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These two “Dr Dogs” have taught thousands in China that they’re friends, not food

15 August 2017

Two therapy animals celebrate more than a decade of service by returning to the centre for the disabled where they first began their incredible careers.

Dr Dogs shi tzu cross Heimei and labrador Zhuzhu have helped thousands of people in China while proving beyond doubt dogs have so much to give as our friends.

And they’ve done it purely by showing unconditional love and affection to some of society’s most deserving groups.

They’ve demonstrated that not only is there a special bond between human and canines – they’ve shown that dogs in China deserve a better deal, free from cruelty and the menace of the dog meat trade.

It is believed that around 10 million dogs are slaughtered for the meat trade every year in China. Many of the dogs are stolen pets and strays snatched from the streets, while almost all are transported and slaughtered in inhumane conditions and without the legal quarantine certificates.

In their 11 year-long careers as canine therapists the duo have helped children suffering from disabilities or illness feel comforted, been a friend to orphans and have brought cheer to the elderly in retirement homes.

To mark their decade of service, the aged duo returned to the Haitong Centre for the rehabilitation of disabled children in Guangzhou where Heimei made her first ever visit as a Dr Dog therapy ambassador.

Now 16 years old, Heimei is still as friendly, bright and eager for hugs with new friends as she was when she first started caring for the needy back in 2006.

Her guardian, Mrs Zhang, has been equally dedicated to showing the people of Guangzhou how deep the bond between humans and dogs can be.

Mrs Zhang said:

“I’ve never felt so content as when I see the smiles on people’s faces during Dr Dog visits. I’m proud of being a volunteer who can bring and share happiness to people in need, and I’m sure Heimei feels the same way. If everyone could give more love, the world would be a better place.”

Heimei’s colleague Zhuzhu is a few years younger at 13 but is fondly called “Granny Zhuzhu” by the children she teaches.

By meeting Zhuzhu in a safe environment, thousands of people have learnt that dogs aren’t dangerous animals to be feared, but are in fact firm friends who enrich our lives.

Animals Asia Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“Zhuzhu, Heimei and their guardians are absolutely amazing. They are the friendliest dogs you could ever hope to meet and over the years have not only provided much needed emotional support to people in need, but have also been ambassadors for all dogs.

“Spending time with them has shown thousands of people in Guangzhou that dogs must be cherished – they are our friends - and to trap them, beat them or eat them is a betrayal of the immense trust they have for us, and the immeasurable comfort and love they give.”

“Heimei and Zhuzhu’s gentle natures and lovable personalities jump out at everyone they meet and help people understand that dogs have feelings and emotions as profound as ours. From there it is a small step to say no to dog meat and the cruelty behind the industry.”

Last year, Animals Asia therapy animals brightened the lives of more than 11,000 people during visits to nursing homes and centres for special needs children in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu.

Dr Dog, and its sister programme, Professor Paws both aim to encourage responsible companion animal ownership, compassion for all animals and ultimately reduce demand for dog meat. 

Earlier this year, Animals Asia Ambassador and actress Lesley Nicol publicly claimed programmes like Dr Dog could be key to ending the dog meat industry in China.

Lesley said:

"The dog meat industry will end and this is the kind of work that will end it. It’s not about the West telling China how to behave – it’s about working with local animal lovers and also encouraging people to think again about dogs and cats and how they are treated.”