zhuang zhuang

John is pretty convinced that if there is a difficult way to do something I will find it. Alas, I am beginning to think he is right. Most people return home from China with some beautiful porcelain teacups or a fake Louis Vuitton bag or knock-off Louboutins.  As it happens, my souvenir was a Chinese dog, and not some Pekinese purse dog either.

I never dreamt I would get another dog. However, fate has a funny way of messing up even the best intentions. Of course, John is also convinced that I use “fate” as justification for all my more impulsive, less rational decisions. I think it is rather cynical not to believe certain things are just meant to happen. If it were all random the world would be full of people doing basically the same thing.  And that is clearly not the case.

I shall explain why.

After writing a much deserved thank you note to the fine Chinese veterinarians who had been so kind to Chowder (and me) during his last hours I searched online for their mailing address.  Not content to simply get the coordinates and finish the task at hand, I digressed and found myself reviewing their “Pets Needing Homes” section.  (You see fate had started to play its hand.)

There were scores of orphaned furry things – cats, dogs, and rabbits – and each had a sad story worthy of a mini-series.  However, I was still mourning the loss of Chowder and couldn’t contemplate any sort of proxy; my heart was hardened. That is, until the very last dog in this collection of refugee pooches. He looked at me from his two dimensional online kennel…and that was that. Fate had its hands on my back and gave a great big push.

Not only was this beguiling pooch adorable with white fur and big sad eyes but also, he had been found on February 4th, my mother’s birthday, and I am very superstitious. Fate or kismet or whatever had struck me like a bolt of lightning.

His name is Zhuang Zhuang.  Which means strong. In fact, it means strong, strong, as though one Zhuang was not enough. In China people and pets are often given names of attributes the parent would like them to have… that’s why so many girls have Xiao (small) or Mei (pretty) in their names.  Zhuang had been abandoned, hit by a car and lost his back right paw. It is an odd affliction that is not immediately noticed, like those “What’s missing?” picture puzzle. Nonetheless, in China people only want perfect pets. No one would adopt this damaged dog. No one but me, as fate would have it.

John and everyone else freely opined that a three-pawed Chinese dog was a very bad idea.  They rationalized that there were lots of dogs that needed homes in Vancouver.  It would cost a fortune. Our lives were crazy busy. They offered many good logical reasons, all of which I ignored unflinchingly. After all, it was not a matter based on logic or prudence but, rather, was a necessity presented by fate.  And never mess with fate, I say.

You’d think getting a dog out of China would be easy… after all, who cares? You’d think getting a dog into Canada would be hard… they do care.  But the opposite is true. All Canada requires is a rabies shot and a microchip. China requires endless vet visits and reams of paper work. I am sure babies were once adopted with less due diligence.

We are all now back in Vancouver for the summer. We are all experiencing a bit of culture shock.  It’s odd to look like everyone else.  It’s even weirder hearing English all the time. But it is nothing compared to what Zhuang must be experiencing. For him it is literally a whole new world: clean air, no cage, dog food, grass to piddle on.  Being acknowledged, let alone adored, by everyone he meets.  He is the canine version of the Japanese soldier who just stepped out of the woods to discover the war ended fifty years ago.

He dashes about madly sniffing at everything.  After all a dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times more acute than ours.   A friend said it must be like one of us ending up in a place where all the colors of familiar things had been changed … purple grass, green people, yellow sky.   Zhuang is on a non-narcotic magical mystery tour!  And I have to think it must be exhausting, poor thing.

Apart from destroying our sofa he has made a very smooth transition.  He is a marvelously irregular dog who has adapted wondrously to our irregular life.  For those of you living in Vancouver you are obligated to come and meet this three-footed Chinese immigrant….. after all, it’s now your fate!


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  2. Hi Julie-Anna, I just read Ian Young’s article about Zhuang Zhuang. A very touching story, and I want to share a similar story my wife and I have– we adopted Peyton who is a Samoyed rescued from Korea. We now live in North Van, Lonsdale area. Other than the blue triangle on his tongue, we think he’s mostly Sammy (maybe part Chow?). He’s now 4, but we’ve only had him since this past January. He’s been in shelters all his life, nobody wanted him because of his hip dysplasia, and deteriorating eyesight (PRA). He’s such a kind, and loving new family member– almost like an old soul 🙂 Which is important because we are expecting our first child in a couple of weeks. Everyday we learn something from Peyton, to live in the moment, always be happy, and to be kind to others. Looking forward to more updates on Strong, Strong!

      1. Looking forward to it. I would love for Peyton and Zhuang Zhuang to meet one day! We used to go to Trout Lake, but now it’s more of the trails in North Van, and King’s Mill Park in Harbourside.

  3. I’m looking forward to meeting this lovely new addition to your family. And I can’t wait to see the rest of the Vogel family again! So far I’ve only seen that tall eldest son of yours. We’re so glad to have all of you back.

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