Day 7: Shelters in China

Today was an especially busy day at the Boai hospital.  I watched Dr. Qiu place a plate for a radial/ ulnar fracture in a small dog.  I demonstrated how I find demodex mites with a deep scraping.  It was especially challenging to translate “demodex egg” when I was showing the staff one under the microscope. When a dog with pyometra came in, Dr.Qiu wanted me to teach him how to use a finger to pluck and break down the ovarian ligament. Apparently, he has always used scissors. I showed him how and he did the other side and felt it would help him be a little faster.   I am a little embarrassed to admit though, despite all the patients, in the middle of the day, I asked Dr. Qiu to spare a couple of employees to help me buy my dog a Chinese outfit. The store was just around the block and they bargained for a very good price!  In order to keep his employees happy despite long and busy work days, Dr.Qiu has a full time cook.  My employees are jealous and I told their cook I wanted him to come home with me!

The clinic cook

The clinic cook

The doctors at the Boai hospital seem to see about ninety percent dogs.  Most of the cats that I have seen being treated are strays or are from a shelter.  I am interested in shelter medicine so I plied Dr.Qiu with questions.  In the cities, Chinese animal lovers are much like their American compatriots.  There are rescue groups who work the streets, picking up stray animals and transporting them to the shelters, where they are cared for until they are placed in homes.  Funding to support these worthy causes is through donation.  According to Dr. Qiu, shelters in China do not perform veterinary care.  Rather, spaying/ neutering and treatment of ill or injured animals happen at local veterinary clinics where care is provided at a deep discount. Our clinic also provides free or at-cost care for shelters when needed, but in the United States, many shelters run their own non-profit veterinary clinics.

I was amazed when Dr. Qiu told me that the shelters in China are no-kill.  No animal is euthanized except in the case of extreme illness.  He explained that it is nonsensical to rescue a dog only to have it killed in a shelter.  Anyone caught doing this would get into a lot of trouble.  Shelters will even house aggressive dogs separately to avoid euthanasia!   In the United States, it is considered more humane to provide death than to never find an animal a home. I cannot figure out how the shelters here manage being no-kill. Someday I hope to see a Chinese shelter first hand.

Rural China is different than the cities.  In the countryside, people simply do not have the resources to help stray animals.  Contracting rabies is a real threat, as it is difficult for animals to get vaccinated in remote areas.  Due to this, stray or wandering dogs are sometimes poisoned or shot in an effort to reduce the risk of spreading rabies. Lack of resources coupled with poverty  is a problem both Dr. Qiu and I would like to see improved in remote areas around the world.

At the end of the day, I was taught how to make jiaozi (饺子) (dumplings) by Dr.Qiu’s wife, Xuelin and their family’s cook. These were very delicious! Dr. Qiu has an excellent command of English, but he is the only one who can really speak to me. Spending time with his wife has been such fun and over the week, my Mandarin, while still very weak, has improved enough that we can communicate basic ideas.  After dinner she took me out to the park to go “square dancing” which is more like a bunch of women following a leader as she performs dance steps. I am afraid I am not too graceful and I gave her quite a laugh! It was an excellent way to end an action packed day.

Making jiaozi (dumplings)

Making jiaozi (dumplings)

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