‘Happy’ the lucky one: Street dogs in China

‘Happy’ the lucky one: Street dogs in China

Today is a sad day. I knew it might happen, but till now I had hope. A faint hope which is dead now. We had to give up my little dog in China. With me leaving last August and Jin leaving the school today, there was no other choice but to find a new home for Happy.

I will never forget the day we found her.

It was a very cold day sometime around early February 2013. Temperatures at night could fall below minus fifteen degree. And even during the day it did not get particularly warmer.

happy2We just came back, after we had spent Chinese New Year at my in-laws. The school was still closed. None of the Chinese students had returned yet. We were busy preparing for a new season. Due to the cold every water pipe was frozen and electricity was irregular. It took us a few days to get everything back to normal. One afternoon, Jin and I decided to take a break and visit the local grocery store. It was that moment when we passed by the main gate. I would have never seen her. But Jin did with his hawk-like eye side. “Look there’s a little puppy!”, he shouted out. First I couldn’t see a puppy. Just a tiny black ball pressed into the corner next to the main gate. Just having a closer look I saw that this little ball was furry and moving… breathing. We looked all around. Maybe there was her mommy somewhere. Or her owner. Of course not. She was a street dog. No one would have wanted her.

So we took her in. I named her Happy because I wanted her life to be a happy one.

happy3After a warm bath and food we prepared a bed for her. She was so tiny! Barely two or three weeks old. Eyes still milky and half blind. Just bones and fur. She would have never survived the night. But with us she had a chance. And obviously she decided to take it.

happy5The first nights were hard. Our room got really cold in the night. We just had an AC which would freeze if you keep it on for too long in the night. So we always turned it off. We had big fat blankets, so it was ok. But little Happy, in her little self-made basket was freezing. I put a hot water bottle next to her. Even put a ticking clock into her blanket (to give her the feeling of a beating heart). In the end I would put my whole arm into her blanket to give her some warmth of my skin. But nothing helped. She was crying every night. For three nights straight. I would be crying too. All left alone. And freezing. So we decided to take her into the bed. Under our three blankets she would sleep like a baby. Never waking up once!

She was a clever little pup. Within a week we had her house-trained. And just two weeks later she was listening to commands like ‘sit’ and ‘no’ (though I used the German word ‘Aus’. It just sounds so much stronger than a simple ‘no’) and understood the word ‘chifan’ (Chinese for eating). She was raised in three languages haha

happy8Eating has been an issue from the beginning. It seems because she was starving the first weeks of her little life, she started to panic. As soon as there was food she would eat it up in a matter of a few seconds. It took me months to train her. In the end she learned to sit down and just look at her bowl of food until I said it is ok to eat. She also started to select food sometimes. Which was good. Though we still called her little trash-Kebab because she just would eat anything if you just let her. I think the fear of not having food will never leave her.

We spent many great months together. The students loved her (at least those who were not afraid of dogs in general). Happy loves humans. She just keeps a distance from other dogs. I guess she is the only street dog in China who loves humans. I hope it will stay like this for ever (but it probably won’t…). In the evenings we would have racing classes. Everyone would have to race Happy. She would have a blast. She is such a racing dog.

happy6Then came the day I had to leave. Jin promised me he would take good care of her. Everything will be ok. And he did take great care of her. Actually I was amazed how loving he was. But we both knew we couldn’t keep her.

Before I left China I tried a lot. I looked for someone around who would have adopted her. But everyone was very hostile. Many people told me off for giving a street dog food, for having her in my room, for just caring… I was very upset to say the least. I tried to find animal shelters in Beijing. But most of them wanted a huge sum of money for their help. We thought about taking her to Germany. But what good would it have been? I am studying in London. Taking her to London was out of the option. Regulations are worth than those for Germany. Not to mention that I am living in a dormitory.

Happy has grown up now. She is a big strong dog. But that makes her unattractive to possible dog owners. No one wants a street dog in China anyway… In the end Jin has found her a new home: With the abbot of the temple. She will have shelter, a warm place to sleep and food every day. But that’s it. There won’t be any cuddles or playing… Dog treatment in China differs greatly from what we are used to…

It breaks my heart. Just thinking about it makes me wanna cry. Maybe I could have done more? I should have tried harder. I just wish little Happy is now strong enough to live a healthy life. The love we gave her has to be enough for the rest of her life. I know, people say, it’s just a dog. Stop whining. But she is life and we shouldn’t treat life with such coldness and lack of concern.


I wonder if she will remember me? Does she hate me for leaving her alone? …

Gonna miss you so much!

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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

4 thoughts on “‘Happy’ the lucky one: Street dogs in China

  1. Pingback: China’s boom in pet ownership | The Mandarin Duck

  2. Pingback: China’s boom in pet ownership | Lost Panda

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