Spring has arrived in Wuhan, we already did the Peach Blossom thing, now we are getting an occasional warm day with clear skies slotted in between three of four days of torrential rain, and winter coats are being shed in favour of more flimsy attire. And another indicatior of where things stand in the seasons cycle is the number of randy dogs roaming the streets.
The dog culture is quite different in China, presumably further evidence of the distinction between east and west. Probably the biggest difference is that many Asians are not impartial to a piece of poodle at the dining table; just because you are man’s best friend in the present tense is no guarantee you won’t end up on the cutting board somewhere down the line. At this point I could probably draw certain political parallels, but I don’t think i’ll go there.
Aside from the snackie thing, the preferred breeds of dogs also seem quite different. Here, few people in the city go for the big bastard breeds such as labradors or collies. For one thing they are expensive to buy, and then they are expensive to maintain; it is generally the younger and more affluent who prefer to fork out the cash for these high end models and in the evening they head down to the local park outside Party headquarters to parade their pooches with other owners.
But the most popular breeds remain the yappy dogs. Personally, I don’t see the attraction of owning one of these petite and functionally pointless animals. Why not just go out and buy yourself a rat?
Admittedly I’m a cat person myself. I like their aloofness and the way they carry on as if they are the ones doing you a favour by showing up at meal times. I like the way they treat life as one long opportunity for a nap unless a bit of string happens to come their way. But I can see the dog thing, taking the hound down to the local park and lobbing a ball for it to catch, and watching it retrieve instead an unexploded WW2 grenade from the undergrowth. There is none of that with a yippy dog, no nosing around at a particularly inviting bouquet at the side of the road, just a blur of legs as it redlines it trying to keep up with its owner sauntering pace and a general nervousness about the personality. No wonder they spend so much time being carried around. And then there is that whole business of tying ribbons and bows in their hair. People pamper their pups as a youth might kit out their shitty little Vauxhall in the UK.
At the other end of the spectrum there is the working dog. There is still a lot of crime in China and a good guard dog is essential for protecting what little you own. Why bother with a high tech solution when you can have a 150lb snarling mass of drool and teeth awaiting anyone who attempts to enter your home illegally. Again, I could make some sort of ironic statement regarding the contrast between the hound of choice of the working people and the utter uselessness of the ratdogs of the more affluent. Try using one of those as a guarddog and you wouldn’t even know it was there until you heard the snapping of a twig and sudden expulsion of air as you trod on it.
When I rode into work I passed a pack of dogs working their way down the road – not wild animals, dogs are generally left free to roam the street in working class neighborhoods. It was like one of those free love scenes you associate with the 1960s, Joni Mitchell, Woodstock and the whiny little voice of David Crosby, or do I mean Stephen Nash. Or did I get the first names switched?
A little further along a little yip yip dog was making its hurried little way down the lane, all fussy and bothered with bulging eyes and panting breath, and the monster hound following along behind hadn’t even made his move. He seemed more concerned with trying to get a gender lock, always a problem with these little breeds. But micro dog seemed fairly oblivious to his advances, it was like watching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator persona trying to get it on with a character from a Jane Austen novel. I left the owner trying to shoo him away “bad doggie…” and turned the corner to come across a dog in the final stage of completing his, er, amourous act. I think my sudden appearance embarrassed him because he froze with one front paw off the ground while his lady of choice had a slightly bored expression that suggested “whenever you’re ready…”
Whatever would Barbara Woodhouse made of it all, or Mary Whitehouse for that matter.