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Meet the meat dogs and cats

What a difference a few weeks make! So many of the "meat market" dogs rescued in mid-October are completely different in both physical and psychological health, that it's fast becoming a celebration every time we visit. No longer terrified, depressed, or thin, but filling out in body, happy in character, and skipping round in excitement whenever staff or visitors arrive.

It goes without saying that both our Chinese and Western staff have fallen in love with so many dogs whose personalities are really coming out, now that they are no longer fearful of people. Curious and playful, desperate for attention, with many of them leaping up at us for nose to nose kisses whenever we walk into the enclosures.

While Qimeng staff have been fabulous, and working with the local vets, our own vet nurse, Wendy (pictured here), has been leading the healthcare of these dogs from the Animals Asia side, and doing a brilliantly professional job.

Vets, bear managers and workers, and translators alike have taken personal time off to help out and at last a corner has been turned where it looks like finally the various diseases have at least been contained. 

All the dogs are now fully vaccinated and the "skin" dogs (a merry bunch of hairless, mangy characters who are affectionately called "the crusties") are coming on well. So far, out of the approximately 350 dogs rescued in to Qimeng's care, exactly 192 remain at the Qimeng rescue centre today. Sadly it was too late for many of the dogs who died of their injuries, some were taken in by local vet clinics for treatment, and we euthanised around 20 of the sickest dogs.

Although rescues like these are both praised and criticised in China - considering that groups are actively staking out markets and traders, with the public divided on exactly how far they should go - it has to be said that such initiatives are now happening with rapid frequency. 

In the past couple of weeks alone, three truckloads of cats totalling many thousands, have been intercepted by animal welfare groups, plus another two truckloads of over 300 dogs. These groups continue to stand firm against the trade - now going out publicly and stating their view that dogs and cats are our friends, not food. Here are some photos from two recent rescues in Nanjing.

The authorities are helping too. Just this week, the Lan Zhou Animal Rescue Centre has been given permission by the local government to hold the recently confiscated 385 cats for the next 21 days. The trader has been given the opportunity to vaccinate the cats, but must also prove that they originated from an area that has no epidemic problem – i.e., that they came from a legal source. The group is growing ever more confident that the trader will not fight the decision to confiscate the cats - especially considering that nearly 100 cat owners have already been to the site and identified their beloved family companions! 

This again confirms our own findings that the trade in dogs and cats is mired in illegal practices, with the majority stolen, and that the groups are right to bring this to the attention of the authorities concerned.

And so back to rescued Qimeng dogs - did I mention favourites earlier? Yes guilty as charged. When he first arrived, he was wounded and thin, and shrank to the back of his cage. As the days went on and some of the dogs began to wag tails and sniff curiously whenever we approached, he remained quiet and depressed and lay with his head on the floor. I nicknamed him Big Eddie, because he resembled previously rescued market dog Eddie (from 2001) - but was more than twice his size. Here he is straight after the rescue (at back).

Over the weeks he changed. You could see the light begin to appear in his eyes, the slight twitch of his tail, and his head looking up in recognition of familiar faces and voices he had at last begun to trust. And, within a couple of weeks, there was no going back. 

Today, Wendy describes him simply as "bonkers". And while I know it's probably not the most sensible of decisions considering four other dogs at home, I'm afraid that total adoration has taken over all sense, and I just describe him as...........mine.

With everything crossed he survives the rest of his quarantine, please let me introduce you, fondly, to Muppet.

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