Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Injured Oreo

Up here in the north of China I’ve heard people have a chuckle or two about the Korean taste for canines. Unlike their Southern brethren, who are notorious for their willingness to eat anything with a heartbeat, Northern Chinese are more fastidious when it comes to the palate. So, here in Beijing, they don’t eat dogs. But, sadly, while they won’t eat them, they’ll definitely still beat them. Here’s the story of one little dog that, even if he wasn’t going to wind up on anyone’s plate, still came close to being lunch meat.

Mark and I were going about our lazy Saturday business, coming home from buying some vegetables, when we walked past a grimy restaurant and saw two kids playing way too roughly with a puppy perched a leaning table. We slowed down and looked sternly at the kids for a moment, then walked on. Moments later we heard a shrieking noise so loud and so repetitive that I was convinced that it must be coming from the construction site across the street, not from a living thing, a shrieking noise so terrible and earsplitting that it took over our other senses and made it hard to see and hard to think. We turned around to witness the same two kids hanging their heads while a grown-up scolded them holding a broken brick and the puppy shrieked in agony at their feet. It wasn’t hard to figure out what had happened.

But it was almost impossible to figure out what to do. Others on the street slowed down, and some clucked there tongues, but no one moved to take action. We mentally raced through a list of ideas (call the police, call the RSPCA, go talk to the dog’s owners) but kept stumbling against the same block (China, China, China). I knew I couldn’t count on my Chinese abilities—all my vocabulary had run away scared, leaving me to cry into my sweater with shock, frustration and the rage of impotency. After a few minutes, we walked away, distraught and shaken.

Fate dealt us our first lucky hand of the weekend when we arrived back at campus and bumped into one of Mark’s students, Hanson, who graciously agreed to accompany us back to the restaurant to check on the dog. We found the puppy, quieter now, and huddled on an ash heap behind the restaurant’s kebab grill. He couldn’t stand or walk. When we went inside and asked if he was okay, the owners laughed and told us that we could take him.

And so we did.

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