chowder the emperor (may 20, 2011)

One of the consequences of China’s one child policy is that families literally are putting all their eggs in one basket.  Four grandparents and two parents dote on these single children.  Often becoming terribly spoiled and over protected.  They are not allowed to do any activities where they run a risk of getting hurt, including most exercise, and they expected to be top of their class at school. On the flip side, their every whim is indulged and you see them in parks, restaurants and museums, pudgy kids having a fit while their poor parents try everything to calm them down. The temptation to whack them is almost overwhelming.  Boys are the worst and have earned the nick name little emperors.

I am delighted to say our boys have yet to succumb to this phenomenon.  Both are fit and too afraid of me to throw tantrums. We rarely discourage them from any physical activity, no matter how potentially dangerous (like bungee jumping and go cart racing). And while their marks are “fine” they are a long way from the top of the class.

Chowder. On the other hand, has become a furry emperor; spoiled rotten (everyone thinks I love him the most), terror of the compound.

It is believed dogs were domesticated in China over 15000 years ago. They were used for herding, guarding and food. Historically they have never been loved, long considered dirty and willing to eat anything, including garbage.  During Maoist times they were banned as symbols of bourgeois decadence.  Police were encouraged to shoot dogs on sight. A horrible insult at this time was to call someone a running dog.

There are still a lot of restrictions on dog ownership.  Officially in Beijing you can only own one dog.  It is mandatory to have a license which costs around $100 the first year and $50 every year there after. This is a lot of money for most people and the regulation is widely ignored. Any dog bigger than 35 cm high at the shoulder has to live outside the 5th ring road, where we live!

Luckily for Chowder, attitudes toward dogs are changing.  Along with their German cars, designer handbags and huge houses, many Chinese consider having a dog a status symbol.  But they still don’t want to walk them.  This job is relegated to their Ayis (housekeepers).

I walk Chowder myself, and love it!

Almost daily, we encounter an Ayi out walking her small charge.  Invariably, this little dog yelps at Chowder who then wags his tail, pulls ferociously at his leash and gives a big manly woof! The Ayi shrieks, throws up her hands and drops the leash. As the small dog starts running around wildly, Chowder looses it… barking, growling, jumping and twisting on the leash.  Once order is restored, the ayi, almost in tears, darts away. I have to suppress my giggling. Chowder pumps up his chest and struts proudly on, Emperor of the Neighborhood, delighted by the fear he instills in all!

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