A Million Yuan Dog

2/7/2004

Sent to NYTimes
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[email protected]

A Million Yuan Dog

To the Editor,

The joke about the Chinese taste for dog meat, made by the hapless partner at Dewey Ballantine (Asian-Americans Take Offense at a Law Firm Memo, 2/7/04), is as old as the hills. True a small percentage of Chinese still eat dogs, but this aberration in Far Eastern cuisine is blown out of proportion by western media, who plaster their newspapers with stories of dog-eating heathens with equal parts glee and horror. I, for one, had fallen victim to such lurid coverage until I visited Beijing last year for the first time in nearly two decades.
Under the aegis a booming economy, dogs have once again become man’s best friend. Just two years ago, dog owners were required to fork over an annual registration fee of 5,000 yuan (about $600), a princely sum considering that the average income is only 12,000 yuan a year. Due to the paucity of registrants, the fee was reduced to 1,000 yuan last year.
My cousin, owner of two dogs, had to use her parents’ address to register the second due to China’s one-dog-only policy (the canine version of the infamous one-child policy). She takes them to dog shows, often winning prizes. I went to one show with her, where two spectators were so crazy about one of her dogs that they followed us around, eventually extending an offer to buy it. My cousin brushed off the offer with a shake and a proud smile. They upped the offer to 100,000 yuan, at which my cousin cuddled her baby lovingly and said “Impossible”. A few minutes later, the persistent pair came back with a 200,000 yuan offer. My cousin sighed, “Even at a million yuan I wouldn’t sell. She’s like my child.” The forlorn couple finally shoved a piece of paper with a phone number into her hand and pleaded, “Please call when you breed.”
Clearly, one man’s treasure might be another man’s meal. And of course, the Chinese have yet to come to grips with the barbaric western custom of stabbing a bloody steak with knife and fork. Will the real heathen culture please stand up?

Irene Eng
7 St. George Road
Great Neck, NY 11021
(516) 466-5466

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