Meg Daley Olmert

Meg Daley Olmert

Made For Each Other

The Chinese Are Going to the Dogs--Thank Goodness.

Spare the dog, spoil the Chinese child.

Posted Jun 17, 2009

Did you know that until recently it was illegal to advertise pet food in China? That's a pretty good indicator of the contempt the Chinese government has felt for pet-keeping. (Trumped only by the Chinese manufacturers of poisoned pet food.) That's why it was so startling to read in a recent issue of The Veterinary Journal that "There is a growing interest in pet dog keeping in China since the government there appears to have identified the value of dogs in developing human social and communicative skills." Could it be that the Chinese are having doubts about the wisdom of their one, very-special, male-child population scheme?

Of course, there have always been Chinese dogs. The Pekinese and the Chow, the Pug and the Shih Tzu for example, some bred to hunt and herd, others to be eaten, and still others to live in the lap of imperial luxury. But it seems that dogs-as-pets was one of the bourgeois notions swept aside during the great revolution. Now these most "pragmatic" people are beginning to see that a people's republic without pets is far from glorious.

The Chinese have focused their considerable attention on a nation of "only" children--male children-- deprived of siblings and potential brides. This is not a social formula that breeds tolerance, anger control, and cooperation, in short, the social cohesion that was the dream of the Chairman. Now the Chinese are turning to dogs to re-educate their children about how to be better humans. And, irony aside, it makes good neurobiological sense. Friendly interactions with dogs have been shown to stimulate oxytocin production in humans and this neurohormone enhances our social sensitivity and increases our trusting and trustworthy behavior.  So, this is an interspecies social experiment that we must all watch closely and pray that it works.

 P.S.  The children in the photo with the Sharpei puppies are not Chinese because a search of "chinese and dogs" produced such shocking and horrifying images, I could not bear to scroll through them.  Like I said, we must pray that this dawning interspecies awareness changes China's hearts and minds, for the sake of their children, their dogs, and for us all.

 D.S. Mills & T.DeKeuster, The Veterninary Journal 179 (2009) 322-323