A dog’s life: In Bei­jing’s For­bid­den City, no hol­i­day for ca­nine pa­trol

Jerusalem Post - - COMMENT & FEATURES -

BEI­JING (Reuters) – As China ush­ers in the Lu­nar Year of the Dog, hun­dreds of mil­lions of Chi­nese are trav­el­ing to their home­towns to spend the week­long na­tional hol­i­day with their fam­i­lies.

But for the 23-dog pa­trol that guards China’s fa­mous For­bid­den City in the heart of Bei­jing, there will be no break.

“There is no dif­fer­ence if it’s Chi­nese New Year or not. Bur­glars don’t have hol­i­days, we don’t ei­ther,” said Chang Fu­mao, 59, the head of the ca­nine pa­trol, who has trained the dogs for more than 30 years.

“We have to be on guard 24 hours a day.”

Built in the early 17th cen­tury, the For­bid­den City cov­ers 74 hectares on a site to the north of Tianan­men Square. Its fa­bled 9,999 rooms are sur­rounded by a moat.

The palace-turned-mu­seum boasted 16.7 mil­lion ticket sales last year. Once home to China’s em­per­ors, it is now a trove of na­tional trea­sures, in­clud­ing a 3,000-year-old bronze vase cov­ered in intricate carv­ings and a 12th cen­tury five-me­ter-long paint­ing of daily life in the Song Dy­nasty.

There have been few re­ports of theft over the years, but the Com­mu­nist Party lead­er­ship has been care­ful to pre­serve the palace, a na­tional sym­bol of China.

Even dur­ing the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion, when fa­nat­i­cal Red Guards smashed and stole relics en masse, the For­bid­den City was placed un­der spe­cial guard and es­caped largely un­scathed.

Chang started his ca­reer as a clerk in the mu­seum when he was 20 and is set to re­tire next year. He has slept and worked next to the dogs’ ken­nels for years.

“We have a quite sim­ple life. I feed the dogs in the morn­ing, clean the ken­nel, train the dogs, feed them again, clean again, and train again,” said Chang, as the dogs car­ried out a train­ing ses­sion, at­tack­ing a guard in a pro­tec­tive padded suit.

When the crowds de­part, he gets the rare priv­i­lege of see­ing the an­cient palace halls and vast walk­ways de­void of peo­ple.

“At night I will bring (the dogs) out to pa­trol the For­bid­den City when all the vis­i­tors are gone,” said Chang.

“Only the wind and birds in the trees are our com­pan­ions, it feels quiet and lonely.”

(Ja­son Lee/Reuters)

SE­CU­RITY STAFF of ca­nine pa­trol squad Zhang Yu and a guard dog pa­trol at the For­bid­den City in cen­tral Bei­jing on Mon­day.

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