The most emotive subject for any westerner living in Việt Nam involves our beloved dog.
When we arrive, we are not quite sure the nation’s thoughts on our canine friends and most people we meet love their dogs as much as anyone which buoys us somewhat.
However, when hearing comments like ‘doggie treats,’ we learn that they are not talking about snacks for Fido or Patch, they are licking their lips in preparation for skewering your precious little pooch onto a barbecue.
That thought makes me angry and if anyone tried to kidnap my dog, who knows maybe it would be a fight to the death.
I am not the type of person to see a dog as just a pet, guard dog or whatever.
A pet is part of the family and if you don’t have kids, they are like a real child.
They do mean that much to people like me.
Who is going to give you 100 percent unconditional love like a dog?
Of course, there are so many Vietnamese who feel the same with numbers growing.
Most home-owners in Hồ Chí Minh City, it seems, have at least one dog, in part to guard their home but also as part of the family.
Maybe it is a generation thing, a practice that may die out in the years to come.
An American friend of mine first visited China in the 1980s and of course was appalled with the dog meat on offer but he figured that with the country starving, the poor needed something to eat.
Now, people don’t need to eat dogs, rats or birds but do it out of choice and as long as there is demand, there will be supply.
Apparently, eating dog meat gives you good luck.
Not so lucky for the little guy being killed for someone’s meal right enough.
I remember writing an article earlier this year on the Phú Quốc Dog’s renaissance and was intrigued by this particular species as it is a Vietnamese pedigree and as part of the story I spoke to some members of the Việt Nam Kennel Association.
They kindly invited me to the Hà Nội Dog Show where dog-loving is taking to a new level with these kinds of events, with the so-called perfect and pampered dogs fighting it out for the top prizes.
Sadly, I couldn’t make it along but it has been reported that 300 dogs took part in the proceedings, a seven-fold rise, since the first contest in 2009, which says a lot about a nation’s growing love and pride in our little furry friends.
Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University, earlier this year angered a nation by calling Việt Nam’s eating habits barbaric and claims there are no birds, dogs or rats or any animals in the wild because they had all been eaten.
Having briefly read his comments, it was such an easy column to write if hysteria and outrage is your goal.
One country’s cuisine might not necessarily be agreeable with another’s.
People might think of eating rats, and I am one of them, who will feel sick.
If someone wants to eat a rat, good for them, as long as I am not in their company.
I’m not exactly in favor but most people eat them here so live and let live.
However, we are always going to come back to the subject which gets my blood boiling.
I have to admit if I saw a person transporting teams of dogs in cages in a vehicle, I wouldn’t be able to help myself.
There would be trouble and although you could say it is none of my business, I know my nature.
I love dogs.
This is not ones rounded up off the street or on death row that would die anyway.
This is dogs reared to be eaten, okay you could say pigs are the same, but this is dogs and they will always be an exception to me.
These people give the dogs affection, knowing their fate and that is a part I find hard to take, stroking them, making them feel safe as they are cramped in a cake with others like them panicking with an uncertain future.
A lot of these pooches which are rounded up and thrown into cages, maybe even all, are stolen.
However, being a dog-snatcher is not necessarily the best occupation in certain areas of the country.
I recall an incident earlier this year which saw a man beaten to death after villagers caught him and another man stealing dogs in Nghệ An Province and it wasn’t the first time either this has happened.
I admit I had no sympathy for him but was death justified?
Let’s let our maker decide on that one.
On a lighter note, there is nothing more heartening than to see a dog standing with its back legs on its owner with its two front legs on the dashboard of a motorbike proudly standing like the female figurehead on the front of an ancient vessel.
My wife actually taught our little mutt to sit on her Vespa under her feet.
Luckily, my dog only jumped off once after a huge lorry soaked her and scared the life out of her but cuts and bruises aside she survived to tell the tale.
Hồ Chí Minh City traffic and dogs are a bad mix.
I suppose it is survival of the fittest for dogs in Việt Nam.
If they have good owners who watch their every step, they may be okay but with dog-snatchers, dog-eaters, and heavy traffic awaiting them, it is a precarious existence.
May the dog gods be looking down and looking out for the little guys.
By DEREK MILROY