Near Yellow Mountain

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Luckiest Dog in China

My wife, my daughters and I are all dog lovers. Growing up, I always had a dog. My first job, at age 7, was dog sitting. My wife is of the same ilk. While we were dating in graduate school she got a puppy for me. I named him Higgins. He grew from a handful to a 40 kilo powerhouse that shared my daily runs for 13 years of his 17 year life. When Higgins was almost 4, we adopted Murphy, a gentle mixed breed soul that joined our daily runs and was the female “ying” to Higgins’s alpha male “yang”. Our daughters came along and turned the dogs into playmates, victims of their “dress-up" games, the audience for their plays and the protectors of their backyard “100 acre wood”.

Time passed and Higgins sadly became a memory. Murphy became the dowager of the house. The company asked me to move to Japan. We loved Murphy too much to put her through an international move and she happily went to live with my Dad on 16 acres in the countryside. We were sad to leave Murphy stateside but knew she was happy with her “grandfather”.

Murphy with her "sisters"

We adapted to life in Japan but the lack of a dog in the house was a huge void. My daughters missed home from time to time and the feeling always manifested itself with the expression “I miss Murphy”.  Never “I miss the US” or “I miss my old school” or “I miss my best friend”. Loneliness was expressed in one way - “I miss Murphy”.  I often felt guilty for not bringing Murphy but knew it was the best thing for her. The girls filled the void by dog sitting for a variety of ex-pat pups. Anytime I encountered a dog on my daily runs I thought of Murphy and tried to make a new friend. 

Time passed, we moved to Shanghai and lived in a house rather than a high rise. We loved  life in Japan and the transition to China was harder than we thought. Something was missing in our lives. After a few months, my wife decided it was time we got another dog.  

One Sunday morning (after church) my wife had our driver, Philip, take us to an Irish bar. Philip was a little confused but was unaware that the bar was the site of a dog adoption run by a French ex-pat. We walked into the bar and the rules for selecting a dog were explained. I immediately was drawn to a lively puppy with a great personality only to be told by a 10 year old girl that she had already picked the dog and that she had the first choice. The negotiation skills that served me well in my business life were useless with the elementary school student that wanted “my dog”. In the end, I did not persuade the young lady and we went to our second choice, the seemingly lethargic younger sister of our first choice.  

So we finally had a dog in the house. There was some debate about the name. We all agreed her original name of Kaylex didn’t fit. My daughters could not agree on a new name so I picked one for them. “Yuki”, which means snow in Japanese, became the moniker for our Shanghai stray. 

Yuki, the Chinese puppy with a Japanese name that we adopted from a French lady in a Irish bar in Shanghai, became the darling of the house. Time passed, her personality developed and we wondered why we allowed ourselves to live without a dog in Japan.

Our ayi (maid) liked having a dog in the house. She preferred walking Yuki to household chores. Each day at about 4pm a group of ayis with dogs would walk together so Yuki had a social life. Yuki proved to be anything but lethargic. She constantly tried to herd us like we were sheep and showed no fear of dogs three times her size.

Yuki adapts to strange local customs

Philip watched the developments in our house with mild disbelief. He could not understand all the fuss over a dog but he enjoyed playing with Yuki while he waited for me to get in the car in the morning. He insisted on speaking Chinese to Yuki despite the fact that Yuki responded much better to English. He was sent on missions to find various things Yuki needed and drove her when she needed to go to the vet. Finally, it was time for us to return to the US for several weeks in the summer. Philip was astounded that the ayi was going to live in our house over the summer just to babysit Yuki. 

From time to time Philip would tell Yuki that she could have been “lunch” instead of a pampered American dog. As Philip helped us pack the car before he took us to the airport to fly home for the summer he blurted out: “Yuki, you are the luckiest dog in China, you have an ayi to take care of you, air conditioning 24 / 7 and can watch TV all day”.

The luckiest dog in China now lives in North Carolina with a golf course for a backyard. She doesn't have an ayi anymore but she still has air con and TV..........
Scouting the backyard before a hunting trip