IN Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, we made fast friends with Wahshi (meaning wild one), an imposing giant who looked part doberman and was often given a wide berth by other people on the street. But he was a sweetheart who constantly had one ear cocked, the other floppy. He actually tried to get in a cab with us when we were leaving.
As we took Wahshi for walks around his home we couldn’t help but notice the motley, hungry-looking dogs that came out to meet us. The only dogs we saw being taken for a walk were led by other Westerners. As Vietnamese-owned dogs came rushing out to welcome us with friendly barking and wagging tails, Wahshi remained aloof through all the excitement he aroused.
For the Vietnamese, dogs can be companions and food. If that sounds shocking, many Vietnamese are no less horrified that Westerners eat pork. To them, eating dog is no different to eating chicken.
Vietnamese brutality in the slaughter of dogs for consumption is legendary amongst those who fight for dogs’ rights. Tasers, hammers and expertly wielded knives are the instruments of butchery. And there’s no shortage of new puppies every year to feed a population that has grown up on dog meat. But is it so different from the way chickens, cows and pigs are treated in the West?
Our hosts in Ho Chi Minh City were an Iraqi/English couple, Ali and Tracey. They brought Wahshi with them from Malaysia, where they had their previous teaching assignment. Ali runs a dog training business in Ho Chi Minh City and is dedicated to helping people with domestic dogs learn how to manage and care for them.
For us, having the opportunity to look after Wahshi was a real treat. It’s difficult to imagine such a sweet and endearing personality having a different fate to the comfortable life Ali and Tracey provide him.