Street dog helps nurse deal with virus trau­mas in China

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD -

BEI­JING — Zhang Dan was among the first to re­spond to the call for help in China’s coro­n­avirus epi­cen­ter. The 36-yearold nurse worked through gru­el­ing days, min­is­ter­ing to pa­tients who needed as­sis­tance from breath­ing to merely eat­ing.

She strug­gled — but then, a lit­tle street dog helped her through.

Zhang was among 42,600 med­i­cal work­ers brought from around China to bol­ster Wuhan’s over­whelmed med­i­cal sys­tem. Hos­pi­tals were crammed with pa­tients and field clin­ics thrown up to han­dle the over­flow.

“I can’t save the world, but I can try my best with my tiny ef­forts to do what I can do to help,” Zhang said.

Her par­ents and grand­par­ents wor­ried about her de­ci­sion to vol­un­teer — and she her­self pre­pared for the worst. She pur­chased life in­sur­ance that would ben­e­fit her par­ents if she suc­cumbed to the ill­ness. Hav­ing no chil­dren, she fig­ured her hus­band could start over if she died.

Her hus­band hav­ing re­turned to his home prov­ince for the Lu­nar New Year hol­i­day, Zhang’s mother moved into their apart­ment in the city of Changchun to look after her plants and four dogs.

Zhang and the rest of her 133-mem­ber team had one day of ori­en­ta­tion in early Fe­bru­ary be­fore they were thrown into the fray.

It took 40 min­utes to don the pro­tec­tive gear: four lay­ers of pro­tec­tive gowns and gloves, three lay­ers of shoe cov­ers, two hats, two pairs of masks, gog­gles and a face shield.

To avoid bath­room breaks, they wore adult di­a­pers so they wouldn’t waste time or gear by tak­ing off the lay­ers and hav­ing to dis­pose of them.

The work soon ex­tended to pro­vid­ing daily life care for the mostly el­derly pa­tients who were with­out fam­ily mem­bers to help them. Zhang sang to the pa­tients to try to raise their spir­its, and washed their hair and feet.

“We bought food if they needed it, soap, tooth­paste and tow­els and medicine when there was a short­age,” she said.

It was all so over­whelm­ing. And then the pooch came along.

The small, yel­low­ish street dog had caught Zhang’s eye dur­ing her walks. Al­ways with her tail be­tween her legs, she wolfed down the ham Zhang of­fered. She named her Doudou, or “bean.”

Feed­ing Doudou be­came a wel­come dis­trac­tion, and a daily pre­oc­cu­pa­tion. In frigid

RICH­MOND TIMES-DIS­PATCH win­ter tem­per­a­tures, she made the dog a vest from part of her scrubs.

By mid-March, teams such as Zhang’s were be­gin­ning to pack up. Lit­tle Doudou was go­ing to need a per­ma­nent home. Zhang posted video ap­peals on social me­dia, and lo­cal pet vol­un­teers of­fered to help.

As Zhang’s de­par­ture date ap­proached, she needed to tell Doudou that they would be part­ing.

“It doesn’t mat­ter if it is an­i­mals or peo­ple. You need to let them know what is go­ing on,” she said.

Zhang left on April 8, and Doudou was put up for adop­tion. At home in Changchun, the nurse missed her ca­nine com­pan­ion and asked for videos.

There were no suitable tak­ers for the lit­tle street dog.

Zhang knew she had to give Doudou a home; the deal was done. Doudou ar­rived in Changchun last month to join her four play­mates, and the nurse who came to love her.


Zhang Dan holds Doudou (cen­ter) at home in Changchun city in north­east­ern China’s Jilin prov­ince. Zhang, 36, a nurse who has four other dogs, was among the first to re­spond when the coro­n­avirus epi­cen­ter of Wuhan needed help. The lit­tle street dog helped her through.

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