For the first time in my life, I was about to enter my country via US custom’s red "claim" zone at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.
When it was my turn in line, I walked up to the immigration official, set my dog’s carrier on the floor and handed in my custom’s declaration form.
The uniformed gentleman seated in his cubicle scanned down the checklist.
"I see you marked ‘yes’ for meat, vegetable and other agricultural products," he said, eyeing me seriously. "And what kind of meat did you bring with you?"
I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that so I just said, "Uh, dog."
His eyes widened.
"Dog? You brought dog meat with you?" he asked incredulously.
"No, no! I mean, I brought a dog."
He looked doubtful.
"What dog? Where’s the dog? I don’t see a dog," he frowned.
He peered over his counter and was still unable to see the area around my feet where I had placed my canine companion. I made sure to lift up my Chihuahua’s small airline approved kennel so he could take a good look inside.
"See?" I said. "A dog. A little dog. From China."
The immigration official seemed relieved. He smiled, wrote "DOG" in big red letters on my form, circled it and sent me off through the inspection center for clearance.
And that’s how our little Chinese immigrant entered the country: not as dog meat, but just plain "DOG."
For a recap: I am an English language teacher in a small college in southwestern China and often travel to our province’s capital city, Chengdu, for weekend visits. A previous article in The Advocate described my finding, 5 months ago, a small Chihuahua who was a stray in Chengdu, which is situated on the outskirts of last year’s Sichuan earthquake zone.
After taking care of the dog’s health issues, it was time to find him a home. This proved to be a difficult task in China where pet ownership is still a new concept among many. In China, a majority of people are just worried about putting food on the table and paying for basic needs much less having an animal around the house to deal with. Then, too, due to ignorance in vaccinations or the cost involved, only 3 % of pet owners vaccinate their animals against diseases. There are over 2,300 rabies deaths a year due to dog bites with a majority of those deaths being children.
Dogs, in many areas of the country, are definitely not a welcome sight.
This poor little guy was also semi-toothless, which added yet another negative element to his adoption. An old injury of a shattered lower jaw and periodontal disease left him without much to chew on.
So Xiao Lao-lao (pronounced she-ou l-ou l-ou, with ou as in "ouch"), or Little Old, returned with me to Marshall where Ericka Yeley, our very own Marshall veterinarian, was sure she’d find him a great home among those she knew.
Actually, he almost found himself a home on several occasions during our journey to America. His quiet, sweet nature made him the darling of everyone we met, from the Shanghai Globypet relocation staff to passengers and flight attendants on our overseas’ plane journey. Even those we ran into during our 5-hour layover in Detroit held a special place in their hearts for Lao-lao.
Everyone who saw him was enamored by his sad story.
They cooed to him in his carrier. They held him for photo ops. They waved goodbye as they parted his company.
I had many email exchanges and genuine offers of: "Really, and I’m not kidding, if you can’t find him a home where you live, please contact me."
I was touched by the kindness of so many Americans willing to give this tiny, 5-pound, special needs dog a loving home and happy life.
Even in Marshall, during our walks around the neighborhood, I’ve run into a number of our citizens who have asked after his well-being, given him a gentle pet, and exclaimed how cute he is.
After our visit to Marshall’s Animal Care Clinic for a health check, Ericka Yeley volunteered to foster Lao-lao after I returned to China on August 3. She even had a few individuals in mind who might want to keep him.
Such a generous offer!
But Lao-lao seems to have already stolen the pity vote for adoption from another Marshall couple.
It’s none other than my own parents, Bill and Priscilla Wieck.
"Well," my mom said, gazing down at his tiny figure for the first time. His tongue hung perpetually downward (no teeth to hold it in). His short legs bowed outward. His little face looked up at hers.
"He is kind of cute."
"Bring the immigrant up here on the bed. Let me pet him."
So it looks like Lao-lao has found himself the perfect home among people who will give him all the love and care he deserves after such a hard life overseas.
Now that’s about the best happy-ever-after story I could possibly have hoped for.
As always, here’s Ping An for your day, this time from the USA.