Kangzhou is six years old and is the second child in her family. She has three other brothers and sisters. She was so attached to me, as if I were her father. Every time she saw me, she would ask for a hug. And every time I embraced her, she would snuggle up in my arms. She seemed to be so absorbed in her thoughts that she would never fall asleep.
Whenever I drove by her home, even if I was still hundreds of miles away, she would hear me, even if she was in bed, in her tent, or by the side of the river. She would then stagger to the middle of the road and look at me, with her hair blowing in the moment. I would roll down the car window and say hi to her, but she would always stick her face up to the window and ask for a kiss.
Her parents are familiar to me, and among all the children of the Guoqing village, I am most worried about Kangzhou. Her father has to work part-time and is also in our non-cash supporting project. We paid for him to learn to drive in driving school and he is now busy learning how to drive.Later I came to notice another “child” in the family, who is dearly beloved. It is a six-month old Tibetan mastiff. Since a one-year old mastiff is equivalent to a seven-year old human being, it is much bigger than Kangzhou in size, even though it is far younger in age. Therefore, it looks like a big boy, and I wonder whether it is the elder “brother” of Kangzhou.
Kangzhou’s mother has to take care of ten yaks, taking them up and down the mountain. As I mentioned, there are four children in the family, however, I have only met three: Kangzhou, a newborn baby, and a little sister, Lacuo. Kangzhou has an elder brother, but I have never met him.
Kangzhou, to whom I gave the name Tibetan Mastiff Princess, is only six years old. Growing up in the wilderness, she has a unique temperament which makes her look like a pure gracious princess who is seventeen or eighteen years old.
For example, I have never seen her cry or act like a spoiled child. She can neither speak nor understand Mandarin, so she has never spoken to me in a complete sentence. However, she would smile at me without saying anything every time she saw me. She would get on our car and travel with us across mountains and rivers for an entire day. Additionally, every time I helped her eat or do her hair, she would be extremely quiet, which made me feel so delighted to be given such a privilege.
Every time I drove by Kangzhou’s family, I would get off my car in case Kangzhou ran to the middle of the road. I would then hold Kangzhou in my arms and give a kiss to little Lacuo. After that, I would have tea and yogurt with their mother. I also never forget to visit Kangzhou’s brother, the big mastiff. Then all the kids on my car would run out together to have a look at it.
To feed the mastiff, Kangzhou’ mother would jump into the kennel with a pot of paste made of yogurt and highland barley. First she would tie a towel around the mastiff’s neck, as if it was going to have a western-styled dinner. Then she would open its mouth and fill it with yogurt spoon by spoon. I realized that the mastiff was already full and the past was just superalimentation.
As our relationships with the herdsmen deepen, we learn something about the industry of Tibetan mastiff. There, in Yushu, most families, poor or rich, would own one or two mastiffs. It is not necessarily because they love mastiffs, but because the herdsmen regard it as an investment. As the value of mastiffs continues to hit a new record high over the years, many poor herdsmen in Yushu want to change the destiny of their families by breeding mastiffs.
Generally, they try to gather enough money to buy a little mastiff of fine breed, or spend tens of thousands on the mating fee of getting some little mastiffs by letting their female mastiffs mate with other male ones of good breed. After that, they will feed them with the best food they own such as yogurt, meat, and milk powder. The little mastiffs actually eat better than the family members. In addition to feeding them good food, people also use superalimentation to help the mastiffs cultivate good bones and fur, which are two main measurements for fine mastiffs. As a result of long term feeding and superalimentation, the previously fierce guard dogs and wolfhounds will eventually turn into obedient “teddy bears”, which are beloved by everyone. These teddy bears are expected to be sold for hundreds of thousands, which will surely get the family rid of poverty completely.
Every time the little mastiff is fed, we move it out of the cage or stockade because it’s so happy that it will run and jump. However, since it never has any exercise, it will tumble every time we push it. Then it will stand up and lick Kangzhou.
Soon the mastiff, Kangzhou’s brother, will be one year old. Mastiffs are very loyal wolf dogs, which are attached to only one owner its life. Therefore, it will be difficult for him to find a new owner after it turns one year old. It could have been sold for fifty thousand before, but now only ten thousand. It is becoming more and more difficult to sell it at a good price as it grows up.
Because of the breeding mastiff industry, walking into every village, you will notice rows of cages. They are more than one meter high from the ground, in front of many houses. To me, they look like rows of jails with many different innocent mastiffs inside. Even if they could be sold, their destinies would remain tragedies. For example, they might be bought by a rich businessman and brought to someplace in the humid south of China. But then they will live in kennels or villas with air conditioning, alone for the rest of their lives, deprived of any change to be back on the plateau again.
However, if they cannot be sold, their owners will have to undertake the heavy burden of feeding them. Because of the economic burden, some of the kindhearted Tibetans, who always stick to the belief of not killing, have begun to sell some of the mastiffs that look relatively bad to Han businessmen who deal with dog meat.
Therefore, if you come to know some Yushu families mastiffs, remember that it doesn’t mean that they are rich. Instead, they may be in debt because of the aspiration of getting rich.
Last October, I visited Kangzhou and her family again. She had grown a bit but seemed to be relatively cold to me. It seemed that something was worrying her. Her big brother had not yet been sold out and was not living in a wood stockade, a bit better than a steel cage.
Since the mastiff was not sold out, the Kangzhou family was still in debt. The October in Yushu had witnessed some early snow at the top of the mountains. Kangzhou began to help her mother pick up cow dung and dry it in the sun. When I visited her that day, she dogtrotted to a stream nearby, washed her hands with the ice-cold water, and opened her arms and asked for a hug. She seemed happy.
This winter is going to be very cold. It seems that her big brother is not going to be sold to other places in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the family will still continue to live together in this way.
- Translated by volunteer XiaoXiao, Edited by intern Isabel Auyeung
Story link: www.toumingyu.org/yuanyi/story/6065/
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