China 2007

The Giant Awakens


China? Did I really want to go there? It’s too big, too scary, too different… Pretty much everything I’ve read about Chinese history from the past century has been about political oppression, totalitarian government and the suppression of individual rights. We have also heard so many horrible things about dogs in China that I was pretty worried about what I would find. However, I had also heard that China is changing, and when you are offered the opportunity to see for yourself and learn something firsthand you almost have an obligation to accept. So I went, spent 10 days in China watching, talking to people, seeing dogs, and asking and answering questions — and it turned out to be one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had in a long time.

China has a terrible reputation among dog people in the West for several reasons. There were practically no pet dogs in China for many years following the Cultural Revolution in 1966; they were considered a decadent, bourgeois Western concept and ownership was outlawed, at least in the cities. With the economic changes and more openness to the West, things started to improve in the late 1980s, and as the middle class grows and prospers dogs are becoming increasingly popular as pets.

The dog situation in the big cities and central areas of the country is now probably better than in many Western cities. Big dogs are not allowed in the inner city, and all the dogs we saw — mostly Pekingese, Pomeranians and other Toy dogs — were obviously beloved, well-cared-for pets. Getting a dog license is expensive, so you have to really want a dog to get one — paradoxically, in this respect the restrictions actually work to the dogs’ advantage.

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