TAIZHOU, China- In China, when a dog is on a dining table it’s generally been glazed, cooked, chopped up into little pieces, and served on a plate or floating in a soup. So when I looked up from my coffee in a McDonalds and saw a little pet dog wearing a sweater and sitting on a table eating tidbits off the same tray as it’s owner I came to a start.
I could not figure out if I was grossed out or just amused, but I was intrigued by the fact that pet canines can sit on the tables of restaurants in China without it seeming very odd. In fact, as I scanned the dinning area more people seemed to find it strange and amusing that there was a family of foreigners sitting in their midst than a clothed dog sitting on a table eating food like a human.
But this isn’t out of the ordinary in modern China. Pet dogs carry some sort of odd proto-human status here that I’m not completely sure of the extents of. It is almost normal to see dogs dressed in clothing here, to see them on buses, riding with their owners on motorcycles and ebikes, and filling a role that seems more like a child than a pet. The Chinese can be seen taking their little pet dogs virtually everywhere, and pampering them to the hilt with attention and treats. Some are even painting their dogs to look like tigers and baby pandas. It is almost heart warming to watch how much amusement people in China take from their dogs and how much they seem to love them.
Twenty years ago, there were hardly any dogs in Beijing, and the few that were here stood a chance of landing on a dinner plate. It remains possible even today to find dog-meat dishes here. But it is far easier to find dog-treat stores, dog websites, dog social networks, dog swimming pools — even, for a time recently, a bring-your-dog cinema and a bring-your-dog bar on Beijing’s downtown nightclub row. –Dogs now pampered in China
Between 1999 and 2008, China reports a 500 percent increase on money spent on pets. Many people attribute the boom in the pet trade in China as a side effect of the one child policy — our kid needs someone to play with. But I’m not sure if this is totally the case, as the one child policy is far older than the pet boom.
It is my impression that these pet canines are more or less bourgeoisie toys — something to show status, like a fancy cell phone or an automobile. The bigger the dog the bigger the status symbol:
“People with a high income tend to have poodles and bichons. Ordinary people tend to have Papillons, Pomeranians or mixed breeds.”
Pet dogs are a symbol of a rising China, a spill over sink for the overflowing income of the country’s middle and upper classes. China has changed, many people now have more than enough financial resources to fend for themselves and their families — and they are inviting other species to share their homes and newfound wealth with them. Dogs are a part of the “globalized” family unit: you make more money, move into a single family home, buy a car, and get a dog.
Some cities in China have tried to respond to the dog craze by regulating dog ownership by limiting the number that people can have as well as how large they can be. The city of Jiangmen tried to rid itself of all pet dogs last August by demanding owners to either ship their pets out of the city or drop them off at a collection station where they would subsequently be slaughtered. Public outcry — which included international coverage — made the city back down, but they did institute some big changes:
According to China Daily, “Citizens will be able to keep their pets but are forbidden from taking them to some public areas including parks, city squares, schools, kindergartens, shopping malls and hotels etc.”
These regulations have yet to sweep China, and it is not unusual to find a dog sitting on a table at a McDonalds eating food off a tray like a human. In my opinion, the only dog on a dining table should be a cooked one.