On A Mission: Finding Xiao Lao (Little Old) A Home

          The streets of this small Chengdu neighborhood are clean and spiffy, lined with fashionable clothes’ shops, well-patroned restaurants, tidy family-run convenience stores and tree-lined alleyways or small grassy parks.  It’s a pleasant place to enjoy walking a little dog but that doesn’t mean it’s absent of misery. 
          Little Flower and I have cruised this area often enough last year and this to notice more than our share of scattered, pitiful sights. I still remember our mentally ill woman who last year lined the sidewalk with her neatly bagged things, then stood guarding them in the pouring rain or frigid temperatures.  There was likewise a disheveled old woman who clutched a small doll, sat under a park tree and smiled at us for several days before disappearing. We’ve had beggars as well, the blind elderly playing the erhu  (Chinese fiddle) with cup in hand for small change and the disfigured who openly display their grotesque wounds in the hopes of drawing sympathy.  And who can forget the discarded, boney pets who trot about, scrounging among the garbage cans for food or looking at passersby with hopeful gaze while searching for their owners.
          When it comes to such sights, my heart aches.  While it’s not a fix to the situation by any means, I can’t help but purchase some food for those who don’t have it, pull out some warmer clothes to give to someone who’s shivering, or backtrack my steps to diliberately find a beggar who needs money. 
         The pets are a different story.   Most just come and go with lightening speed as I walk Little Flower around the block.  They are skiddish and either run or slink away when someone approaches them.  Last year, you’ll remember me raising a 1-week old, abandoned kitten (Xiao Gui-gui, Little Ghost) only because no one else would have her and she was just too young and weak to survive by herself. 
          In such cases, I feel the little ones deserve a chance to live.  Since they can’t do it on their own, I have no qualms about letting my feelings overtake practical sense and bringing them into my home.
          All of this brings me to Thursday, and the finding of Xiao Lao (Little Old).
          Little Flower and I had just crossed the street on our way to Sichuan University’s gorgeous campus.  The bright sun was warm and pleasant, a perfect day for a grand tour around the grassy, tree-lined avenues of the school.
          At the West Gate, as I let LF off leash for her race to the well-kept lawns, another Chihuahua (much shorter and smaller than my dog) came over to see us.  It was a funny looking fellow, bow legged with a muscular barrel chest and a skinny, boney rear end.  And strangest of all was his tongue, which refused to stay in his mouth and dragged on  the dirty ground as he went sniffing about for food. 
          I assumed he belonged to someone.  Most Chinese don’t desert very small dogs, especially Chihuahuas, but this one did have an air about it of being on its own.  When I went over to entice it to come to me, his first reaction was to roll over in a submissive manner and expose his tender belly for a rub, which I did.  Such a sweet, gentle little dog. 
         He was so skinny, though, not to mention a bit dirty with over-grown nails.
         Looking at his cute little face, his tongue still plastered with bits of soil and grass on it, I noticed something rather odd.
         Where were his teeth?
          There was something wrong here but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was until I placed my hand on his jaw.
          Gracious!  There wasn’t any!  There was only an odd flap of loose skin with no bone to hold anything in place, either teeth or tongue. 
          Looking at his upper mouth, I found only 2 stained canines as the only means for him to eat anything.
          How this poor thing managed to get down any food at all was beyond me.  He obviously licked everything up that was edible but it would have to be in the form of gruel or mush since he wasn’t able to chew.  How long had he hunted the streets for such sparse meals?  
          His submissive, almost frightened, attitude toward people led me to believe he had once belonged to someone but everyone nearby I asked, including the gate guards and the daily telephone card sellers, said they didn’t know.   He’d just appeared.
          And with that information, Xiao Lao (Little Old) came to find himself in my possession.
          Carefully bundling up his little body into my arms, I returned to the hotel room with Little Flower.  Little Old had a bath and shivered inside a towel until he became dry enough to curl up by himself on the bed’s comforter.  I then went about making a mushy meal using LF’s dry food and hot water.  This proved a good consistency for our no-teeth visitor.  It was a bit of a mess, him awkwardly licking up the food while splattering it everywhere, including on himself.  Still, he managed well and even had seconds. 
          Someone was definitely hungry.
          Next order of business was to call Dr. Qiu (or Dr. Q, as I call him), my Chinese vet, to enlist his help.  Since I already had one dog, having a second wasn’t an option for me.  It was a bit difficult for me to explain the dog’s problem to him on the phone so he wasn’t exactly aware of his condition until he saw it. 
         On the phone, Dr. Q was very upbeat about finding him a home as he was a little dog and a male at that.  Since Chinese rarely, if ever, spay or neuter, the male dog is much easier to place in someone’s care than a female dog, which goes into heat several times a year. 
          Yet in person, when I taxied Little Old over to see him, his reaction was an astonished, "Oh, my God!
          He shook his head in disbelief at this jawless, toothless creature looking up at him as he held him in his arms.
          "But he’s clean and very loving," I said hopefully.  "Don’t you know some kind person who would care for him?"
          Dr. Q looked doubtful.
          "I have some people I can call," he said.  "We can try but in the meantime, what do you want to do?"
          We both decided it was imperative that Little Old be neutered and given his immunizations right away.  He probably had worms and was definitely in need of vitamins to bring him up to proper health standards before having a new home.    
          That agreed upon, we both settled on an amount to take care of all his needs.  I walked next door to the nearby pet market to purchase a new wire cage, bedding, wet food, feeding bowls, collar and leash for Little Old.  Dr. Q planned to neuter him in the morning and promised the staff would look after him that evening until the next day when I’d be visiting again.
         It was a bit hard to leave him there for the night.   It hadn’t taken me very long to get attached to this poor thing but he was in good hands at Dr. Q’s animal hospital.  Better that place than the streets, that’s for sure. 
   Xiao Lao (Little Old) About To Be Famous


         For three days, I’ve been visiting Little Old at Dr. Q’s animal clinic.  He enjoys walking on a leash and refuses to use the toilet inside his cage, which is quite a feat considering he’s been on the street for awhile.    He’s already been neutered and had his first round of vaccinations but the search for a home wasn’t turning out very well.  

         Dr. Q called several of his friends who all turned him down.  A toothless dog?  No teeth?  Not a puppy?  No, thanks!

       This was going to be harder than it looked.

       So if all else fails, what do you do?  Go to the press!

       Dr. Q has many contacts and one of them was the pet feature editor of the Chengdu Daily, Mr. Wu Guo Ren.  Dr. Q handed over his telephone number to me and I gave him a ring last night concerning Little Old.  Telephone Chinese for me is always a problem as I can’t see the person directly and I get nervous I’ll not understand.  I try to avoid calling anyone aside from those I know if I’m going to be using my pitiful second language skills.  But I was on a mission this time and determined to find Little Old a home.  Mr. Wu would be a lifeline to those in the public who might take on a pity pet case and consider taking a special needs Chihuahua for their own.

       Mr. Wu was quite eager to do a story about this dog so he came over to the clinic this Sunday morning where we talked about Little Old.  I gave him the full story of how I found him, complete with his gentle, quiet demeaner, his special food requirements and the fact that he would have all his shots and had been fixed.  He was really ready to go.  He just needed a loving home.

      Mr. Wu took quite a few pictures, talked a bit with Dr. Q about the dog’s condition and then took his leave of us.  The article will be published on the paper’s website, not in daily print, but we hope that will be enough to find him a home.

     I’m the contact person, meaning I’ll have plenty of practice with my telephone and written Chinese for those who call or email.  My plan is to return to Chengdu next weekend to hopefully send our little guy to a better home. 
     In the meantime, Dr. Q’s staff will continue to take care of him in the hospital, fattening him up and getting him ready for a new life.

    Next email will be from Luzhou, including pictures of a very interesting week, Little Old being one of the photo specials.

                              Until next time, Ping An (Peace), from China!   

About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 30 years as an English language teacher. 28 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my 13th year in Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The college is located in Luzhou city (loo-joe), Sichuan Province, a metropolis of 5 million people located next to the Yangtze River .
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