A week and a bit ago, I received a phone call from a caucasian man (we'll call him J). He asked if I was Charles to which I replied 'yes'. Charles is my middle name. I use it frequently in Hong Kong because many local people have trouble pronouncing my first name Gregory. They usually see the g's and r's and assume that it's George. They never have trouble with Charles because everyone knows Prince Charles, so I use Charles to make things convenient for everyone depending on the situation.
Anyway, J told me that he recognised the pup and knew the owner. I was cautiously optimistic. I didn't want to get my hopes up to much just in case he had mistaken the identity of the pup. After all, a lot of dogs have one droopy ear and that's one of the things he based his claim on. J was busy that day so we organised to meet the next day.
The next day at lunch, J gave me a call and drove over to our village. He lived not too far away so it was possible that the pup had run away from home or gone wandering and become lost along the way although that's not very likely for any dog with even a hint of dog sense. Most dogs can find their way home without any help. I walked up to the car park with the pup and Batty, saw his car and identified by his actions that we wasn't sure if he was in the right place and was about to phone me for instructions. I walked on over and called out to him.
J looked at the pup and confirmed that it was indeed his neighbour's pup. The pup also appeared to know him. Before the pup had been lost, J had often fed the pup dog biscuits, so he took out a packet of dog biscuits and offered one to the pup to see what his reaction would be. The pup sat down and took the biscuit. At this point, the man was almost definite it was the neighbour's pup and things were looking more and more promising by the minute. I remained cautious though just in case things didn't turn out.
J opened the door to his car and Batty immediately climbed in. That was unexpected but not all too surprising. He loves to ride in the car but I'd never expected him to get into someone else's car. I tried to call him out of the car but he refused to budge. The other pup got into the car with a little pushing and shoving and they were off back to the J's village to visit the original owner. I raced back to my car and followed as quickly as possible, not sure what Batty would do when they arrived at their destination without me.
There was no need for concern. When I arrived at the village, the man was holding the door open and Batty was climbing out cool and calm. I was pleased.
We walked down to the neighbour's house. It was a typical village house with three stories and a garden area around the ground floor. This is normal for Hong Kong. Most people either try to live in the ground floor to get the garden area; usually for barbeque reasons; or the top floor because it comes with a roof area. All village buildings; ie 村屋; in Hong Kong have a floor area of 700 square feet. Buildings allotted to village natives as a birth right; ie 丁屋; may be 500 square feet in area but everything else is normally 700 square feet.
As we approached the village building, the pup walked up as if he knew the place. J opened the gate to the garden and the pup trotted in and around the house, knowing exactly where he was going. He was home.
We walked around to the front of the building. The owner's wife was washing clothes and the owner was inside the building. They were an old couple; retired. One of the reasons J had called me was that since losing the pup, the old man had become despondent. The only thing that kept his spirits up was the pup. He didn't have a job, he didn't have responsibilities, and he didn't seem to have any respect. The pup meant the world to him. I imagined the joyous look that would appear on his face upon seeing the pup again. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out as I had imagined.
In the month that we had looked after the pup, he had grown. His hair had changed in colour and he had become taller and bigger. The old man's wife flatly refused to acknowledge that it was their pup, even while he drank water from a bucket next to her as she washed the clothes. The old man also refused to recognise him.
It turns out that the old man's family didn't want him to have the pup. Before living with us, the pup was too rough for the neighbours and their children. It used to bark and the neighbours; including four of the man's children now grown up with their own families; considered the pup to be a nuisance. It didn't matter that the pup was the man's best and perhaps only friend. So they took the pup away, dumped it in our village and then told the old man that they had given it to someone many many miles away in the New Territories in a town called Lau Fau San.
People basically come in two flavours. Some people see animals as an object, a living object but something akin to a large insect without thoughts, without character and without a soul. Then there are the people like my father and myself who see everything human in the animal. We can see their emotions, when they're happy, sad, troubled, worried, distraught, envious, and many other emotions typically seen in people. It's not just dogs. We can see these things in all animals. Hence, I prefer to refer to animals as little people rather than animals. It is because of this that I cannot mistreat an animal in any way. Unfortunately, most people today only see animals as cute furry objects to have fun with. They don't see the little person within and it makes it easy for them to give up on the animal and cast it away without much thought. That's basically what this man's family had done.
We knew for sure by now that the pup was the man's pup. He wasn't convinced though. As J put it, the man had been brain washed by his family. The old man decided to go and see the person who had given him the pup when it was really small, so he walked off up the road and down the other side. And you know what? The pup followed him. Ten minutes later, the old man came back with the pup trailing behind. He hadn't been able to find the person who had given him the pup and he was still pretty sure that it wasn't his pup. His own pup's tail was big and fluffy. He wasn't so big. His hair was lighter. He would run into the kitchen as soon as he came home.
While giving these justifications for refusing to acknowledge the pup, the old man's wife was standing behind a gate with the pup on the other side of the gate, sitting down, looking up at her, panting happily and wagging his tail so hard that his whole bum was moving from side to side. And she still refused to acknowledge the pup.
There was nothing we could do. If we had left the pup with them, they or their children would have taken the pup away again, this time to a place much further away. It wouldn't have worked out well for the pup. So I brought it back home.
We've had the pup for almost two months now. I'm not going to keep it. We still haven't given it a name. I'm not game to because once it has a name, it becomes even more personal and harder to part with. I took him back down to our neighbours home for a second look. They were astonished by how gentle he was compared to the first time they saw him. He was just lying down in front of them, wagging his tail and chewing on a leather bone while they looked at him and marvelled. But they were still concerned about their baby boy and there were new possibilities about leaving Hong Kong that made it even harder for them to take in and raise a new pup.
I'm giving the pup five more days. He's a wonderful pup and loves to play all the time. Almost all of his nipping habits have gone and he's just fun to have around. But we can't keep him.
I'll be printing photos of him and placing them on all the cars in the car park over the next couple of days. Hopefully, someone will take him in before the allotted time runs out. After all we've done and after he's changed so much, I wouldn't want to see him put down. It simply wouldn't be fair. I don't care if the world is frequently unjust. Some things just have to have good endings.