“We’re just so busy,” Chen Li, Mr. Xiong’s wife, said as I sat in the family’s small apartment.
The heat was terribly oppressive in their flat. Sweat was pouring off of me, dripping down on Lao-lao’s little body where he was perched contentedly on my lap.
We had cut our 3-day visit short because the family was worried about their ability to care for the dog.
Chen Li had a government job which kept her working late into the night, often carrying out special hosting duties with official dignitaries in town. Mr. Xiong likewise was extremely busy at our school, not only teaching evening classes but also writing educational documents that needed to be turned in quickly.
Their 13-year-old son, Xiong Chen, was in his 1st year as a junior high student. He had classes all day and didn’t get home until 7 p.m. Then there were Saturday and Sunday courses that he also attended in order to prepare himself for the entrance exam into high school. Although those tests were 2 years away, like a typical teenager in China, he was already busy preparing for them now.
It was after 9 p.m. as I sat together with the three of them and also 2 of my students. Seven had come over that evening to help assemble more boxes for my packing. When I mentioned to the group I was heading out by taxi to pick up Lao-lao, two wanted to tag along.
The stories of Lao-lao’s short visit began to unfold as we all visited in the sweltering, stuffy sitting room.
He was very frightened at first of everyone, especially the young boy who so much wanted a little dog top play with. The teen had taken him for a few walks but Lao-lao wanted mostly to run away. And he certainly didn’t want to return to the apartment but continue on longer treks around their neighborhood.
Chen Li mentioned that it was difficult for her to continue going up and down the 6 flights of stairs to take him out. She was tired and just wanted a quick outing. Lao-lao, on the other hand, had been cooped up all day and was ready for a real walk like he often had with Little Flower and me.
While listening to their apologies of not being good enough caretakers for Lao-lao, I truly felt sorry for them. Mr. Xiong had been so pleased and excited about getting a little dog. And it was obvious his son was already attached, even after 2 days. He sat next to me, his little face saddened to have to say goodbye. He gently stroked Lao-lao, who squirmed with enjoyment, and seemed to be holding back tears.
Mom, on the other hand, was more like the sensible, practical one in the family. I got the impression that she was groaning when the dog landed in the apartment. She wasn’t at all pleased her husband had done this. She probably griped at him that no one had time to care for a dog and she’d be the one left taking care of it.
(I did notice she had mentioned having to climb up and down the 6 flights of stairs several times to let the dog out. Not sure where the son and husband were when she was doing that but they obviously weren’t in the picture.)
It was a disappointing trial but at least we tried.
After thanking them again for all their help, and also apologizing for causing them so much trouble, I took my leave.
My students carried Lao-lao’s carrier and things downstairs. Lao-lao enthusiastically pulled on his leash to get going. He knew exactly where we were heading off to: Home and big sister, Little Flower!
Now we are all settled back into our comfortable, happy places: Lao-lao sighing contentedly as he sleeps in his bassinet, Little Flower flopped on my bed in the air-conditiong and me, typing away on the computer.
What Will Become of Little Old?
All of my efforts to find a home for Little Old over the past 5 months have failed. I’ve done posted Net videos in Chinese and English. I’ve had a reporter actually write an article about him. I’ve tried him out at 2 homes. I’ve asked numerous neighbors and folks I trust. The answer has always been, "He’s cute, but we just have no time for a dog."
As for myself, it’s very difficult for me to take two dogs to my new placement, which is a semi-remote area and one which would probably not be too pleased for a foreigner to have 2 dogs. Rabies is quite common in China with over 2,000 rabies deaths per year because of dog bites. My dogs have their vaccinations but not everyone understands that in China. For a foreign teacher at a new school, where people don’t know me or what kind of a person I am, to show up with not one but two dogs is not only disrespectful but somewhat rude. The officials know about Little Flower coming but yet another pet?!
Not a very good start at a new placement for a veteran Amity teacher such as myself.
And I can’t forget to mention Little Flower. She is still very jealous and upset that there is a second animal in the house. Sharing Mom’s affection is not at all to her liking.
It’s Plan B: Off to America!
For several months, I’ve instigated a Plan B and prepared for that, which is bring Lao-lao back to the States where he will be placed with a loving family.
My hometown vet, Ericka Yeley, sent a very encouraging email saying that she was 100% certain this little dog would find a great home. Her connections with area animal shelter and foster care programs, plus the U of I vet school where she graduated, make her an angel for dogs like Lao-lao.
So this Sunday afternoon, after the movers have loaded up my things onto the truck, dogs and I will be leaving for Chengdu. There, Lao-lao will begin his official documentation procedures for customs and in-country flights. Little Flower will be enjoying herself in the hotel room and getting ready for her summer visit to Mrs. He (huh), her babysitter.
And I? I’ll be gearing up for quite an adventure accompanying our little earthquake zone Chihuahua to my home country, the USA.
Stay tuned for updates on our travels, beginning next Friday with a flight to Shanghai for overseas’ health checks and procedures.
Until next time, Ping An (Peace), everyone!