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Lesley meets our Dr Dog teams

Lovely Lesley Nicol's visit was initially organised so that she could come along and meet the bears – and naturally, so that they could benefit from all her kindness in talking about them once she returned home!

However, Lesley and her husband Da'aboth also took time to generously support our Dr Dog animal therapy programme whilst they were in Chengdu. No sightseeing for this amazing couple – who just wanted to help the animals of China as much as they possibly could during a whirlwind visit of just a few days!

Our Dr Dog morning began with Lesley coming along to the examination of potential canine consultants, and watching them all being put through their paces by Suki, Cherry and Jenny from our Cat and Dog Welfare Department in Chengdu, and from Marnie and Cassy, our Dr Dog managers from Hong Kong.

Even before the prospective Dr Dogs have set paws in the examination room, their owners have had a thorough briefing on what to expect, and how the dogs should behave. Suki and team had pre-screened the Dr Dog applicants and weaned out all those who probably wouldn't make the grade on the day.

Understandably, considering that our Dr Dogs must be 100 per cent trustworthy when they visit patients and recipients of their unique unconditional love, even a curled lip or a growl during the examination process will see the dogs rejected from the start.

Most of the dogs were fine, and nearly all passed, including the most beautiful two-legged – yes you read it right – a two-legged brown poodle who had been rescued by a wonderful group of volunteers at Qiming Small Animal Protection Centre in Chengdu.

Qiao Wei and his team have run Qiming for years – and regularly rescue "meat market" dogs after bravely persuading the authorities to intercept trucks with illegal loads of stray and stolen animals. Today they have approximately 1,000 dogs confiscated into their care, and our team has collaborated with them over the years, helping in their rescues and funding full-time staff to care for the dogs.

Little two-legged Xiao Fu was a lucky girl who was found not on a truck, but in the street. Her story began following much social networking on the Chinese version of Twitter from caring citizens who asked Qiao Wei and his team to help a stray with horribly wounded and broken legs, wrapped in dirty old cloth.

No-one knew what had happened; whether her trauma had been deliberate or a terrible accident, but, with limbs already turning septic after wandering alone on the streets, Xiao Fu was in need of help....fast!

The caring vet they took her to was convinced that she had been violently treated and, during six months of treatment, both legs on the right hand side of her body were amputated, and a limb on her left side was treated as well. At first, no-one knew if she would make it through surgery, and of course with only two functioning legs on one side, Qiao Wei and team weren't sure if she was ever going to walk again too.

But miraculously, something in Xiao Fu's own character saw her not only recover from the surgery, but keen to try and walk. Qiao Wei described the early days as particularly hard for this determined little dog. At first she would hop, then pick up speed until she was running - but then fall down again after it became impossible for her to stop! Qiao Wei and team thought of constructing a little artificial trolley, but Xiao Fu had other thoughts and continued trying to balance until she finally mastered the art of walking on two legs.

Today, this brave little dog lives with Mr Qiao Wei's mother, and all the other rescued dogs at Qiming, and there are multiple stories in the media about her courage and determination in behaving just like a normal dog. The public loves to hear that Xiao Fu is a dog who prefers hopping along rather than being carried, and once again a little Dr Dog ambassador is proving how exceptionally brave and loyal dogs really are – and showing why dogs are our friends... not food.

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