An American girl staying in the same dorm hostel in Da lat came next to me and started to cuddle a dog named Poppy. The dog was running and barking all around, biting the blanket I am wrapping.
“Uh huh Poppy what is wrong?”
I answered with a cold face
“It is drunk”
“Yeah, I bought a rasberry juice and it wanted to drink some so I spoiled it a bit. Now it is drunk. By the way, is it a he or she?”
“A she. Look, ha ha. Yeah you know the owner bought her from Russia but there is no toys for her, you know?”
Normally sayings like that do not trigger any feeling in me. Well, dogs with toys? “Just another tourist who is raged with dog vs pet culture”, I thought. Next thing she is gonna ask me is whether people eat dog in Vietnam, I anticipated.
“I see a lot of sick and skinny dogs around. Do people eat them here?”
I was about to laugh, but for the sake of the conversation with new roommate, I answered nevertheless.
“Yes people eat dogs here. Dogs are not pets. The people who adopt dogs as pets are normally in cities, with money and use the dogs to run with or use dogs as a toy. People don’t let dogs eat at the same dining table and do not just let them sleep in the same bed. Dogs are not pets in our culture. It is a kind of animal, in a sense that it is inferior”
I answered bluntly, as a way of saying “Yes it is different, don’t you see”. But maybe not detecting the hostile defending tone from me, after hearing that the American girl still smiled and said
“The owner bought Poppy from Russia but did not buy toys for her. It is funny, because she can use the toys to direct the attention so Poppy will not run around and cause a mess. She will bite something nevertheless. ”
Oh, she is right. Damn it, the toys are not used a symbol of the West where people spoil animals yet not necessarily treat humans properly. The toys are to direct the dogs’ attention. Why have I never thought about it this way? Choosing between domesticating yet not learning how to teach animals to eventually get confused then abuse them like we do, or taking time to direct the dogs’ behaviours, I see which is better now.
After that, we continued to chit chat about other typical cross-cultural things like motorbike culture and law-loose system in Asia with an open mind and more curiosity from me, though those conversations I have had a hundred odd times.
I was glad I did not turn a deaf ear to that typical question.