Dogs of our Lives

Posts filed under Dogs of our Lives

On a clear day

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, Hong Kong, Photo of the Day

Overall, the weather here in Hong Kong has been dismal for the past six months. We've had much more rain than usual and blue skies have been rare. Unfortunately, even when we did have blue skies, they carried a heavy tinge of brown thanks to the increasing levels of pollution coming across from China. There's nothing we can do about the pollution except be grateful for the blue skies when they do appear.

Because blue skies are becoming rare, I sometimes spontaneously run off up the hills and mountains around Hong Kong to admire the view. This happened one fine day in the beginning of July when I took Batty and Siu Bak with me up a near by mountain. I took my camera with me too so I have a few photos to share.

Of course, for those of you living overseas in places like Canada or Australia, blue skies are frequent (and bluer) and these photos might not mean anything to you. For those of you living in smoky cities, they might be a breath of fresh air.

Ocean view from a hill

It was almost sunset when we reached the top of the hill; a short 45min walk up. The oceans looked cool and calm. Even Batty enjoyed the view.

For a 1200x800 version, click here.

In recent months , I have noticed that the clouds forming in the skies are far different to what would normally hover around Hong Kong. I've seen them in Australia but almost never seen them here in Hong Kong; heavy cumulus nimbus clouds. Since early this year, I've sensed a change in Hong Kong's weather, perhaps a change related to the same phenomenon causing the huge storms over in the USA at the moment. On one occasion, I dashed up Lion Rock Mountain to get photos of the clouds over the busy city centre of Hong Kong. While the skies were not as blue as I would have liked, and while there was a certain amount of pollution hanging in the air to murky up the pictures, I still think a couple of the pictures were worth sharing. I have many more but I don't like to bore people with photographs if possible.

Cumulus nimbus clouds over Kowloon

The hills in the background are on Hong Kong Island with the towering business buildings of Central and Wanchai in front of them. Closer to us are the business centres of Tsimshatsui and the residential areas of Kowloon Tong. The park in the foreground is actually an archery range and is part of the Lion Rock Country Park.

For a 1200x800 version, click here.

And finally, I took this photo while up on the hill near our home with Batty and Siu Bak. I liked it so much that it's now on my computer's desktop. I think you'll like it too.

Batty looking back through the grass

For a 1200x800 version, click here.

A green visitor

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the Day

A few weeks ago, I returned home with some of our children after taking them for their nightly walk. While taking their leashes off, they seemed very curious about something in one corner of the court area where our gas canisters are kept. A couple of the dogs even displayed sudden reactions to something that I could not at the time see in the dark that is night.

After letting the dogs through to the main garden area, I went back to take a look at the gas canisters. I was curious too and wanted to see what had them acting so unusually. It didn't take me long to spot the reason. A green snake was wrapped around the tap of the gas canister looking pretty scared. I guess I would be scared too if several dogs one hundred times as large as myself suddenly started poking their wet warm windy noses in my direction.

I couldn't leave him there. It was too dangerous and I couldn't be sure that he'd find his way back to the bush from whence he came, so I had to think of a way to move him. The first thing I did though was grab my camera because he was a really nice looking snake.

A green visitor

The green snake was wrapped around the tap of the gas canister, feeling just as nervous of me as I felt of him.

I don't know if it was the multiple flashes from the camera as it tried to focus on the snake in the dark, but the snake remained fairly quiet as I photographed it. I was actually quite nervous about getting too close to the snake because he was still standing in defensive mode and I didn't feel like getting bitten.

I gathered a barbeque fork and a large white bucket. The idea was to use the fork to encourage the snake into the bucket whose smooth sides would hopefully keep the snake from slivering out while I transported it back to the bush. Imagine my surprise when the snake wrapped itself around the fork and stayed there.

I quickly put the bucket down, moved around to an area of the house with better light and took a few more pictures. The pictures were ok but not great. Perhaps because of a lack of experience or perhaps because I didn't have time to set up everything perfectly, none of the photos were accurately focussed. There were still two good photos though and I'm glad I have them because the snake with its green body, yellow belly and red tail looked incredible.

Curled tight

He (probably a male because the colours are relatively sharp) wrapped himself around the bbq fork and remained there, quiet and calm.

Having taken the photos, I walked out to the bush behind our garden and positioned the fork and the snake wrapped around it near the branches of a small tree. The snake very quickly moved off into the tree and I returned home to study the photos.

I liked the photos so much that I've converted one of them to be the background on my Nokia phone. He looks real cool and I guess it's appropriate anyway because I'm actually a 'snake' person; born in 1965.

What was rather peculiar about that night was the conversation I had with our elderly neighbour that very morning. She was going on about how she had instructed her relative to cut back the branches on a couple of trees next to the path we use to come and go from our homes. She was worried about snakes coming down from the trees and biting people and I was thinking that she was worrying just a little too much. It's really strange that the green snake would appear in our own garden that very night. Weird!

The next day, our maid came looking for me and asked me to look at Beethoven. I was surprised to see his nuzzle swollen so badly but knew immediately what had happened. He didn't seem to be in any discomfort though and a call to the vet assured me that if the snake bite was deadly, Beethoven would have died within a couple of hours of the bite.

Swollen, nice and round.

Beethoven's nuzzle was quite swollen in the morning; big and round. There is no lens distortion in this photo. His nuzzle really was this big! If you look closely, you can see the two puncture marks about half way between his nose and his eyes.

It must have been the week of the local snake gathering because a few nights later, we saw another snake. While driving home late at night with three or four cars behind us, I saw something shimmering near the edge of the approaching road. I slowed down and had more than enough time to realise that it was a snake planning to cross the road. I stopped the car completely, much to the cagrin of the drivers behind us, and waited for the snake to cross the road. It was a python, probably at least five or six feet long. As he crossed the middle of the road, a minibus was approaching from the other direction. Typical Chinese people living in our area wouldn't think twice about running over a snake on the road and I flashed my headlights at the driver hoping to slow him down. He slowed but not enough and continued straight down the road. The snake was lucky. He managed to compress himself; like you would compress a spring; just enough to fit between the right and left wheels of the minibus as it passed over him, and he then continued safely to the other side of the road and climbed or rather jolted himself up the embankment and into the bush.

I knew we have pythons in the neighbourhood. I just never expected to be lucky enough to see one. My only regret is that I wasn't able to get out of the car and take a picture. I don't think the cars behind me would have appreciated the wait.

It's a rather interesting neighbourhood when I think of it. We have snakes, interesting birds (there are a few very unusual birds I'd love to photograph if I ever get the chance), monkeys, large spiders, large lizards and even wild bores (ie, pigs). There are also some very interesting flying beetles, one variety of which had relatives in the local news a few weeks ago when it was reported that the furniture in the new Disneyland hotels was being eaten from the inside out. They beetles are called wood borers and I've observed them making homes in the bamboo in our garden. I find it interesting to watch them using their bums to block the entrances to their nests in the bamboo when it rains. Maybe I'll show you photos of them at a later date if I can get a few great shots.

Jason (The pup, Part#4)

Filed in Dogs of our Lives

A couple of weeks ago, Jason was hit by a car. That's his name, Jason. We were trying to avoid naming him because it would mean that we'd end up keeping him, building an attachment to him that would be difficult to break. So instead of naming him, we were calling him "number 11" 「十一號」. It then occurred to me that this was worse than naming him because it inferred that he was going to be our eleventh dog, so we named him. I wanted to name him Lucky because I think he's been lucky to have met us, to have survived the screwworm flies and to have made it this far. My wife didn't like the name though so I asked her to come up with one of her own. She named him Jason.

We hadn't taken the time to train Jason on a leash. Actually, I had taken him out a few times on leash without any problems. He would tug hard in different directions, look back puzzled at the leash and then eventually realise that he wouldn't be getting away so he'd relax. Unfortunately, we normally take five dogs out at a time so adding Jason to the bunch was not an easy thing to do. I was ok with it because I'm a big guy but our helper wasn't up to the task. Nevertheless, Jason liked to follow us out on our daily walks.

Dad with Jason

It was while on one of these walks that Jason got hit by a car. The helper came back after the walk and told me how she heard him yelp and saw him do a summersault or two before getting up and bolting off down the road. He didn't come back and the helper couldn't find him.

That night, I walked down the road four times looking for him, calling his name and whistling for him as I walked. It was raining the fourth time I walked down but the air was warm and getting wet was not my primary concern.

I had to give up and come back home, hoping that he hadn't been seriously injured and that he hadn't collapsed from internal bleeding.

It rained heavily that night.

Around three in the morning, I heard his signature bark. Ever since we had him, he would race outside to take his walk and do his business and then race back to the outside of our garden gate and bark to let us know that he was back. Eventually, I was able to teach him to run around to the front gate where I'd let him in, but waiting and barking at the garden gate was still the first thing he'd do each time he returned.

I recognised the bark, went around to the garden gate and let him in. It was raining but he was fine. The next morning, we discovered in the better light that he had a scrape on his face, just above the cheek bone. Otherwise, he was in great health. This was one amazing dog. Sleeping tablets can't put him to sleep and cars can't kill him.

He was lucky. That incident with the car taught him to be wary of cars. Prior to that, he would walk all over the road, ignoring each and every car and truck that went past. It was as if they didn't exist and I worried about him often. Now, he was scared of the cars, so much so, that he refused to go with us on our walks. After getting to the top of the village road, we'd continue on our way and he'd backtrack back to the house and wait for us there.

Over the last couple of weeks, he has continued to improve, becoming less and less wild. He still likes to nip when he plays with us; especially me; but it's just fun and he's not trying to hurt anyone.

We placed advertisements to find a new home for him in the local ParknShop store, and on the windscreens of the cars parked in one of our village car parks but no one called.

Jason was staying with us.

Then a week ago, a young girl asked us about Jason. She knew an old lady who was looking for a new dog. One of her dogs had just died and the others were aging. She had had lots of experience with dogs so dealing with somebody as lively, strong, rough and playful as Jason wouldn't be a problem.

Yesterday, I silently took Jason out the front gate leaving everyone else at home. I opened the car door and he happily jumped in. It was difficult keeping him still and in the back seat while driving to the pier in Bak Sha Wan 白沙灣 but we arrived safe and sound.

We got out of the car and walked over to where the ParknShop store used to be. I couldn't see the girl who had organised to meet us there but she might have been late. We walked around a bit with Jason excitedly trying to go everywhere and smell everything all at the same time.

And then we saw the girl. She was waving at us and walking up from the end of the pier. We walked down to her. Her strong sun-tanned shirtless husband took Jason's leash from me and began walking him down toward the end of the pier. Jason didn't mind that somebody else was holding the leash and continued to try to go everywhere and smell everything.

When we arrived at the end of the pier, they began going down the stairs to a waiting motor boat. Jason was scared out of his mind because he'd never been on a boat before and never been down stairs near water. He did get on the boat though with some pulling from the man and he stood on one of the middle benches, slightly off balance but doing ok.

He was going to a new life, a life on a fish farm, something I'd never imagined. It wasn't going to be a posh life in a home with canned dog food. It was going to be a life where he wouldn't be allowed indoors, where he'd be eating rice and bread for most of his life, and where he'd probably have the best time of his life running around everywhere, getting exercise, playing with the other dogs and possibly riding boats with his new owners every chance he got.

Of course, what happens next is unknown to me. I can only hope that he'll be fine but I instinctively feel that he'll have a wonderful life.

I miss him though. It was a tough time we had together; meeting him on the road, trying to get him to the vet, teaching him not to bite so hard, to be softer and easier with us humans and trying to teach him to be a better dog.

I watched the boat with its single bright light as it headed out to sea under the darkening sky. For ten minutes, I watched before it turned left around an island and disappeared from sight.

I sought out the girl today and asked her about Jason. She said he's fine. He's tied up away from the other dogs to prevent fighting at this early stage but he's eating well and not making any noise. They're quite surprised by his good nature.

She said I can visit him. I'll give him two weeks to adjust and accept his new environment and owners, and then I'll visit.

It'll be great to see him again.

SPCA Angels for Animals nomination

Filed in Dogs of our Lives

遠道由澳洲而嚟嘅特產 - “我”,今次專程上到丹麥名產 呢架可能係世界上最好嘅的士,為嘉士伯fans提供港式「吹水」服務,仲介紹各款地道港式食物,話俾大家知究竟香港可以幾國際化得嚟又本土。立即上我Facebook睇full version啦!

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SPCA Angels for Animals nomination

Filed in Dogs of our Lives

My wife and I have been nominated as SPCA Angels for Animals this year. We will be talking about our pet and animal relationships at Tai Po on August 7, 2005.

I have made comments about the SPCA is past articles. Those comments are unfortunately true, but I have been able to talk to various people at the SPCA and have found out more about what happens at the SPCA and why with regards to abandoned animals. I'll write more about this later.

Found and lost (The pup, Part#3)

Filed in Dogs of our Lives

A week and a bit ago, I received a phone call from a caucasian man (we'll call him J). He asked if I was Charles to which I replied 'yes'. Charles is my middle name. I use it frequently in Hong Kong because many local people have trouble pronouncing my first name Gregory. They usually see the g's and r's and assume that it's George. They never have trouble with Charles because everyone knows Prince Charles, so I use Charles to make things convenient for everyone depending on the situation.

Anyway, J told me that he recognised the pup and knew the owner. I was cautiously optimistic. I didn't want to get my hopes up to much just in case he had mistaken the identity of the pup. After all, a lot of dogs have one droopy ear and that's one of the things he based his claim on. J was busy that day so we organised to meet the next day.

The next day at lunch, J gave me a call and drove over to our village. He lived not too far away so it was possible that the pup had run away from home or gone wandering and become lost along the way although that's not very likely for any dog with even a hint of dog sense. Most dogs can find their way home without any help. I walked up to the car park with the pup and Batty, saw his car and identified by his actions that we wasn't sure if he was in the right place and was about to phone me for instructions. I walked on over and called out to him.

Pup with Charlie

J looked at the pup and confirmed that it was indeed his neighbour's pup. The pup also appeared to know him. Before the pup had been lost, J had often fed the pup dog biscuits, so he took out a packet of dog biscuits and offered one to the pup to see what his reaction would be. The pup sat down and took the biscuit. At this point, the man was almost definite it was the neighbour's pup and things were looking more and more promising by the minute. I remained cautious though just in case things didn't turn out.

J opened the door to his car and Batty immediately climbed in. That was unexpected but not all too surprising. He loves to ride in the car but I'd never expected him to get into someone else's car. I tried to call him out of the car but he refused to budge. The other pup got into the car with a little pushing and shoving and they were off back to the J's village to visit the original owner. I raced back to my car and followed as quickly as possible, not sure what Batty would do when they arrived at their destination without me.

There was no need for concern. When I arrived at the village, the man was holding the door open and Batty was climbing out cool and calm. I was pleased.

We walked down to the neighbour's house. It was a typical village house with three stories and a garden area around the ground floor. This is normal for Hong Kong. Most people either try to live in the ground floor to get the garden area; usually for barbeque reasons; or the top floor because it comes with a roof area. All village buildings; ie 村屋; in Hong Kong have a floor area of 700 square feet. Buildings allotted to village natives as a birth right; ie 丁屋; may be 500 square feet in area but everything else is normally 700 square feet.

As we approached the village building, the pup walked up as if he knew the place. J opened the gate to the garden and the pup trotted in and around the house, knowing exactly where he was going. He was home.

We walked around to the front of the building. The owner's wife was washing clothes and the owner was inside the building. They were an old couple; retired. One of the reasons J had called me was that since losing the pup, the old man had become despondent. The only thing that kept his spirits up was the pup. He didn't have a job, he didn't have responsibilities, and he didn't seem to have any respect. The pup meant the world to him. I imagined the joyous look that would appear on his face upon seeing the pup again. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out as I had imagined.

In the month that we had looked after the pup, he had grown. His hair had changed in colour and he had become taller and bigger. The old man's wife flatly refused to acknowledge that it was their pup, even while he drank water from a bucket next to her as she washed the clothes. The old man also refused to recognise him.

It turns out that the old man's family didn't want him to have the pup. Before living with us, the pup was too rough for the neighbours and their children. It used to bark and the neighbours; including four of the man's children now grown up with their own families; considered the pup to be a nuisance. It didn't matter that the pup was the man's best and perhaps only friend. So they took the pup away, dumped it in our village and then told the old man that they had given it to someone many many miles away in the New Territories in a town called Lau Fau San.

People basically come in two flavours. Some people see animals as an object, a living object but something akin to a large insect without thoughts, without character and without a soul. Then there are the people like my father and myself who see everything human in the animal. We can see their emotions, when they're happy, sad, troubled, worried, distraught, envious, and many other emotions typically seen in people. It's not just dogs. We can see these things in all animals. Hence, I prefer to refer to animals as little people rather than animals. It is because of this that I cannot mistreat an animal in any way. Unfortunately, most people today only see animals as cute furry objects to have fun with. They don't see the little person within and it makes it easy for them to give up on the animal and cast it away without much thought. That's basically what this man's family had done.

We knew for sure by now that the pup was the man's pup. He wasn't convinced though. As J put it, the man had been brain washed by his family. The old man decided to go and see the person who had given him the pup when it was really small, so he walked off up the road and down the other side. And you know what? The pup followed him. Ten minutes later, the old man came back with the pup trailing behind. He hadn't been able to find the person who had given him the pup and he was still pretty sure that it wasn't his pup. His own pup's tail was big and fluffy. He wasn't so big. His hair was lighter. He would run into the kitchen as soon as he came home.

While giving these justifications for refusing to acknowledge the pup, the old man's wife was standing behind a gate with the pup on the other side of the gate, sitting down, looking up at her, panting happily and wagging his tail so hard that his whole bum was moving from side to side. And she still refused to acknowledge the pup.

There was nothing we could do. If we had left the pup with them, they or their children would have taken the pup away again, this time to a place much further away. It wouldn't have worked out well for the pup. So I brought it back home.

We've had the pup for almost two months now. I'm not going to keep it. We still haven't given it a name. I'm not game to because once it has a name, it becomes even more personal and harder to part with. I took him back down to our neighbours home for a second look. They were astonished by how gentle he was compared to the first time they saw him. He was just lying down in front of them, wagging his tail and chewing on a leather bone while they looked at him and marvelled. But they were still concerned about their baby boy and there were new possibilities about leaving Hong Kong that made it even harder for them to take in and raise a new pup.

I'm giving the pup five more days. He's a wonderful pup and loves to play all the time. Almost all of his nipping habits have gone and he's just fun to have around. But we can't keep him.

I'll be printing photos of him and placing them on all the cars in the car park over the next couple of days. Hopefully, someone will take him in before the allotted time runs out. After all we've done and after he's changed so much, I wouldn't want to see him put down. It simply wouldn't be fair. I don't care if the world is frequently unjust. Some things just have to have good endings.

Time to let go (The pup, Part#2)

Filed in Dogs of our Lives

Getting him to the vet to get his rotting skin treated was a challenge. After giving the pup three sleeping tablets that the vet had given me, our visitor refused to sleep. In fact, he only displayed just a hint of drowsiness. Half an hour later as instructed by the vet, I gave him another two tablets. Now he was feeling sleepy but still refused to lie down. His survival mode was in full gear and there was no way he was going to let me put him into a car.

The following day, I talked to the vet and was given another seven tablets to try again. Back at home, I wrapped five of the tablets in cheese and gave them to the pup. An hour later, he was feeling the effect but was still in full control. I gave him the other two tablets and waited another half an hour.

the young wandererBy this time, it was obvious that I was going to need to get a muzzle onto the pup or I'd never get him to the vet. However even after seven tablets, his survival mode was still running strong and he'd bite at the muzzle every time I approached him. He even chased me around a couple of times, extremely annoyed that I wouldn't stop following him around trying to muzzle him.

After an hour of following him around in the midday sun, I had no choice but to try something else. He loved food; he didn't get much when he was out on his own; so I decided to try to get him into a cage.

I placed food in the cage. He was definitely interested but didn't know how to get in. Being careful to maintain a safe distance from him, I turned the cage until the door was facing him. Joy of joys! He walked into the cage. Unfortunately, it was a small cage and his backside was sticking out through the door. Tentatively and apprenhensively, I pushed his backside into the cage hoping that he wouldn't turn around and retaliate. Success! He was in the cage and the door was closed. I could breath easier again but I couldn't relax just yet. I had to get him to the vet as soon as possible while the tablets still had an effect on him. Together, our maid and I placed the cage into the boot of the car (the cage was too big to fit in the back of the car) and I scootted off to the vet.

A few hours later, the pup was doing well. His skin had been cleaned up and he had been de-sexed because it would be difficult to get him to the vet again. The vet said he was a very lucky pup. Even though the skin was very bad and foul-smelling, the screwworm flies hadn't found him. He was fine.

A few minutes later, we carried the pup back to the car, still in the cage for safety sake. While talking to a friend who had just driven by, the pup; minutes after being anaesthetised; stood up in the cage, turned around to get more comfortable and laid down again. This was one tough pup!

The pup's rotting neck
Back home again, the pup rested for most of the day and ate a little food. The next day, it was obvious that he was well on his way to recovery. He was happy and full of energy.

It was at this time that we realised he had never played with people. He didn't know that our skin is soft and persisted in biting too hard when playing. One of our neighbours was familiar with the pup and was interested in adopting him. Unfortunately, they have a nine-month old baby and adopting a dog with a biting habit; even though it was just being playful; wouldn't be a smart choice.

The biting problem was a serious one. Part of it was his lack of knowledge about people. Part of it was that he still needed to protect himself. He was always on guard and wasn't yet ready to trust anyone. He had after all been dependent on himself for most of his life. The biting had to be solved though. I tried the 'ouch' method with only minimal success. I needed a better solution and fortunately found one; diluted vinegar!

Dogs hate vinegar. It irritates their sensitive noses. We placed two spray bottles of equally diluted vinegar around the house and garden. Whenever he tried to play too rough, we yelled NO at him while spraying the vinegar in his direction. This would accomplish two things; he would quickly learn that the biting is wrong, and would associate the word 'no' with unwanted behaviour. In later stages, the word 'no' could be used without the vinegar.

Jump to the present. The pup has made excellent progress. His skin has healed and his hair is growing back. He almost never bites, and never hurts us even when he does. He's healthy, energetic and happy. He never goes to the toilet in the house and he's even ok walking on leash! That's pretty amazing for a wanderer dog.

Now it's time to let him go. We already have ten dogs. It would be unfair to my wife and to the dogs if he stayed. Furthermore, if he stays any longer, he and I both will get too attached. We gave him a new beginning. Hopefully, someone can now give him a new home and a new life.

The new owner will need to be experienced with dogs, and preferably already have one or two dogs that the pup can play with because he's young and loves to play.

One thing is for certain.
Whoever loves this pup will in return get a very loyal dog.

If you or your friends are interested, please email me asap.

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.