Creature comforts

By Yang Yang ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-08-13 09:00:30

Creature comforts

Wu Bao, architecture teacher at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing who lives alone in Beijing's Wangjing area with four cats. Photos by Yang Yang / China Daily

The society of the earlier one child-policy has bred a hankering for companionship that many are fulfilling by resorting to pets.

A few months ago I bumped into a friend in a Japanese restaurant. He ordered a pot of sake and invited me to join him. I told him I was going to get a cat, and his jolly mood instantly turned somber.

"My dog died a week ago," he said numbly as he held a cup of sake in his hand.

He recounted how he had got the huskie, how much he loved it, how it had waited until he had returned from a business trip before it finally died, how he had taken it to a veterinary clinic in a vain attempt to save its life, and how on a rainy night he had dug furiously to dig a grave for his departed friend.

I could tell he was trying to hold back tears; so was I.

Three years ago, Dandan, a five-year-old dog my parents raised, was knocked over and killed by a car. When they told me about how she died, my mother, seldom one to shed tears in front of me, cried. My father tried to cover his sorrow by walking away. In the absence of me and my brother, Dandan had been a most loyal companion for them, someone who brought much joy and comfort to their lives.

"He was a family member," my friend said of his dog. "I had always wanted a dog since middle school. Finally, more than 10 years ago, my father gave it to me as a reward for my gaining admission to a good university.

"He ate even better than me, all imported dog food, and I walked him twice a day if I was not away on business," he said, drinking another cup of sake. "My son loved him, and he loved my son, too."

I tried to console him.

"You gave him the best you could give. He was a happy dog, and a lucky one, too."

He perked up.

These kinds of stories of humans grieving for animals they have formed close bonds with go back thousands of years. In fact a history published in May last year reckoned that humans have kept animals as pets for 27,000 years ago. It is likely that the genesis of this was human ancestors capturing young wolves from the group they kept around and tamed them to become companions.

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