A Chengdu Scare

A Chengdu Scare
          For 8 years, Little Flower (my Chihuahua) has accompanied me  throughout my time in China.  As a pity save from a nasty pet shop in Sichuan, she lucked out in landing in the arms of a foreigner who just loves pets and treats her as a beloved family member.
         She’s taken bus trips, pedicab jaunts, taxi rides and airplane flights with me to different destinations during our time together.  She’s also had her fair share of illnesses and run-ins with dangers, all of which I’ve had to deal with.  
          She’s been poisoned by a toad, bitten by a spider, slipped off an 8-foot wall at a Buddhist temple (Buddha was definitely watching on that one), stuck in an elevator by herself (5 floors up and 5 floors down, barking all the way), survived the deadly parvo virus after 3 days at the vet’s, had bouts with arthritis which meds take care of and currently is struggling with a persistent skin fungus that just won’t go away. 
         One would think that there could be nothing else to hit this dog, or her owner.
         Oh, think again!
The Story
        Our flight to Chengdu from Nanning last week was smooth and uneventful. As always, LF had to ride with the luggage under the airplane.  There’s always a bit of anxiety on my part, especially the worry that the sizzling summer heat on the tarmac will do her in, but we had very pleasant temps at 8 a.m. when we left.
       No worries there.
      Upon arrival in Chengdu, I checked us into our favorite hotel and then it was time for a walk.  We know this area well, especially as I used to live here for my language study several years ago, and quite a few know us quite well in turn.
         Shop keepers, venders and those in my old neighborhood are always happy to see us. It was only natural that we should make the rounds, our first stop being LF’s favorite place — Sabrina’s International Store.
         At the International Store, the staff have always welcomed LF with treats and playtime with Frisbee fetch tosses across the shop.  When LF shows up, wagging her tail and putting on her cutest facial expression, the manager immediately pulls out the goodies.  Bits of cheddar, gouda, mozzarella, crunchy potato chips, and homemade tiramisu and cheese cake crumbs are her rewards.
         LF is definitely a favorite here.
        When we walked in the door for our summer’s return visit, LF pranced her way around, expecting her usual snacks.  As always, she disappeared behind the snack counter where crumbs are often dropped.  I always quickly follow, just to make sure she’s not into something that’s not good for her.
          I found her gobbling down a plate of food which I assumed the staff had put down for a cat or another pet visitor.  I immediately went to pick it up before she made it through the entire thing when the manager beat me to it.
        While laughing, she quickly moved the plate to the upper counter, saying, “Oh!  That’s for the rats, not a dog.”
         There was a sinking feeling in my stomach.
         Chinese don’t feed rats.  No one feeds rats.  They kill them!
        Sure enough, LF had just polished off half a plate of rat poison mixed in food.
The Rush to the Clinic
        I went into overdrive, scooped up the dog and tried to get her to throw up what she’d eaten.   It was impossible.  She had that stuff in her stomach and it was going to stay there unless professionals got it out.
       My own veterinarian, Dr. Qiu, was clear across town.  A taxi ride in morning Chengdu traffic would take us at least 30 to 40 minutes.  So I went to Plan B.
       Knowing the area so well, I knew that there was an animal hospital about 15-minute’s walk away but no way was I walking for 15 minutes.  I was in a taxi in a second and it took us 3 minutes to get there.
       In my panic, I couldn’t even think of the name for poison in Chinese so I just burst through the doors, saying in Chinese, “Excuse me!  My little dog has just now eaten dangerous rat stuff, 10 minutes ago!”
        Everyone knew exactly what I meant. 
         The 3 senior vets  went into action along with the vet assistant.  They told me to put LF on the examining table while they surrounded her.  Syringes, intravenous tubes, and bottles of meds were pulled off shelves in an instant.  I held onto LF while they administered what was needed to empty her stomach.  Poor dog didn’t know what hit her, all this flurry of activity. 
        Then it was waiting for her to get rid of what she’d eaten, which didn’t take long.
The Follow-up
       Although she probably hadn’t had time to digest anything, the vets explained the poison still stays in the lining of the stomach as she can’t expel everything.  So for 5 ½ hours, I sat with my dog while she had 3 sets of medications sent into her system intravenously along with 2 injections.
       After the initial scare had worn off, it was time to give a sigh of relief and relax.
Inside He Xie Dong Wu Yi Yuan (Harmonious Animal Hospital)
       In China, loved ones always sit with hospital patients and make sure their needs are met.  Duties include washing clothes and bedding, bringing in food from outside to feed their sick friend or relative, contacting staff if they notice a sudden change in the sick person’s illness and seeing to all the patient’s comfort.  
       In other words, the hospital is responsible for looking after the medical attention, the relatives’ job is to do everything else.  
      Chinese nurses just make sure the meds are given that the doctor prescribes and don’t have anything else much to do with the sick. This happens in every Chinese hospital so it’s a busy place with visitors constantly around, 24 hours a day.  Relatives sleep next to the patient in the room and also hang around during the day to keep each other company.  Crowded and noisy at times, it’s nothing like American hospitals that are strict about visiting hours, establishing a quiet and restful environment, and dictate what you can and can’t eat.  
       This same hospital routine for humans  goes for veterinarian clinics in China as well.
       Being LF’s caretaker, it was my job to take care of her while her drugs were administered.  I sat next to my little dog, keeping her calm and still,  while the staff came and went to make sure her intravenous fluids were flowing properly.  I also took a good look at the clinic itself, which was the most updated animal hospital I’ve seen, not only in China but in the States as well.  I felt like I was visiting Animal Planet’s Emergency Vets TV program.
       Everything was computerized, including new patients being processed into the computer in special files. New microscopes, blood machines, intravenous drip digital programmers and other modern  equipment could be seen in the lab area. The 3 senior vets had their own desks and computers.  Even the assistants had a special place to do further research on the Net. 
          During my stay, the group had a staff meeting where Internet sites were placed on the office wall as powerpoint presentations.  They were discussing new treatments and how to diagnose difficult cases.
A Busy Place
        A groomer was also hard at work in her grooming center, the next room over from the lobby where pet supplies were also sold.  
         While I waited, 3 doggies came in with their owners to have makeovers.  One was a darling, hefty hound dog who was not at all happy about looking his best.  He bayed, whined and howled the entire time the groomer was washing and drying him.
          Aside from LF in the clinic area facility, there were a few other patients that arrived as well.  A miserable, cockety, older cocker spaniel with an eye problem had been dumped by his owners at the clinic.  His unkempt coat and snappy attitude didn’t make him a favorite among the staff. 
        A towering, frolicking collie arrived with digestive difficulties.  A stool sample was taken for analysis. 
        An elderly couple came in with their gorgeous Persian kitty in need of Frontline, the flea-and-tick repellant.  These products are easy to come by in America but only updated vets in China have this brand, specifically ordered from the States.
        And our last visitors were still hanging around after we left.  A father and his 11-year-old son came in to sit with their Pomeranian, on the drip for a stomach ailment, they said.  The two obviously loved their sweet little pooch.  The three (boy, father and dog) sat right next to one another on  the customer benches while the little dog received his treatment.  Our patient was perched on a towel, quite content to be with his concerned family members in the clinic.  From time to time, Dad would go out to smoke cigarettes in front of the building.  His son was left to make sure his furry companion didn’t jump down onto the floor and take off. 
         To pass the time, I spoke a little English with the boy, which made his father extremely proud.  They even let me take a picture of the three of them.
Treatment Ends
      LF had a second visit to the animal clinic the next day in the morning.  A 2-hour drip and some more meds satisfied the vets that she was good to go.  Not before Mother (that’s me) pulled out her bank card to pay, of course. 
      Usually, hospital services for people or animals are much cheaper in China than in the States.  I scanned the fee chart hanging on the wall and figured this wouldn’t set me back too much: initial exam, $5; drips, $20; blood analysis, $8.  Everything was under $20 except for one item listed, the highest one of all that was an American drug of some sort, priced at $80.
        And wouldn’t you know it, LF’s treatment for her poisoning would, naturally, be that American drug!
        Oh well.  All I can say is  “Like mother like daughter.” We both always go for the high quality stuff, no matter what it might be, meds included.
A Taiwan Best Friend Arrives


          It’s been 10 years since I left Taiwan as a teacher so you can imagine my excitement when my best friend from Taipei , Zhan Qiu Hui (Monica), wrote to say she was coming to see me.  She  is now visiting me here in Chengdu.  It is our 10th year reunion and we are living the high life with lots of adventures in mainland China.  We have done Chengdu parks, temples, walked the streets to exhausion and even had a visit to a countryside village to spend the day with Jason (Ji Ke), my former student in Luzhou, and his family.  Later, I will have more time to post pictures and tell of our time together but for now, we’re off to the bamboo park across town to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

            Ping An (Peace) to all!


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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