The Dog Days of My China Summer | Speaking of China

9 Responses

  1. kari m.
    kari m. August 30, 2010 at 2:26 am | | Reply

    Jocelyn, I loved this story, and I do love your language — you are a talented storyteller and cultural bridgebuilder. 🙂

  2. Nicki
    Nicki August 30, 2010 at 2:32 am | | Reply

    Oh, this one gets to me. We have two adopted dogs, 包子 who is two and a half, and 摩卡 who is a little over a year old. Even though they are sweet and well behaved and leashed in public, a lot of people are incredibly afraid of them. They are medium sized dogs, but even when they were tiny little balls of fluff we had people shrieking in fear and jumping off the sidewalk into moving traffic to avoid coming anywhere near them. Not everybody reacts that way, of course, but there are many who do. I guess their only exposure to dogs might have been guard dogs (who’ve been beaten to make them vicious) or strays. I’ve had several local Hainanese friends tell me they watched childhood friends die terribly following a dogbite from rabies infected dogs. I guess if that had been my experience, I might feel the same way they do. But I love my (vaccinated!) dogs and I hope that attitudes are slowly changing.

  3. Robyn
    Robyn August 30, 2010 at 3:30 am | | Reply

    Wow. A difficult post to read as I’m sure it was to write. This is not meant as a personal criticism, but I’m not entirely comfortable with giving folks a pass because “it” (whatever you are talking about) is or isn’t “their culture”. There are many dog lovers in China — not the majority of course, and probably concentrated in urban areas, but enough to tell me they aren’t entirely outliers. And I suspect the number is growing (thanks in part to the efforts of organizations like Animals Asia Foundation who are all about changing attitudes rather than preaching).

    There are people in our neighborhood (here in Malaysia) who treat their dogs horribly … and others who treat them as pets and family friends. I can’t allow “culture” to excuse it when I see someone being cruel to an animal. I don’t hesitate to step in when I see it happening, and have done so in Thailand and in Vietnam — and was thanked by locals for doing so. All while violating a number of cultural “norms” that we as Westerners are told never to call into question (eg. no confrontation, don’t raise your voice, don’t cause someone to lose face, etc.).

    You’re in an entirely different (and difficult, given that the whipper is an in-law) situation, of course. And I don’t suppose there’s much you can do about how your in-laws treat their animals. I at least can demonstrate to my neighbors by how I treat mine and even go as far as introducing my dog to neighborhood kids so they realize that dogs can be friendly, sweet animals.

    But isn’t “accepting” the needless cruelty to animals because of culture sort of on the same level as, say, accepting and going with the flow of, when confronted with it, the mistreatment of women because of — “culture”?

    Again, this comment is meant to stimulate discussion not criticize you personally.

  4. Terry
    Terry August 30, 2010 at 2:05 pm | | Reply

    Wow. What a topic. I believe animal abuse laws in the U.S. were put in place with the recognition that, at least in the U.S., such acts are associated with people who commit other violent crimes. Sounds like in China this pattern of abuse might not be associated with those who commit other violent crimes? This was a very educational post. My eyes are wide open. Thank you for bringing up this important topic.

  5. Jessica
    Jessica August 30, 2010 at 9:15 pm | | Reply

    Chinese people, especially people in the countryside, are very pragmatic (not talking about beating their animals, but about the animals dying). My parents are thinking about moving out here for a couple of years and my mom is dead set on bringing their huge black lab with them to China and my husband just cannot fathom why they’d go to the expense and the hassle just for a dog (and I kind of agree with my husband on this one, for the record!). My mom says that dog is part of the family, which is even more incomprehensible to my husband. I think part of it has to do with growing up on a farm and seeing animals die quite frequently and just being more used to viewing animals in a non-sentimental way.

  6. Chris Waugh
    Chris Waugh September 1, 2010 at 7:47 am | | Reply

    I’ve held off commenting, as we’ve lost two dogs in the last couple of years – one in very mysterious circumstances (he just straight out vanished and there’s been no trace of him since). But I do now feel the need to add a couple of cents worth.

    I guess I should state that we entrusted our dogs to my parents in law because they live in the countryside, and therefore have a large courtyard and fields for the dogs to run around and be dogs in. And as my in laws have been farmers for generations, and I’d observed their behaviour towards their animals, be they their pet dogs and cat, or the sheep they herded back then, I never had any doubt in their ability to take care of animals.

    In my experience Chinese people see their pets the same way the rest of us do. When my mother in law watched our puppy die, having done all she could to nurse him through his illness, she shed real tears and felt real grief. The disappearance of our cocker spaniel had my parents in law out searching all they could. My father in law is the gentlest man in the world when he’s with his pets, even gentler than when he’s playing with small children, and he’s the gentlest great uncle (soon to be grandfather) I’ve ever seen. The same applies to most (unfortunately not quite all) I’ve my uncles, aunts and cousins in law, and I see the same in my neighbours down here in Beijing. They love their dogs like their children, and many of them leave out food for the neighbourhood stray cats.

    I absolutely do not want to deny anybody else’s experience of China. China is a huge and extremely diverse country that provides room for every point of view to be valid. Chinese people, especially rural folks, are very pragmatic, this is true. There are many people here who are very cruel to animals – and I myself have been frequently tempted to make the nearest blunt object at hand connect at very high velocity with the cranium of an uncle in law because of the way said uncle was treating one of my dogs. All I’m saying is there’s equally no shortage of Chinese people who love their pets as part of their family, and treat and spoil them accordingly.

  7. author wanglili
    author wanglili September 1, 2010 at 11:27 pm | | Reply

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