The first time I saw Feifei she was chasing a motorcycle.
My China Daily colleague, Greg Fountain, was chasing her. And, his adult dog was looking on skeptically at the antics of the crazy three-month-old puppy.
Feifei and her litter mates had been left in a trash box on a sidewalk in the Sanlitun area of Beijing. Some kind people rescued them, then Greg and his lovely bride, Maria, volunteered to be foster parents until they could find her a permanent family.
I took Feifei home that afternoon and sent a Wechat message to my Chinese wife that I had a surprise waiting for her. She probably thought I meant good food, or flowers. She had never had a dog before and was a bit afraid of them.
I’m sure that she initially agreed that we could keep Feifei just because I had been badly missing having a dog. I had to go on a four-day reporting trip the first week after Feifei moved in. My wife would call frequently and say, “She’s barking. What does she want?!!!” Now, a month later, I hear her whispering, “I love you, little girl.”
I’ve found that Chinese culture and American culture is usually not that different. In many aspects, I think Chinese culture is better. But, I have to say, with respect to dogs, Americans have it right. It saddens me to see small kids shying away in fear from a five-kilogram puppy. In the US, they would run up and give her a hug.
On the other hand, this attitude is changing. I walk Feifei every morning in the great park by the Yuan dynasty walls, where many people walk dogs. Feifei craves her morning play-dates when she can romp with other dogs.
Growing up, my big collie named Lad was my best friend. I can’t imagine going through the difficult middle-school years without him.
A 2017 paper in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded: “The review found evidence for a wide range of emotional health benefits from childhood pet ownership; particularly for self-esteem and loneliness.” It also concluded: “Studies also showed evidence of an association between pet ownership and educational and cognitive benefits; for example, in perspective-taking abilities and intellectual development.”
Young children with dogs were found to learn language faster, read better, and have larger vocabularies. Adolescents with dogs are more emotionally stable and self-confident.
In other words, if you want your child to do well on the gaokao, and in life, get a dog.
Dogs are not just for the kids. A report in the journal Psychology Today concluded that when a person petted a dog “blood pressure lowered, heart rate slowed, breathing became more regular and muscle tension relaxed--all of which are signs of reduced stress.”
The American Journal of Cardiology found that pet owners have a significantly higher survival rate after having a heart attack than people who don’t own pets. For older people, “the likelihood that the non-pet owners would end up being diagnosed as clinically depressed was four times higher than that found in the pet-owning people of the same age.” Elderly dog owners “required fewer medical services and were much more satisfied with their lives.”
My wife says I smile a lot more since we got Feifei. The scientific evidence says she’s right about that.