Pet Pals
Pet Pals

Asia is relatively new to pet-ownership and so it's easy to claim that pretty much anything furry is a puppy – skunks, raccoons, capybaras, giant tarantulas, wigs, floor mops, mouldy meat and certain types of deciduous shrubs.

A news report is circulating at the moment about a family in China's Yunnan province whose "puppy" grew up to be a 115-kilo bear. But regular readers of this column will know that this happens regularly in that country, and I would be more surprised by a headline which said: "Puppy Sold As Puppy In China Actually Was One." 

While waiting for my daughter's thing to slaughter my family, I checked my email to find a dog-related news story sent in by a reader. A householder left his dog to guard his home when he went out. A burglar broke in and the dog simply followed the man around, wagging his tail. The whole thing was captured on a security video, which quickly went viral on the Internet.

This didn't surprise me at all. This columnist has an old dog who barks ferociously at family members but gives strangers a friendly licking.

A vet once told me that a dog's brain was the size of a walnut, but that's an insult to walnuts. You read about some dogs being able to smell things on other planets, but mine can't find a chunk of meat she's sitting on.

It was a good thing that the burglar incident happened in the United States. Housebreakers who enter homes in China to be jumped on by bottom-wagging grizzly bears with names like Rover and Buddy may find it an unpleasant surprise.

Some Chinese zoos exploit this unfamiliarity. In 2013, a zoo in the People's Park of Luohe, Henan province, displayed a suspiciously small creature in the enclosure labelled "African Lion". When visitors approached, it started barking – revealing itself to be a dog with its fur trimmed to look like a mane. 

The zoo's leopard was a fox and its wolf a mongrel. Is your dog a bear? To know for sure, just listen to it. Bears, like married men, communicate entirely by grunting. Dogs bark - but having travelled a lot, this writer knows that they sound different depending on where you come from. 

Indonesians say hounds go: "guk-guk". In Hindi, it's "bow-bow", in Sinhala "buh-buh" and in Thai "hong-hong". Americans hear dog sounds as "woof-woof". I think I would give the prize for accuracy to the Chinese, who claim dogs say, "Houh! Houh!" and the least accurate to the British, who hear hounds going: "Bow-wow".

Meanwhile, my daughter's temporary dog-like thing spent the evening trying to gnaw on a large bone. Unfortunately, it did not seem to realise that my left tibia was still in regular use. Tonight this writer may have to replace it with a cunningly selected deciduous shrub.


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