. Full acceptance is still a work in progress, with Chris’s parents further along than mine, but we are making great strides getting there. However, one of the biggest barriers for us is language. Our parents’ English and our Korean are not nearly good enough to convey the more delicate nuances, so we end up relaying a lot of that nuance through gestures.

The first new Korean word I learned when we got Paju was “Ibyang,” which means “adoption.” With that one word, we’ve been able to open an entirely new avenue of communication and thought about what our lives together might look like to our parents. “Paju Ibyang haesseoyo.” We adopted Paju with implications that we adopted him together and we are a family and can thrive and be happy. Of course, we have yet to speak those very words explicitly to our parents, but we see their approval and acceptance of us grow through their interactions with Paju. 

Halabeoji (Grandpa) and Halmeoni (Grandma) always make it a point to have roasted sweet potato ready to feed Paju. They sneak him treats. They have entire conversations with him. Recently, Paju even made a painting at a dog party and they proudly display it above their dining table. Chris’s parents are not “dog people” so seeing them take to Paju like this is incredibly meaningful to us.

We have a road trip to California coming up in a few weeks where Paju will meet my parents for the first time. We FaceTime and share photos, and my Mom already has nicknames for him (Money and Fattie, to name a few). We know our time with them will be short, but we hope that they take to Paju as quickly as Chris’s parents have. We hope that by sharing our happiness and love with them, their minds and hearts will be put at ease—and that hopefully, when the time comes and we want to get married or have children, we will have narrowed the gap with our parents and we will be able to speak confidently knowing that they will fully support us.

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Hyun Jin won Korean K9 Rescue in Long Island City, New York a 2021 Love Stories award.