Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chinese Seeing-Eye Dogs are the Cutest Things

I'm writing this post because, you guys, look how cute and smart these dogs are. But actually, turns out it's more serious than that: in China, a country with 1.3 billion people, millions of whom are blind, there are only around 50 or 60 seeing-eye dogs. There's a huge need- for more people to get dogs and for society to accept the rights of blind people to walk around with their dogs in public places.

The Chinese word for "seeing-eye dog" is 导盲犬 [dǎo máng quǎn]. 导[dǎo] means "guide", 盲[máng] means "blind", 犬[quǎn] means "dog". (In your Chinese 101 class, you may have learned that 狗[gǒu] means dog. You're right! Good job paying attention in your class! Usually we use 狗[gǒu]. For example, if you want to say "I have a dog" or any everyday sentence about something a dog did, you say 狗[gǒu]. 犬[quǎn] is a more official word which is used in the names of specific breeds of dogs, or in this case, the official name for seeing-eye dogs. Sort of like in English we have "dog" and "canine", where "canine" is way more official/scientific. To be clear, I am NOT saying that 犬[quǎn] means "canine"; usually it should be translated as "dog". 犬[quǎn] is more official than 狗[gǒu], just like "canine" is more official than "dog", but the cutoff between 犬[quǎn] and 狗[gǒu] is at a very different place than the cutoff between "canine" and "dog". Translation is hard.)

I found several videos showing guide dogs in China:

Video 1: China View: Clearer future for China's guide dogs

I put this one first on the list because it's in English. It's about the dog training center in Dalian, a city in northeast China. The center was founded in 2006 and seems to be the only training center for guide dogs in China.

Video 2: 导盲犬Candie [Candie the guide dog]

This is a nice video showing Candie, a yellow lab who works as a guide dog in Beijing. Candie was born in California and trained in the US; you can see her owner giving her commands in English. Other than that, the whole video is in Chinese. For y'all who can't understand Chinese, I still think this video is worth watching because it shows a lot of very normal everyday-life things in a big Chinese city like Beijing. You can see what it's like to ride the subway [5:35-11:00], walk on the street [4:00-5:35], go to a taichi class [11:00-14:30], etc.

"Turn right." Qin Lian gives commands to Candie in English. (Click image to see larger version.)
People on the subway sneakily take pictures of Candie. (Click image to see larger version.)

Beijing subway. (Click image to see larger version.)

Candie waits while her person is at tai chi class. (Click image to see larger version.)
Random people pet Candie and tell her she's a good dog. (Click image to see larger version.)

Qin Lian and Candie. (Click image to see larger version.)

Playing. (Click image to see larger version.)

Grocery shopping. (Click image to see larger version.)
Customers at the grocery store pet Candie. Candie's owner tells them not to pet her when she's working. (Click image to see larger version.)

The video mainly focuses on the dog, rather than the owner. However, near the end of the video [23:10-27:40] we see that the owner, Qin Lian, is involved in programs to educate the public about guide dogs.

Qin Lian lets people pet Candie, and teaches them about guide dogs. (Click image to see larger version.)

Video 3: 你是我的眼 [You are my eyes]

This video focuses on Chen Yan, a 19-year-old blind girl who has a guide dog named Jenny. Again, it's entirely in Chinese, but again, it's nice because you can see pretty typical everyday scenes in China.

This video is a lot of talking- Chen Yan talks about her dreams, sometimes sounding hopeful and sometimes not. (At one point, she mentions that some people think the only job blind people can do is give massages. THIS IS A THING IN CHINA. There are special massage places which advertise that their masseuses are blind. Supposedly blind people are really good at it.) She feels a big responsibility: because she is lucky enough to have a guide dog, she believes she should travel and take the dog to as many places as possible, and also work to advocate for acceptance of guide dogs in Chinese culture.

Chen Yan talks about her dreams- including playing the piano. Actually she plays very well. (Click image to see larger version.)

Chen Yan and Jenny. (Click image to see larger version.)

Chen Yan and Jenny eating ice cream together. (Click image to see larger version.)

Jenny. So cute and so hardworking. (Click image to see larger version.)
Chen Yan helps to educate people about guide dogs. Here she is having Jenny lead this boy around. (Click image to see larger version.)
A volunteer stands outside a store, holding a sign that says, "我愿意与导盲犬一起买酸奶。 [I am willing to buy yogurt with a guide dog.]" Advocating for the right to bring guide dogs into stores and other public places. (Click image to see larger version.)

Video 4: 自然密码 [Natural Code]

自然密码 [zìrán mìmǎ] ("Natural Code") is a nature documentary show, and this episode is about seeing-eye dogs. (Again, it's all in Chinese.) There is a bunch of footage of the training school in Dalian, and it also discusses the need for more education and advocacy for the rights of blind people in Chinese society.

A group of dogs playing together at the training school. All of them are labs or golden retrievers. (Click image to see larger version.)
Trainer and dog. (Click image to see larger version.)

This dog is named Sherry. (Click image to see larger version.)
Sherry and her person at the subway station. (Click image to see larger version.)

This video is fun because you see a lot of how the dogs are trained. My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE PART [10:05-11:15] is when the dog and trainer are walking on the sidewalk, and the trainer pretends to run into a post and fall down. He then gives this entire monologue to the dog, in Chinese, about how you need to pay attention to stuff like that, blocking the sidewalk, and when you're with your blind owner you better not let them run into stuff. Meanwhile the dog is just wagging its tail and jumping around so happily.

As the trainer gives a speech about how you can't let your person run into stuff, the dog jumps on him happily. (Click image to see larger version.)

Trainer: "Come look at what this is."
Dog: "This is the happiest day of my life." (Click image to see larger version.)
Trainer: "Get it? In the future you'll remember, right?" (Click image to see larger version.)
Training the dogs to not be distracted by anything. Like, for example, a chicken leg dangling in front of them. (Click image to see larger version.)
Massive group of dogs playing. (Click image to see larger version.)
Sherry and her person. (Click image to see larger version.)
There were a few points in the videos where the dogs' owners got into arguments over their right to bring the dog into a public place. In video 3, at the 9:30 mark, Chen Yan is yelling at a grocery store employee who won't let her bring the dog into the store. In video 4, at the 25:05 mark, Sherry's person (sorry, I didn't catch her name) argues with a taxi driver who won't let the dog in the taxi. (A lot of yelling about "she doesn't bite!") Before he drives away, she tells him she's going to make a note of his taxi ID number and report him. As far as I can tell, legally, people have the right to bring a guide dog to all these public places, but in reality, they often get stopped and not allowed in.

Overall, though, the videos showed that most people in public who saw the dogs were curious about them. There were a lot of people taking cell phone photos, lots of comments about how well trained the dogs are, and lots of petting the dogs (which they're totally not supposed to do).

Several of the dogs' blind owners talked about how much their dogs changed their lives and helped them become more independent. Hopefully, in China's future, even more people will have that opportunity.

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