Xiao Hua is home at last

When one of our volunteer vet nurses, the lovely Anne Letham-White, returned to her native New Zealand, she took with her much more than her amazing memories of her time with us in Chengdu. I asked Anne if she would write down her story of Xiao Hua (Litle Flower) so I could share it with you. So here, in Anne’s own words: 

I first met Xiao Hua in November 2007 when I spent three months working as a volunteer at the Moon Bear Rescue Centre near Chengdu.

She was one of a number of local dogs who lived in houses near the centre and she spent most of her time tied up at the back of her owner’s house in a little corrugated iron shelter with no bedding, no sun and no attention.

As my three months at the rescue centre flew by, I walked and fed Xiao Hua most days and got to know her well. Much as I tried not to, I fell irrevocably in love with her and started plotting ways to get her back to New Zealand.

I investigated the options (quarantine in Hong Kong) and costs (huge) and on the 18th of December 2007, just when I had decided it could be done, disaster struck! As happens with so many lovely dogs and cats in China, she went missing.

We hunted high and low for her for two weeks and on January the 3rd 2008 I flew home to New Zealand fearing the worst.

Fortunately Xiao Hua had other ideas! Lo and behold after being missing for six weeks, she turned up in late January, very thin, very scared and dejected – but alive! 

I got an excited phone call from Nic and the team in China and, over the moon that she was safe, immediately started arranging her trip to quarantine in Hong Kong.

She was lovingly restored to health by Animals Asia’s vet team and in March 2008 she began her long journey to New Zealand via Hong Kong.

To cut a long story short, the required six-month quarantine period turned into 10 long months due to her testing positive for a couple of parasites – heartworm and babesia.

After a few anxious moments and false starts, she was successfully treated for the heartworm and was retested for babesia with the required negative result. 

On the 29th of January this year, Xiao Hua was finally on her way and after another 30 days’ quarantine in Christchurch, we drove up and picked up our new family member on the 28th of February.

We have had her six weeks now and although she is still a shy dog, she is slowly coming out of her nervous shell and her real personality is starting to emerge.

She loves riding in the car, loves running off-leash (and comes back!), loves the beach and most of all loves cuddles, food and her new bean bag! 

She fits in with our other dogs better than we could ever have hoped and we look forward to a long and happy life for her as the latest canine member of our family.

When I was in my teens, I started a life-long love affair with the James Herriot books and in one of those books is a wonderful character called Mrs Donovan. She rescued a neglected dog called Roy, and as James Herriot says:

‘Mrs Donovan too had her reward; she had a faithful companion by her side every hour of the day and night. But there was more to it than that; she has always had the compulsion to help and heal animals and the salvation of Roy was the high point of her life… a blazing triumph which never dimmed’.

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