Many of you will not be shocked by my first topic of choice for Transplanet. My beloved pooch, Hank, is in Portland while I am abroad and I’m sure he is just as happy as when I am home. This blog works to describe a dog’s life in Shenzhen. I will attempt to draw out different angles regarding the topic such as: Shenzhen’s street dogs, new fads of dog ownership and the weird market of the selling and buying of such dogs.
It’s no lie that Chinese culture feasts canine cuisine for over centuries, particularly during the Lunar New Year. Today, it is even still a respected cuisine that is still visible in Shenzhen’s night markets. However, alongside urbanization, an individual’s need for status has transformed canine culture from slaughtering for dinner to actually, their most loyal companions.
Many shop and business owners within Shenzhen city limits and within the many urban villages have what are visible to the average person as a street dog, but many are actually guard dogs. I should know as I approached one to say hello and it fiercely growled at me. Lesson one so far about dogs in Shenzhen: Do not pet a guard dog and avoid eye contact with them. They mean business. However, not all dogs that appear homeless are really without home. Many wander the streets with their owners just behind them, maybe 50 to 100 feet away, with no leash at all. It is obvious they know the path to wherever as they maneuver thru traffic without a scratch or scare. They are agile and resilient. At home, we consider giving chicken bones to dogs deadly and harmful. Here in Shenzhen, dogs feast on chicken legs consuming meat, bones and all in nearly one gulp. Other street dogs can be loving as they crave attention. I approached one for a photo using ‘kissy’ noises and her ears perked and gently approached me. I held out my hand and she licked my salty, sweaty skin. She loved my pets and head scratches and even followed Eric and I for a bit before she realized we were not going to feed her. Lesson two: be cautious with the street dogs, some are pleasant, others not so much.
Much like the United States, one must register their dog in China. However, most cities regulate a household to only having one dog, known as the One-Dog Policy. Somewhere in the midst in the shift of perspectives to own dogs there were complaints about barking and other such nuisances. The policy also outlines size and breed restrictions which millions of dogs in China do not comply. Authorities offer a discount to licensing if you spay or neuter your dog, similar to the Unites States. Many refer to this policy as a solution offered Public Security Bureau. As with many regulations, there are loopholes around having more than one dog. Residents may register only one dog per household, yes, but if say your uncle of another household does not have a dog, you can register your additional dog to that address. I do not think Shenzhen enforces this policy but, I do not know for sure.
Speaking with a few Chinese natives, they will tell you dogs are trendy here. Right now, the big thing is to have these white fluffy dogs known as Bichon Frise. There is another dog here that is very popular and looks much like a Bichon, but it is brown and fluffy, however, I am unsure of its breed or mix. While visiting Dafen, an urban village targeted for artists, a seller of Bichons was standing outside a gallery hoping to make a sell.To the eye he did not seem to have any takers on his six Bichons but there were many photographs being taken including from yours truly. Back in 2013, all the hype was about Tibetan Mastiffs, which sold anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 USD. Although it is still said, that if you can afford to purchase, board, and feed a large animal you rank a high status in China’s society.
Many of the streets at night are filled with dogs and owners, as it is very hot here during the day. People look to bring their dogs out to socialize with other canines and children. With dogs roaming off leash, people are not afraid or angry about this, they embrace it, greeting each friendly dog that approaches them. Often you can tell a young dog from an older one if it is on a leash or not. Somewhere in Shenzhen you can get your dog or puppy fix and much like in America be cautious when approaching a dog you do not know.