I haven’t blogged much about some of the peculiarities you see out and about on the streets of Shanghai, so today I’m breaking that duck and talking about dogs. Noel Gallagher once asked ‘Is there anything funnier than a dog in sunglasses?’ Now, there may not be – but there are a couple of things that come pretty close, and you can see them with almost alarming regularity in Shanghai. I’d better preface this blog with the apology for the lack of photographic evidence for any of this. I have tried, really I have, but getting your phone out and taking a photo of a stranger’s dog all while trying not to make it obvious as you walk past them in a busy street is not easy. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Right, where was I?
- Dogs in Clothes
I’ve seen this a lot – I suppose ‘clothes’ is maybe the wrong word, but not always. In any event, this is more than just a simple doggy coat to protect a pooch from the Shanghai shivers (I love alliteration, I’m trying to bring it back). I’m no fashion icon, or really even aware of fashion (jeans and a t-shirt will do me just fine thankyouverymuch) but I imagine that even the keenest trendsetter would be shamed by the effort some of these dogs put in to their attire. They look incredibly Sharp-ei. I suppose it’s not the dogs that put the effort in, although as you see them proudly trotting along the street they do carry a certain air of ‘Look at me, bitches, I’m FABULOUS!’ This week I have seen dogs wearing: a full superman outfit (cape and all), a Tommy Hilfiger polo shirt and cravat, a suit (which looked like it cost more than the one I wear to work), a hot pink body warmer with tartan leg warmers, a bowler hat, and the wooliest jumper I’ve ever seen. That’s just this week, and that’s just in our little corner of the city. Imagine what the catwalk shows would be like, or dogwalk shows, I suppose. I also presume that these amazing garments only get brought out in winter, since surely the little blighters would get a bit hot under the collie in summer. It must be nice to have a range of outfits, perhaps a favourite costume that really speaks to who you are as a dog, and you can simply whippet out on a morning if you feel the need to make a statement. But all of these sartorial wonders pale in comparison to my new favourite/least favourite accessory for our four legged friends…
- Dogs in Shoes
The streets in Shanghai aren’t dirty, per se, and so I don’t think dogs necessarily need any protection from them, but apparently I am in the minority. It took me a while to notice this aspect of doggy life in Shanghai, largely because most of the dogs here are so very small so I missed it; but a lot of them wear actual shoes. Shoes. On a Dog. I had to pinscher myself when I first realized what I was seeing. If the effect of putting shoes on a dog were just that the dog had shoes on, that wouldn’t be funny, particularly; but what makes this my favourite part of poodle life in Shanghai is that these doggy converse make the animal in question trot and gambol like they’re on springs. There must be a springer spaniel joke in here somewhere, but I’m trying to avoid terrierable dog puns in this article, as the more beagle-eyed readers will have noticed already. The inevitable concern arises when you consider whether or not the dogs are actually comfortable in them. It seems a bit cruel to attach funny springs to your dog’s feet and then watch them bumble about the place, sort of half like deer who are just learning to walk and half like supermodels. It’s a very odd, but absolutely hilarious mix – providing of course that the dogs in question don’t mind. They seem happy enough with it though, and if it keeps them warm and safe, then all the better. So, the canine population of Shanghai has nothing to worry about when it comes to fashion nirvana, but what about inner peace and equilibrium? You can’t just get satisfaction in life by bouncing around looking flash, trying to wolf down any food you can find and generally looking much cooler than me. No, you need some sense of self, balance, calm and resolution. How to get that? Look no further than…
- Dogs doing Tai-Chi
I know, you think I’m joking and that this article has now entered the realms of the ridiculous, if it hadn’t already. But no, I’m serious. Even when the air is bad in Shanghai and your voice is left feeling a little husky, there are a dedicated band of Tai-Chi grandmas who come to our local park on a morning to do some meditation through motion. Their commitment is admirable; we have seen them out in wind, rain and shine and in some less-than-forgiving temperatures too. One morning, as we walked to school, we noticed, just pekingese-ily out from behind a bush, a local dog. Fully attired, of course, and with a huge perm to boot (you should see what they do to dog’s hair here; that’s a whole other blog right there!) it promptly trotted out (properly attired in sports shoes) and began pawing at what we presumed was its owner. Of course, the net result was that it looked like it was trying to join in the Tai-Chi and this made us laugh a lot. Since then we’ve seen a few dogs trying to take part, and some of them look pretty good at it. All of them would be considerably better at it than me, so I suppose I should be learning from them a bit. They certainly seem relaxed, but then with that kind of inner bliss and external style, who wouldn’t?
Sadly, it’s not all fun and games for the dogs of Shanghai; there are a lot of stray animals here. Clichés abound about dogs being the first thing on a menu (actually, that cliché is meant for Korea, and I’m not convinced it’s true there either) but on our way to work we will often pass several small groups of dogs (if it weren’t so sad to see them ambling around with no apparent home, I would like to consider them a group of friends who patrolled the streets, perhaps solving crimes) with nowhere, it seems, to call home. They live in hedges or under the bridge in a local park, and while there are some kind-hearted locals who come to feed them, they don’t have a home to go to and the weather is beginning to turn cold. Before we left for Christmas, a few of us noticed with some alarm the disappearance of the puppy twins who had bounded about by the bridge for several weeks as we walked to work. Concerned that the cold had gotten the better of them, we allowed ourselves the briefest of hopes that perhaps they had been adopted by a loving home. In the end, it turns out neither extreme was true. The puppies reappeared the other day, still healthy it seems, but still having to snuggle under the bridge at night for warmth. We would love to take them home of course, but this is impractical for a number of reasons, not least that we live on the 12th floor of a high rise block and are out for 12 hours of every day at work. Hopefully they will all find refuge someday, though sadly I doubt it.
That brought things down a bit didn’t it? Best finish on another bad dog joke, albeit not one of my own.
I went to a zoo the other day and all they had there was one dog. It was a Shih Tzu.
I’m here all week. Actually, I’m not here all week, because we’re off on another adventure soon – more on that later!