Bringing succor to the young and the elderly

Updated: 2012-11-26 09:30

By Huang Yuli in Shenzhen, Guangdong (China Daily)

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Bringing succor to the young and the elderly

An autistic child playing with a golden retriever called Doubao, one of 18 "dog doctors" the Animals Asia Foundation took to Futian No 3 High School as companionship for special needs children. Provided to China Daily

The Animals Asia Foundation brought 18 "dog doctors" and dozens of children and their parents from five local special needs schools together at the Futian No 3 High School in Shenzhen on Nov 4 to celebrate World Animal Day.

Dog Doctor is a project started by the foundation in 2004 in Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. It arranges for dog owners to bring their pets to children's welfare centers and homes for the elderly. The animals must first pass an examination and receive a certificate issued by the foundation.

Chen Minjie, public relations officer of the China Cat and Dog Welfare department of the foundation, said the examination is held twice a year and mainly tests the dog's amiability and how it reacts in different scenarios. She said fewer than three in 10 dogs pass the exam and become dog doctors.

Chen added so far the foundation has more than 150 dog doctors in the three cities including 37 in Shenzhen, where it has cooperated with more than 30 local special needs children's institutes and homes for the elderly. It holds activities once or twice a month there in which several dog doctors and their owners spend time with the youngsters and elderly.

Su Jie, owner of a 6-year-old chihuahua called Doudou, has been participating in the project since 2009.

"I read about this project on a local dog forum and registered Doudou for the exam the following October. He passed first time. The exam was tough. It included grabbing his ear, his tail, scaring him and removing food from his mouth. Had he once shown any anger he would have failed but he always has such a good temper," she said.

Su said she and Doudou come to the dog doctor community events once or twice a month at weekends and feels good helping others in this way.

For her the most impressive visit was an event at a home for the elderly in Nanshan district.

"They sit in the small living room for the sunshine looking so old and so lonely," she said. "One of them resisted engaging with the dogs at first but he eventually got to like them."

Cao Jianguo's dog, a big golden retriever called Doubao, won much attention from the children two Sundays ago. The pet became a dog doctor three years ago when she was 2 years old.

Cao said Doubao was one of only two that passed the test out of more than 30 dogs that took it one morning.

"Shenzhen residents are quite busy. I'm very glad that I can offer some help to others," he said.

Cao remembered a visit to a charity house that takes youngsters abandoned by their parents.

"It was so sad seeing them," he said. "They lack love and are moved by the slightest care. Some of them cried when they were given even really small gifts by us," he said.

Pang Wenying, father of a 7-year-old autistic boy, said his son enjoyed the event very much.

The boy, Yanyan, played with a chihuahua and frequently burst into laughter.

Pang said Yanyan's main problem is communicating with people. He doesn't concentrate longer than two seconds when talking with someone. He always waits for other children to come to him rather than actively seeking them out and he doesn't understand how to perceive the mood of others from their expressions.

"His IQ is no less good and may be even better than average and he copes with school well," Pang said. The father is worried the symptoms will be even more evident as the youngster grows older. He believes integration into society matters a lot.

Pang and his wife now spend much more time with Yanyan and often take him out to create opportunities for him to communicate with others.

Speaking at a dog doctor event, he said: "Like today is a very good opportunity. There are dogs and so many children. They can play together," he said.

Another parent who gave her name as Yang said she and her autistic son went to an event at Xingguang Special Kids Treatment Center, an organization her 5-year-old son has been attending for half a year.

"He was a little afraid of the dogs at the beginning but he eventually started having a very good time," she said.

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