Count your lucky stars (The pup, Part#1)

Filed in Dogs of our Lives

Count your lucky stars that you're not married to me. My wife has a hard time putting up with my idiosyncrasies, habits and overall behaviour. She puts up with it because she loves me. There's no other way she could stay married to me for these seventeen years.

Case in point: Tonight, I finished "Perfume" 香水 rehearsals (you remember, the play that you're all going to see because you just know it'll be great!) and was home in time for dinner. My wife though had spent the day out and wasn't home yet. It was also our maid's day off so there wasn't any dinner to speak of. I knew this in advance though and had already planned to order pizza from PizzaBox where I can always get a large pizza for half price as long as I pick it up myself. It's a good deal.

Anyway, on the pavement next to the main road just beside the car park, I noticed a scruffy dog sitting there, apparently waiting for its keeper to come home. I tried taking a couple of photos with my new Canon 350D and then drove off to get the pizza. The photos didn't work out because it was far too dark for the camera to catch anything without blurring.

A few hours later after our family had finished our pizza dinner, we took our dogs out for their nightly walk; five at a time (only possible because we use Gentle Leader collars; not to be confused with the Halti which I don't like as much). Upon returning home with our five dogs, the other five were already home, standing at the fence and barking down the back path. I've heard their barks enough to recognise which barks mean what. Based on their barking, there was probably a dog down the path. I looked and sure enough, there was a dog lying on the paved path down near the neighbour's house.

Wild dogs and semi-wild dogs would not sleep on that path. It's too exposed and insecure. I suspected that the dog was weak. I also recognised it as being the one I saw earlier up on the road near the car park. So I gathered some dog food and took it down to him.

I'd never seen the dog before, and even though he was wearing a collar, there was no way to know if he was friendly or not. You have to be very careful when approaching strange dogs, and you need to note all of the signals that dogs give off to each other. This dog stood up as I approached but he wasn't scared; just a little nervous. When I put the food down in front of me, he started eating almost immediately.

The path was rather steep at that spot and the food bowl was round so it needed supporting to prevent it spilling over. As I stretched my hand to steady the bowl, the dog curled its lips and gave a soft growl. I knew this message but I wanted to steady the bowl anyway. He took a soft nip at my hand. Note the word 'soft'. Dogs have excellent control of the pressure they use when they bite. He nipped my hand with just enough pressure to warn me off but not enough to hurt me in any way. He had proven that he was friendly.

While feeding him, I noticed two patches behind his head and down his back where the hair was wet, matted and sticking up. It wasn't a good sign. If the wetness was from rain or water, the hair would be wet and flat, not sticking up. Sitting there a few minutes was more than enough to expose me to the smell that the dog was giving off. Something was very wrong.

I grew up on a farm in a small town called Gympie in Queensland, Australia. Growing up on a farm in the bush, you soon learn to recognise the smell of death; ie, the smell of rot. The smell coming from this dog was not the same but it was similar. Combine the smell with the wetness and the way the dog shook its head every few minutes and you could almost be sure that he had a case of flesh-eating-flies; ie, Screwworm Maggots 舊世界螺絲蟲蒼蠅(蛆症金蠅).

After eating the food, he became very friendly, so much so that I was able to coach him back to our back yard and get him into a steel cage we have there. I gave him some water and he basically settled down. Our dogs didn't exactly like having a strange dog in the yard but they can't do anything while I'm around. Beethoven; our #1 dog; has stood inside our door looking out at the cage outside at least three times tonight though so he's really keeping watch on the new dog.

So what to do? He'll need surgery. He might need to be put down. Last year, our vet told me about the maggots. Whatever you can see on the surface, you can be sure that the damage is three times as bad inside. I remember seeing a dog die just over a year ago in another village where we lived. It died from maggot infection which was so bad that one of his back legs had literally fallen off. Flesh-eating-maggots are a real danger for wild dogs because they are sure to get involved in fights and there's no one around to cover up the wounds after the fight; perfect targets for maggot carrying flies. (See this "Kit for Detecting Flesh-Eating Maggots" article by the U.S.A. government to get an idea of the severity of the problem and danger. See also this note on Hong Kong's government site.)

We'll have to take the dog to the vet tomorrow. There's no question about that. We'll probably have to give him sleeping medicine so that we can carry him to the car and to the vet. Then we'll have to see what the vet says.

If he eventually recovers, we still can't keep him. We already have ten dogs and that's bordering on crowded in our 700 square-foot home with a 1000 square-foot garden area. No, we'll have to find him a home or give him to the SAA. The SPCA is out of the question. Friends have told me that the SPCA routinely hands unattractive and sick animals over to the Agricultural Department which normally has them put down within days of receiving them. You'll never read about this though because they have an excellent marketing department and tight control of the press in Hong Kong; unfortunate but true. The SAA on the other hand has an excellent reputation, especially among the artists and animal lovers at TVB where I work.

So you can imagine what it's like to be my wife; or maybe you can't. A stray animal approaches the house and I'm concerned about its well being. Fortunately, the three pups growing up next to one of the car parks in our village are doing extremely well with help and food from other people in the area. In other words, there are many other people that care as much as I do. That's a good thing.

We'll know the condition of the dog better tomorrow, providing I can get some sleeping medicine for him. I'll keep you updated.

In the meantime, go and see our play "Perfume" 香水 if you have time. I think you'll enjoy it. The whole team has done an excellent job with this play.

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5 Responses to “Count your lucky stars (The pup, Part#1)”
  1. Doris says:

    Dear Greg,

    I'm always interested in reading anything about your dogs. Please make sure you keep me updated on how this dog goes. When you visit SAA next time, please assist me by telling the staff there to update the pictures of the cats for adoption.

    I'm trying to work out if I have any time to watch your show. If not, I wish you a great success.

    Doris

  2. Corona says:

    Hi Greg,

    I am really impressed by your love and care to dogs. I have to admit that I can't do it myself.

    Even though I like dogs, I have to stop my husband from getting a dog for our house, considering the amount of maintenance work involved, including walking it every evening in the unpleasant cold weather here in Melbourne. Therefore I can imagine what sort of situation your wife is in!! I hope she is a great dog lover too!!! :)

  3. Drew says:

    Greg,

    God Bless! I hope that dog will be ok. Good karma will return to you, your fmaily and your love ones.

    Drew

  4. Mi (gal from Montreal, Can.) says:

    Greg,

    I just wanna know if that dog is okay. It really touches my heart by what you have done to the poor little dog.

  5. Arthur Heng says:

    I sure hope hamsters're as skillful as dogs when it comes to nipping, coz they wont stop nipping my palm!

    Well he sure's a lucky dog, God bless him =). Another 10 years with dogs and you'll surely be able to speak dog... well at least have some spiritual empathy with dogs, hehe.

    Eew, maggoty talk, kinda weird when the word perfume and maggot are used in the same article, lol.