Along my travels through Shanghai, Beijing, Lhasa, Nepal etc. one of the greatest bonding factors I've experienced is the universal love of animals. Purge all your Asian-eating-dog jokes/ preconceptions here. Shake it off, and embrace the fact that humans share a common "awww" feeling for animals.
Here are some of the wonderful dogs (and their humans) I've met along the way.
In no particular order….
The Hutong Dog….
This little Pekinese dog below is "Chu-Chu" – a very old dog, with hardly any teeth. My mum and I met him in a hutong in Beijing. A hutong are the "old" parts of Beijing. More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hutong.
We had finished our breakfast and were walking through the little streets taking in the local morning rituals. People doing excercises in the laneways, in their PJs or chatting to other locals. The summer morning air was cool, and mum and I were enjoying the slow pace of the old alleyways, the sun was bright and it was a rare blue-sky day in Beijing. We felt blessed and appreciated being able to wander through these streets.
We saw an old Chinese man stood at the entrance of his home/ family compound and this little fella comes out. The old man obviously loves this little dog as he waited for it to lumber over the tiny steps and he saw we start cooing and looking at the little dog from across the little lane. He was talking to his dog, coaxing it to walk across the laneway, towards us.
I smiled at him and my mum started cooing at the dog, too. At first, the old man looked very gruff, and didn't smile back. But he did nod at us and let us take some pics of his dog, and he was talking very sweetly to Chu-Chu.
After coaxing Chu-Chu for a little longer to try to cross the laneway, without any luck, the old gent then picks up the dog, walks across the laneway and plops Chu-Chu right in front of me. So much for the gruff grumpy old man trick….he was a sweetheart. He then started speaking to my mum in Mandarin and she told him we loved dogs. He then said, "His name is Chu-Chu. He is very old. He is deaf and has no teeth. I don't think he can see much either anymore. Here, you can take more pictures of him now."
We Thanked the old guy, and told him how "ker ai" Chu-Chu was. "Ker ai" means cute. And Chu-Chu was seriously cute. Old, loved and adorable.
I mean, look at this face!!!!! AWWWW!
The old Chinese man was obviously tickled pink that we loved his dog, and we told him where we were from and that we really loved the hutongs.
This is Chu-Chu ending the conversation for us by walking back across the laneway to his home. It was such a lovely conversation to have with a local – and all because we shared a common love of dogs and cuteness!
Happy Lion Dog…..
This blurry pic below is of the happiest pomeranian I have ever seen. It was just so jolly and smiley, and even though the pic is blurry I think it captures it's happy-happy joy-joy moment perfectly. Taken in Beijing on another morning walk.
Another little dog, not sure of breed. I guess Chinese have to have little dogs due to the lack of space…this one was taking his human for a walk. It strode past us and it's human just kept up…
The Artist Dog….
This black dog was at the art enclave of "798". 798 is a suburb in Beijing that started off being a place where struggling artists lived, collaborated, but now, it's a busstling hot spot for galleries, museums and cafes. More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/798_Beijing
This guy was chilling out in front of a vegan cafe. How "798" is that!? Uber cool, he lounged away as I took snaps of him. I'm sure if he could, he would have sported a beret and beeing reciting beat poetry….
The "I don't need no collar" dog….
This guy was similar to most dogs we saw in China. No collar. No lead. Well-trained and crossed the roads with their owners rather than frantically running around chasing tennis balls. I saw a couple training a little puppy in a hutong, and they were diligent in calling it from one to the other. The husband was about 10 metres away from the wife and they would take turns to call their pup by name, and give it lots of hugs and cuddles when it ran from one to the other. So I guess the dogs were trained to follow and stay close to their owners. It was amazing to me that the dogs were able to walk with their owners so calmly across traffic and through laneways, and this little dog was no exception. It was confidently strolling in the evening with its human, enjoying the post-dinner stroll.
Another example of the "I don't need a collar" dog….BUT you will notice 1 rebel dog in the background that needs a lead, while the 2 others it's walking with both don't have leads/ collars. Well, there's got to be some dogs who obviously fall into the "can't be trained" segment of the dog population.
The above pic was taken in a very gentrified hutong area – one that was built up around a small river, and there were lots of expats and locals with dogs, enjoying an evening stroll.
Overheard an interesting conversation while walking with the locals:
2 guys. In their 20s. 1 was European, 1 was Chinese.
Euro guy: The first time I came to China, I was so offended by the spitting!
Chinese guy (in total American accent): Yeh!
Euro guy: but now…I just go around spitting too!
The Sporty Dog….
This guy was being walked by his equally sports-loving human at the Beijing Olympic Park, across the road from the Bird's Nest Stadium. They were walking so fast I wasn't able to take a good picture! The dog had earlier stopped at a crossing with its human, and we starting petting it as it lapped up all the attention. The human owner was totally stoked and then popped on a pair of sunglasses on the dog, saying "it needs it for its eyes to protect it from the sun" or something like that.
There is something totally delightful about this dog wearing these bright yellow sunglasses, without any straps or any pompous convention. There was no "dressing up" to this, it was about practicality, and the owner's love for the health of his dog.
The sheer awesomeness of this human & his dog was something that I will always remember.
The Comfort Dog….
This big guy lived in a cafe/ hostel in the water township of ZhuJiaJiao (near Shanghai). More info here: http://www.chinahighlights.com/shanghai/attraction/zhujiajiao-water-town.htm
The cafe was called the "West Well" cafe. My husband, mum and I were struggling in the high summer heat and found this little place by wandering. It was air-conditioned, served a great iced-coffee and came with this guy! He was such a bouncy Dug of a dog…he chased his own tail, shed a tonne of hair after lots of scratches, and just loved everyone who came into the cafe. Needless to say, he made my day!
The rest of these dogs live in Tibet. The Tibetans love their dogs, but obviously don't have the same "equipment" for dog care like the Chinese or Westerners do. The dogs we saw were mostly in the old parts of Lhasa.
The Lucky Street Dog…
Across the laneway from our hotel in Lhasa, Tibet, a shopowner was feeding this guy. The shopowner was Chinese and wanted to help the dog as he had seen this dog around the streets for a few weeks and he thought it was a "good dog". It was a big dog, definitely smart, and gentle too… he was being hand-fed some sausages by the shop-owner. The pic shows him looking straight at me, trying to figure me out. Generally healthy, but skinny, the dog was still wary of humans, but the shop-owner was close to getting trust and said he'd keep feeding it. I hope the shop-owner and the dog got to get to know each other better and that the dog finally found a forever home.
The Jhokang Shop Dog…
This pekinese-cross sat outside his shop and checked out passers by who were walking around the shops outside the Jhokang temple area. No collar, scruffy, but obviously well-fed by his owners, and completely comfortable where it was.
This little guy lived in the kora area of the Jhokang Temple. The kora = where tourists and pilgrims walked clockwise around the Jhokang temple. Proudly sporting a hand-made traditional collar, it walked around whilst little bells tinkled to sound its presence.
The Sleepy dog….
This cutey reminded me of my own dog, Toby. He was sleeping right in the path of the pilgrims and tourists in the kora. Calm and sleepy, he looked well-fed but tired. He had no fear of humans and people were consciously walking around him even though he was clearly in the way.
The Potala Palace Pack….
These dogs live and hang out in the park across the road from the front of the Potala Palace….What else can I say. They are obviously happy. They tourist-watch and sit around in the evenings, watching the dancing and music show (which happens every evening)…
The Barkhor Street Dog…
This dog is the bomb. He is the ultimate human-eyed dog. No other dog I have ever met has had such a strong personality and sense of self. It's wearing a Tibetan traditional red collar. It was sitting at a stall on Barkhor Street, protecting it's owner's stall. Fierce, stoic and with a "don't-fuck-with-me" attitude, this pic shows the split second before it attacked me and bit my right shin. It caused no damage, but man, it demonstrated a clear message: "don't take my picture you stupid tourist!"
And this message is probably the main message the peaceful Tibetans would love to convey to the Chinese who sometimes rudely position themselves in the faces of the locals and pilgrims without even asking.
So, this dog probably captured and channeled that energy into it's action….It saw me crouch down, zoom in and take a picture of it…and didn't like it one little bit.
Look at it's eyes…it's totally pissed at me. And I actually respect it for it's pride and fierceness. It's a strange feeling, but I take a lesson from this. Some dogs are spirits of their owners, or past spirits, and perhaps the lesson here was to ask before taking it's picture? Or are some dogs just grumpy old men? What's your take of this?
The Border-Town Dogs…
These dogs live in the border town of Dram (Chinese side) at the border of China/ Tibet and Nepal. Just next to the Friendship bridge.
They are well-fed, trust humans and are very very gentle and obedient and don't compete with each other for food. In fact, they are very protective of each other. The pic below shows a tourist at the border feeding the dogs, and they were patiently and politely taking turns with eating the food. The Chinese tourist was very sweet and making sure each dog had a fair share, but even sweeter were the dogs themselves….the big one was making sure the smaller one had a turn. The dogs were very well behaved. I suspect the custom officers took care of them as they were allowed into the custom building and were so affectionate to each other and to other humans.
This big black dog wandered among the waiting tourists, asking for hugs and scratches. These Indian tourists were offering it biscuits and food, but all it wanted was affection. The older Indian man said "we have offered it food, but all it wants it affection". The dog is basically nudging the Indian girl for scratches and pats….AWWWWWWWWW x 100000000000 google!!!
It only stopped when it heard another dog whelp…and ran off to protect it. Seriously, this pack was a true dog-pack – protecting each other, comfortable with humans and affectionate and well-behaved towards each other and humans. I salute you, Dram-border dog pack, you show us how it's done!
And I also salute the custom officers and tourists here – showing how humans should treat street dogs.
Throughout all my travels, I am intrigued by the universalitly of the human relationship with animals. Whether we protect, engage or share experiences with animals, there is a common humanity across borders and time. And what I've seen is that this is not the minority, this is the majority of human interactions. It is something that enriches my travels, to see that despite countries and cultures, we do have a common love and kindness for animals.
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