Canine Conundrum: Unravelling Beijing's Love-Hate Relationship With Dogs
While dogs are viewed as loyal and faithful pets elsewhere, they have an uncertain distinction in China where they continue to cause controversy.
This past week in Beijing, two wholly disparate depictions of pet dogs emerged online that revealed an unconciliaory rift between local dog owners and their neighbors. As it were, dogs are either a source of love— or frustration.
First up is this online video gaining traction after its Tuesday debut demonstrating how dogs can bring out the best in humans. Accompanied by soft background music, the video embodies two themes that resonate deeply with a Chinese audience: respect for authority, and filial piety.
The video tells the story of an elderly Fengtai resident named Tie who is seen dutifully caring for his sickly dog, Beibei, which has lost the use of its hind legs. Despite his own advanced age, Tie is unswervingly committed to his dog, even going to the trouble of taking the incapacitated pet outside on a push cart.
As much as Tie's love for his dog isn't ordinary, neither is Beibei an ordinary dog. Beibei served for six years as a drug sniffing dog before retiring in 2011. Now at 15 years-old, Beibei is suffering from an inoperable lumbar condition that requires constant care and supervision.
As much as its a burden to him, Tie remains committed to the dog that once served in the protection of his country. Tie admitted that he isn't free to do anything but take care of Beibei these days. "If you were to invite me to travel abroad for free, I wouldn't do it," he said.
Tie's touching relationship with Beibei prompted one online comment that reads: "(Beibei) isn't simply a pet, but a friend and a family member!"
Dog ownership has indeed come a long way in China. However, the concept of dogs as "family members" is exactly what is causing another controversy -- namely, how many regulations some local residents are willing their "family members" to violate.
Earlier this week, a Daxing District resident took offense at an anonymous sign that complained about local dog owners. A Weibo user named "wan_bao" posted a photo of the notice online, calling its title "Kill Without Recrimination" (shown below as "Kill with No Pardon") as being "beyond the pale" and "excessive".
However, against the intentions of "wan_bao,“ many of the online comments that accompanied this story disagree with the controversy.
A number of top-rated comments say that the sign's recommendation for Beijing dog owners to leash their dogs to be "acceptable" and don't find any fault with the accompanying cartoon that shows a Chinese chop labelled "All culled without exception" slamming down upon a pet dog and cat. One personn wrote: "Although some words used in the sign are extreme, I don't think there's any problem with it."
The backlash against Beijing dog owners has been happening for awhile. Even though fatal dog poisonings involving dozens of pets continues to happen every year, some residents put the blame directly upon the dog owners themselves for not being responsible. And, although China has mostly gotten control of a rabies problem, dog bites continue to rise, usually flaring up into the thousands during the holidays.
Dog ownership has profilerated among a nascent Chinese middle class that were restricted by birth rate policies but with money to spend. And yet, with so many of these new "family members" causing problems throughout Beijing and the country at large, it may be that China doesn't have a "dog" problem, but a "people" problem.
More stories from this author here.
E-Mail: charlesliu1 (at) qq (dot) com