THE ACCIDENTAL PET OWNER

Chris­tine Yu, the Cre­ative Di­rec­tor and Founder of Ipa-Nima ac­ces­sories brand, opens up about her life with four chil­dren: two dogs and two cats

Oi Vietnam - - News - Text and Im­ages by Christina Yu This ar­ti­cle is an edited ex­cerpt from Me Thu Cung (www.pet­magazine.vn), Viet­nam’s first pet mag­a­zine.

Chris­tine Yu opens up about her life with four chil­dren: two dogs and two cats

I HAVE AL­WAYS CON­SID­ERED

MY­SELF an “accidental” pet owner. Brought up in Hong Kong, we barely have enough space for hu­mans, let alone pets. I re­mem­ber I used to see pets in cages in apart­ments and felt so sorry for them. So, it had never oc­curred to me that I would be a pet owner. As it turns out, I now have a mini zoo: two schnauzers and two cats.

In 2009, a cou­ple of friends came over to our house for a farewell din­ner, they were mov­ing to Scotland. They men­tioned that they would have to give their cat away. With a cou­ple of drinks down and get­ting quite ine­bri­ated, I jok­ingly sug­gested to take the cat. My hus­band, Mark, was not pleased be­cause he didn’t like cats. When we re­turned from our Tet holiday we heard this cat scream­ing for his life from 100 me­ters away—our friends had or­ga­nized the cat to be de­liv­ered to us zipped up in­side a back­pack on a mo­tor­bike for 20 mins. This is how I ended up hav­ing my first pet—a white cat that I named Yoda (he looks ex­actly like Yoda in Star Wars). He is not the friendli­est cat (can’t blame him be­cause his tran­si­tion to us could not have be more un­pleas­ant) but he likes to sleep be­tween us in the wee hours of the morn­ing, es­pe­cially in the win­ter in Hanoi when we lived there.

Sev­eral years ago when we moved from Hanoi to Saigon, Mark de­cided we needed a dog be­cause we lived in a house, and pos­si­bly bet­ter to have a guard dog be­cause we heard sto­ries about bur­glar­ies hap­pen­ing in An Phu. I was not keen on a big dog as I did not think I could han­dle an an­i­mal as big as me so his fa­ther rec­om­mended a schnau­zer. I found a pro­fes­sional breeder on­line in Hong Kong. He sent us a photo of his only puppy, which was at the right age for ra­bies shot and we could take her out of the coun­try. We bought the dog by email and made the nec­es­sary ar­range­ment with Cathy Pa­cific Cargo. My hus­band then went to Hong Kong to pick her up af­ter all the vac­ci­na­tions had been com­pleted.

Life some­times moves in mysterious ways. On the eve of hav­ing the first dog in my life, I was bit­ten by my friend’s dog and ended up spend­ing an en­tire day in a hospi­tal. Un­be­known to me at the time of the ac­ci­dent, the dog had bit­ten an­other per­son a week be­fore. What up­set me the most about the ac­ci­dent was that the owner did not put a leash or a muz­zle on the dog. He could not con­trol the dog and, worse, he dumped me at the hospi­tal and left. I had eight ra­bies shots and was in and out of the clinic for four weeks. My crab claw arm cost me more than USD2,000 and my friend be­came my en­emy. What I learned from this ex­pe­ri­ence is how im­por­tant it is to be a re­spon­si­ble dog owner.

Jazzie and Max

When I fi­nally met my first dog named, Jazzie, I was super ner­vous and I could only pat her with one hand. Al­though she was a small dog, I felt vul­ner­a­ble from that dog bit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

In prepa­ra­tion to be a dog owner, Mark prob­a­bly watched hun­dreds of episodes of Ce­sar Mil­lan and learned that ex­er­cise, dis­ci­pline and af­fec­tion are the ul­ti­mate truth for dogs. We even hired a dog trainer, Adrian Ramos, who used to train res­cue-and-search dogs in the Philip­pines, to train Jazzie. I would say this is pos­si­bly the smartest thing we have ever done.

A year later, we bought Jazzie a boyfriend named Max, a black and white schnau­zer, so they can play to­gether when we are at work all day. Max is not as smart as Jazzie but super lov­ing.

In a way, hav­ing dogs are like hav­ing kids that never grow old. They can give you a lot of joy but they also come with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. We try to spend time with them ev­ery day, no mat­ter how late and how tired we are, to give them af­fec­tion.

My most re­cent pet Buster was also an “ac­ci­dent.” We were at the vet—both our dogs had ticks—when Dr. Nghia men­tioned that he had an aban­doned cat that was dumped with him for over six months and he could not con­tact the owner. He asked whether I was keen to adopt, but with three pets in my house, I was hes­i­tant. I asked to see the cat, and this Per­sian fluffy thing with a warped nose just climbed onto my lap, sat on me

and started purring. And, unlike Yoda, he is the friendli­est cat that we have ever seen and, funny enough, have be­hav­ioral pat­terns like a dog.

Now when peo­ple ask us whether we have any kids, I would say four. They will nor­mally look at me in an as­ton­ished way un­til I ex­plained. They are like my kids ex­cept they don’t talk back and don’t ask for my iPad. They wel­come me with open paws when I come home, follow me around the house, pro­tect me and bark like crazy when there is a stranger at the door. They know me when I am sad, happy, ag­i­tated, an­noyed and the best thing is that they give me a lot of oxy­tocin (a love hor­mone that is pro­duced by the brain when one pats a dog or a cat) which gen­er­ates feel­ings of re­lax­ation, trust and psy­cho­log­i­cal sta­bil­ity. Now, how many moth­ers can say that about their kids?

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