The Vil­lage Ter­ror

NewsChina - - ESSAY - By Chris Hawke

My new ex­er­cise pro­gram has helped me lose weight, made me ir­re­sistible to women, im­proved my re­la­tion­ship with my fi­ancée, and gets me out of the house twice a day, rain or shine. I call it the “Walk The Alaskan Mala­mute Or It Will Destroy The House” pro­gram.

We picked up our 43-kilo­gram beast at the lo­cal dog shel­ter a cou­ple of weeks ago. My orig­i­nal idea was to get a cat to scare off the mice in­vad­ing the kitchen of our old wooden court­yard home on a moun­tain­side near Dali in South­west China's Yun­nan Prov­ince. But we de­cided a fear­less, scary-look­ing guard dog might be more use­ful, and make my fi­ancée feel se­cure when I'm not at home.

Many Chi­nese cities don't have a dog shel­ter at all – from time to time the town man­age­ment of­fi­cials just round up the strays and kill them. Dali's shel­ter, started by a group of an­i­mal lovers who banded to­gether on so­cial me­dia, is tucked be­hind a fac­tory off a high­way on the out­skirts of town. It has two fenced in ar­eas, one for sick dogs liv­ing out their fi­nal days, and an­other for dogs in good enough health to be adopted.

My dog was the big­gest in the crowded shel­ter by far, and had the ap­pear­ance of a junk­yard fighter. He al­most knocked me over when I came into his cage – he was sep­a­rated from the other dogs be­cause he could over­whelm them with his size.

The shel­ter man­ager, a for­mer taxi driver, said the mala­mute was healthy, but sub­tly kept hint­ing a re­cently ar­rived golden re­triever would make a bet­ter pet. China's shel­ters are full of prized breeds aban­doned by their own­ers. He noted the mala­mute had al­ready been re­turned once by a pre­vi­ous owner – it howled too much.

But the mala­mute stole my heart. Dogs and peo­ple evolved to­gether, and some­thing primeval stirred in me.

Per­haps he fed my ego, a pow­er­ful wild dog with a pow­er­ful wild man. Fear. Re­spect. A house peo­ple dare not en­ter. I called him Cup­cake, think­ing it would make me seem more sym­pa­thetic in case of a law­suit.

At first, walk­ing this al­pha dog in my lo­cal vil­lage went as I hoped, even bet­ter. The vil­lagers jumped when they saw him the first time, per­haps mis­tak­ing him for a wolf. The men all asked how much I paid for him.

The ex­cep­tion that proved the rule was when pretty young women spot­ted him. They would shriek with de­light, rush up and wrap their arms around him. Women love a bad boy.

The para­doxes of life. Cup­cake is a chick mag­net. But he re­quires so much time and care that a bach­e­lor would never have the time or sched­ule to han­dle him.

Although Cup­cake looked like a scrappy brawler when I picked him up at the shel­ter, af­ter a trip to the vet in­clud­ing a sham­poo and blow dry, he looked ab­so­lutely… fluffy. Fancy. Adorable. No one was ever afraid of him again.

A mala­mute needs to walk for two hours a day, or it will howl, and start roam­ing around the house knock­ing things over. Be­ing an Alaskan breed, he can­not ex­er­cise in the full day's sun, or he will get hot and refuse to move for 30 min­utes, un­til he cools down. He is too big to budge. Orig­i­nally a snow dog, he is pretty much wa­ter­proof, and in­sists on go­ing out in the rain.

Tak­ing care of this dog re­quires so much work and strat­egy, my fi­ancée and I no longer have time for petty squab­bles, and in­stead spend most of our time strate­giz­ing about his care. We now spend a cou­ple of hours a day walk­ing him in the moun­tain or along the lake – some­thing we had al­ways planned to do, but had never found time for.

We had to forgo a plan to at­tend the Chi­nese Burn­ing Man event in or­der to take care of this dog, but spend­ing so much time in na­ture has brought me some­thing more psychedelic than a dance fes­ti­val.

There is a rea­son the po­ets Wordsworth and Emerson spent so much time walk­ing through the woods. As you slow down and try to see the world from a dog's per­spec­tive, you no­tice things that es­caped you as you rushed from project to project, ap­point­ment to ap­point­ment.

Cup­cake, ini­tially so mighty and in­tim­i­dat­ing, didn't turn out to be the al­pha wolf I ex­pected.

The first time he saw a horse he dragged me into a ditch run­ning in fear. He yowls piteously if left alone. He howls when­ever I play the vi­o­lin or my fi­ancée plays pi­ano.

And in terms of be­ing a watch­dog, he is pretty much use­less. Although he re­sem­bles an over­sized wolf, he just wants to be friends with ev­ery per­son he meets.

Things don't turn out as you ex­pect. This fluffy watch­dog would wel­come any­one into the house. But as fright­ened as he is of horses, not one mouse has set foot in our kitchen since we brought him home.

Per­haps he fed my ego, a pow­er­ful wild dog with a pow­er­ful wild man. Fear. Re­spect. A house peo­ple dare not en­ter. I called him Cup­cake, think­ing it would make me seem more sym­pa­thetic in case of a law­suit

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