No one can deny that Americans are great animal lovers. My Chinese colleagues, friends and students were always amazed how Little Flower played such a vital role in my overseas’ life.
When they visited, they’d gaze in wonder at all her toys, heaped high in her toy basket. They’d enjoy watching her sit for treats, commenting how smart she was. They’d laugh over my pet Christmas tree, which was solely for Little Flower, and marvel at the many Chihuahua photos surrounding it plus all the doggie ornaments that adorned the branches.
“American people really love their dogs,” they’d say.
Well, this particular American does, anyway.
So it’s no wonder that an injured, starving street dog I found in China, whom I named Lao-lao (Old-old), found his way to America under my care. Nor is it that this past Monday and Tuesday night were devoted to one thing and one thing only in this American household: The Westminster Dog Show.
Enjoying the Show
Several evenings ago, Lao-lao and I propped ourselves up in the downstairs bed to eagerly watch the biggest animal event of the year taking place in New York city’s Madison Square Gardens. February 11 and 12 ushered in the 137th Westminster Dog Show, televised in full and bringing to the forefront 175 AKC (American Kennel Club) dog breeds and 2,721 canine entries vying for Best of Show, the grand champion of doggies. (For my Chinese readers, “Best of Show” means 1st place).
Monday and Tuesday nights, we watched judges choose the best from the seven groups: hound, toy, non-sporting and herding on Monday; sporting, working, terrier and Best of Show on Tuesday. Naturally, our preferences in breeds were aimed toward the Chihuahua but, sadly, the toy group choice was a wiry black Affenpinscher called Banana Joe. Who would have thought he’d later go onward to win the Best of Show?
Lao-lao’s First-time Viewing of the Show
Lao-lao’s interest in watching his first Westminster Dog Show was evident by his elongated positioning toward the TV.
Every so often, out of politeness, he’d tilt his head backwards to better hear my opinions concerning the canines parading before us.
And during commercials, there would be discussion through his expression-filled eyes as to a possible winner.
Our enthusiasm for this prestigious annual event got me to wondering: If we can make inclusive adjustments for humans, with Special Olympics for those with intellectual disabilities and Paralympics for the physically challenged, why can’t we do the same for dogs?
Lao-lao’s weight of under 6 pounds, domed apple head and obvious Chihuahua features place him in his breed category but a missing lower jaw, tooth loss due to gum disease and thin patches of missing fur do not a show dog make . . . unless he and his kind have their own specialized contest.
I’m surprised no one has hatched a plan of petitioning Westminster organizers for a disabled dog show. This would be open to dogs of any obvious breed but due to disfiguring injuries are not able to compete with the perfect shining stars of the dog world we see every year at Madison Square Gardens. After all, our physically challenged canines deserve a chance to shine, too.
A Children’s Book in the Making: Fame, Here We Come!
Lao-lao’s chances are still pretty slim, if nil, of ever strutting his stuff in front of millions at the Westminster Dog Show, but perhaps someday his orally challenged status and happily-ever-after story might be known by more than those in my hometown.
I have finally finished my children’s chapter book entitled Lao-lao: A Chinese Immigrant’s Story and am looking for an agent and publisher. This is written in first person from Lao-lao’s perspective where he retells his fascinating journey from the Sichuan earthquake region to the Yangtze River in Luzhou and finally to smalltown America. Along the way, American children learn 43 different Chinese words and phrases which Lao-lao explains and teaches. Photos complete the story rather than illustrations but that might change in the future.
My greatest hope is to have all publication profits go toward two worthy causes: 1) a new animal shelter in Marshall, Illinois, Lao-lao’s new American home 2) The Amity Foundation’s education programs in greatest need of funding.
So while 2014 most likely won’t bring us any Westminster show dog fame, it might very well bring us fame of a different sort: that of rescued dog and his human rescuer.
To all animal lovers out there, here’s sending you Ping An (Peace) for your day!