Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Amazing and Hopeful Story of Dahei the Chinese Winter Soup Dog

No situation is ever hopeless. No matter how desperate or impossible life circumstances may become, the truth is that as long as you are breathing, anything can happen.  Personally I don't believe in predestination or a fate that is unavoidable. I do believe that we are put here with certain lessons to learn and our teachers come to us in many forms; people, events, challenges, victories, disasters and miracles. Everything that arrives is a teacher. We have the power to receive the experiences life offers to us, and then we choose how to grow, how to respond, or even how to stay stuck, how to stay trapped. Sometimes things can get so bad we might feel blinded by the darkness, seemingly lost forever. It might feel like the sun in the sky has been blotted out and all there is to do is suffer to the end.

What do you do if you are down in that hole of relentless despair? Don't give up, never count yourself out. Keep breathing and reaching out into the darkness, put one foot in front of the other, keep getting up and meeting each day, because miracles do happen and you do not know what amazing new chapter is just the turn of a page away. At any moment someone might throw some hidden door or window wide open and the sun comes blazing in. It can happen, it does. If my dog Dahei could speak she would tell you exactly that. Anything can happen, anything at all.

Dahei is a Chinese Winter Soup Dog, and that just means she is a mutt and a street dog. She is the kind of dog that some Chinese people love to put in some winter soup. I say that with absolutely no judgment by the way. People throughout the world eat different things and though I would not knowingly eat a dog, I do not hold judgment around this cultural difference. Dahei, very well might though.

Dahei was abandoned at a very young age by the boss at a construction site and his wife. Most likely they realized she is not a pure bred dog and so they rejected her. Dahei lived for quite some time alone on the bare cement in the cold of winter. She scavenged for food in the garbage of a nearby apartment complex, and tried to play with other dogs she would meet there, but she was very afraid of people. No wonder really, as some of the workers and guards in the area were trying to catch her to eat her.

One woman noticed her and left food out, and a box for a bit of shelter, but Dahei's life was harsh and dismal. Then one day, Dahei decided to follow a friendly dog and the woman she was with around on their walk. The dog's name was Xiaohei and the woman's name was Laiya.  Dahei really wanted to play with Xiaohei, but couldn't trust Laiya and so she shied away. Laiya asked around the apartments if Dahei belonged to someone, and the woman who had left the box out told Laiya about Dahei's horrible living conditions. Laiya determined to rescue Dahei. She managed to wrangle her and get her to the veterinarian where she was looked over and de-fleed and de-wormed.

Laiya brought Dahei home and went through significant turmoil and trouble. Dahei only wanted to hide under the table, she used all her energy to try to break the door to the apartment, and she would chew on things and tear the apartment apart. She refused to walk in or out of the building or on stairs and had to be carried. Laiya tried several names and got no response, until she tried Dahei, which means big black in Mandarin, and she wagged her tail. So Dahei was named.

One day a friend had come to try to help repair some of the damage Dahei had done to Laiya's apartment and then they took her out with them to pick up some food. Dahei ended up running away and back to the construction site from where she had come. Laiya went there to reclaim her, but now the construction workers insisted that Dahei belonged to them. Laiya, helpless to save Dahei from them, began to walk away, but a female worker quickly brought her to Laiya and said to take her away and give her a good life.

This time Dahei went to the apartment and settled in. Laiya trained Dahei and set out to find someone to adopt her, but only a temporary foster home could be arranged. Laiya was working full time teaching Mandarin and didn't feel she could keep Dahei herself. That is where my family and I come in.

In my meager and faltering attempts to learn something more than ni hao, "hello", and ting bu dong, "I don't understand", I hired Laiya to tutor me in Mandarin. One evening Harper, my then eight year old daughter, was sitting with us, and somehow the topic of having left our beloved dog, Evan, behind in the States when we moved to China came up. I confessed that we all really missed having a dog. Laiya's face lit up and she told us with great enthusiasm that she had the perfect dog for our family. I tried my best to show restraint, but I really am a sucker for a dog, and rescuing, well, anything. Laiya emailed me a flyer and some pictures. The flyer listed her breed as Chinese Winter Soup Dog. I asked Laiya what that means and she said, "Well, Dahei is the kind of dog that some people think would go in a winter soup. I was a bit horrified to think of that and her photo was adorable, so we all agreed to meet Dahei.

Dahei came to meet us on a Thursday evening a few months ago, and she has been here with us ever since. She was so quiet and shy at first, but she has warmed up to all of us and she is truly the most remarkable dog. I think she is a kind of yogi dog. She is so calm, gentle and friendly. She sits near me when I meditate or do yoga, and she has a great ease about her. She can also be suddenly leaping and bounding, full of playful energy. She is incredible, such a kind soul given the cruelty and harshness of her early life.

Dahei started out her life living on a concrete slab in the cold of winter in China, where she was seen as nothing more than a reject and maybe a good winter meal. She was abandoned, freezing, starving and afraid. Through several twists of fate, and her will to stay the course, surviving, waiting and then recognizing a kind person, her life has been transformed in an amazing and miraculous way.

She is part of our family now and she brings us all great joy. She came like an angel for me at a time when I was feeling a little lost and lonely myself. She has helped my heart to heal and open from a year that has had some hurdles and hurts. We saved her and she has saved us too.

Dahei's story is proof that anything can happen. She went from being a cast out, alone, and in the most dire of situations, to living in one of the best, if not the best area in all of Shanghai. She has an adoring family, no more garbage to eat for her, now it is Science Diet and monthly visits to the groomer. She doesn't sleep on cold concrete, she has a nice cushioned doggy bed, but she has moved herself on up to the couch, or sometimes my meditation cushion. Most importantly, because she didn't give up, she found her way miraculously to the place in this world where she was needed, in our home and in our hearts.

So if you are feeling like your life is hard and hopeless, if you feel like the darkness has overtaken the light, remember the story of Dahei, and keep traveling, look around, keep on keeping on. You never know when, in the turn of a corner or a chance meeting, your life may be changed forever.