The King is dead, long live King Eddie
12 May 2014, 14:45PM
One lick of the hand saved his life. Gail, our founding member and then Veterinary Director, and I were in the notorious "live animal" market in Guangzhou, in the south of China, one memorable day in March 2001, and decided at the end of a horrible few hours of taking photos of caged and terrified "meat dogs", to save just one.
I'd been stroking the muzzle of a black dog who obviously had distemper, with mucus pouring from her nose. Gail sensibly steered me away from the poor soul who would never have made it through the day, never mind through quarantine, and introduced me to a scruffy terrier type dog I would fall in love with at first sight.
All around him dogs were barking and crying, knowing their fate - but it seemed that this dog had other ideas and simply lay there quietly and calmly, licking the hands of both Gail and I whenever we gave him a stroke. After a few minutes of bartering with the trader, the dog was ours and was hauled unceremoniously from his cage by the scruff of his neck, before I grabbed him from the man, and we walked out of the market, together with the luckiest dog in the world.
The safest place for him while we were arranging for the papers to bring him to Hong Kong was the very first bear sanctuary we had built in the mid 1990's near the ferry port of Pan Yu. Arriving in the car at the sanctuary we were met by some visitors who had come to see the bears, and who crowded around in their enthusiasm to see a dog who had escaped the cooking pot and made it alive from the market. A supporter called Ruth was absolutely lovely, but had a terrible sense of humour which emerged in all its glory when she said I should simply name the dog Eddie - as in edible. Despite the black humour, the name suited him, and after miles of red tape and months of quarantine in Hong Kong, I was delighted to welcome Eddie home with the family at last.
Eddie with his friend Ka-yee
Eddie quickly settled in and, despite his diminutive size, quickly became the pack leader - with everything on his terms. We used to roll our eyes in mock exasperation whenever Eddie was up to one of his tricks. One of his favourites was to simply bark at nothing - which set off the other eight dogs, who would bark loudly in unison while Eddie happily wandered off, satisfied with all the chaos he'd caused. His best friend then was Big, a rescued Newfoundland - and literally about six times his size. The two of them were inseparable, and Big would obediently wait his turn until Eddie had finished scrounging all the treats, never once minding that his small pal with the big attitude had stolen everyone's share.
Dr Eddie on an animal-assisted therapy visit
Because of his market background and featuring in our "Friends...or Food" campaign, Eddie quickly became our Dr Dog Ambassador too - although in truth he was the worst canine doctor in the world. Every hospital visit saw him either relieving himself against any pot plants that were there to cheer up the patients, or stubbornly sitting on the floor and refusing to budge and offer the unique animal therapy we'd promised the bemused hospital staff. A master of escape too, he could put Houdini to shame as he wriggled out of the tightest collar or harness, before heading off towards the doors when he'd decided that he'd had enough adoration for one day. Such was his disdain for behaving like our other very wonderful Dr Dog therapists, Eddie was given the nickname "King Eddie" by Marnie, Cassy and our very tolerant Dr Dog team.
One memorable day he was taken to a school by Anneleise, our then Education Director and founder of Professor Paws, who is also on our Board today. Anneleise proudly took to the stage to present a real live four-legged ambassador to a rapt young audience of about 1,000 kids, who were clamouring to hear all about our programmes to help Asia's dogs and cats. Predictably, Eddie had other ideas. Instead of behaving, and endearing himself to a captive audience of potential animal advocates, Eddie went out in spectacular style by parking what could only be described as a large brown pancake on the stage, to the excruciating embarrassment of Anneleise, and the morbid delight of the kids who were already wrinkling up their noses and yelling out "gross". According to Anneleise, they later told their teachers that it was the best presentation they had ever seen. And despite this dubious outing, Eddie remained our much beloved Friends... or Food mascot.
Mascot Eddie at a Profesor Paws Fund Day in Shenzhen
Eddie lived on for another 13 years - joining me at Dr Dog events where he would "suffer" a multitude of pats and strokes in return for anything edible he could sniff out from people's bags. Increasingly rotund as the years went on, Eddie was eventually referred to as "square", and likened to a coffee table. No matter the diet, the walks, the scolding for eating the cat food (and worse), Eddie's shape never changed and I was resigned to owning a chubby and very opinionated dog.
Helping the HK SPCA campaign "Adopt a Hong Kong original - a dog as unique as you are!" (Ali Bullock)
But oh how I loved him. Every trip home would be greeted by Eddie bowling up to the gate and keeping my other dogs away (including in the most recent years, two huge rescued Pyreneans), as he commandeered attention for at least the next couple of hours. I can never descend the stairs again without seeing him there - and acknowledging that his mission in life was surely to see me trip and plunge to the bottom, as he devoted his days to running just inches in front and heading me off at each step.
Taking him to the Hong Kong office would see him running gleefully up and down the carpet as he sniffed out leftovers in bins, sat inches away from staff trying to eat their lunch, or took his place in the kitchen where he could be certain that the odd crumb or ten would inevitably pass his way.
Just this week, Eddie went off his food. It was as simple and as quick as that - with alarm bells ringing that I knew predicted something critical as I took him to the vet. There was Gail, still my vet today, together with her wonderful colleagues, Dr's Seems and Tiger (whose daughter Caly joined Eddie in this beautiful picture below many years ago), who relayed the news that Eddie had multiple problems, and was clearly losing the fight for life.
Dr Seems was there at the end and, with friends Melody, Henry and I holding him in our arms, and a hundred kisses duly delivered from my niece Nicole, Eddie slipped peacefully away.
The gap on the floor and in my heart is wider than I can ever describe. Eddie and I have been through a lifetime of pain and happiness together, and he's had more tears cried in to his soft beige fur than I care to admit.
Eddie I miss you, and simply want to end this blog offering the most profound thank you for the years of joy and friendship and, in your unique and individual way, helping to pioneer and support a movement here in Asia that so unconditionally and so perfectly shows why dogs are our friends.......not food.