“What greater gift than the love of a cat?”
– Charles Dickens

by Trevor C. Hale

She glanced at him with a look that was somehow both cutting and cute. Bored yet sexy—as only a princess can. Despite his best efforts to be cool, he was hopelessly ensorcelled. Animal instincts aroused, our man stepped up, springing to action. She made a show of trying to get away, but it was obvious. She wanted it.

He easily overpowered her and bit her neck….as one does. The bite was just for show and quickly evolved to rigorous, but tender neck licking and grooming.
With half-closed bedroom eyes, she happily demurred, content. Men are so predictable. Even if they’re castrated.

This scene, played out a million times a day, across lands and species, still makes me laugh when my cats do it.
Tang Yu’an (Chinese for the black and white, sesame-filled sweet dumplings eaten on the last day of Chinese New Year, or “sweet dumpling”), and her big brother Ku Ge (“Cool, big brother”) adopted me from the streets of Beijing and I’m now living at their whim at their pad in Shanghai.

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty.”

– Ernest Hemingway

With China’s one-child policy, pets are especially treasured here, especially for empty-nesters.

Last month a truck full of more than 500 dogs, on their way to be slaughtered for meat in Jilin province, was stopped on the road in Beijing by animal activists.  Photos of the truck were posted online and pet-lovers showed up en mass, forcing the truck off the road. A 15-hour confrontation ensued.
The driver had all the ownership documents– selling dog and cat meat for consumption is not illegal in China. Despite the paperwork being kosher, to the activists selling animals for meat was anything but. Two hundred people showed up and raised $17,600 to liberate the dogs, who are all now at the Chinese equivalent of The Humane Society.

In some parts of Asia, like Thailand and Singapore, pets have to wait up to a year in quarantine before they are allowed a visa. Thankfully, so I’m told, Malaysia has an immigration process that includes receiving “new” paperwork that can ease the process.

“Anything not nailed down is a cat toy.”

– Unknown

In Japan’s stylish Shibuya district, known for its famous diagonal cross-walk and building-sized video screen, a life-sized bronze statue of a dog watches over harried commuters. Millions of Tokyoites have used the landmark for a meeting point since 1934. The statue is called Chu-Ken Hachiko, which means “the faithful dog Hachiko.” He was born in Akita in 1923 and accompanied his master to the train station every day.
“Hachi” would wait at the train station every day for his return. This happy routine continued until one fateful day in 1925, when his owner was taken ill on the job and unfortunately died before he could return home. Despite the fact that Hachi was less than two years old at the time, the bond between dog and owner was strong. Hachi continued to wait each day at Shibuya station for a friend who was never coming back. At times, he wouldn’t return home for days at a time.
Hachi became a familiar sight to commuters as he kept his vigil for over ten years. On March 8, 1935, Hachi finally went to meet his master. He died on the very same spot he last saw his friend alive. A statue was erected in honor of his loyalty and faith–characteristics which were on strong display as Japanese rallied after the Tsunami in March.

It is with the thoughts of my feline masters, the unconditional loyalty of Hachi and the passion of the dog lovers in Beijing, that I think of the 32nd Do Dah Day, which starts May 20 in Birmingham.
It’s the South’s number one Dog & Animal Festival, and one of Birmingham’s best-loved events. This year’s festival is set for Saturday, May 21st, 2011 in Caldwell and Rhodes parks, but don’t miss out on the kickoff of the festivities at Do Dah Eve on Friday night, May 20th at Nana Funks in Lakeview.
The ribbon of Highland Avenue that stretches from 20th Street to Rushton Park is one of the most diverse and interesting streets in Alabama. Pets of all walks parade their owners on Do Dah Day.
Pets, do your owners a favor and take them to this quintessentially B-ham experience. They’ll love you unconditionally.
“The smallest feline is a masterpiece”

– Leonardo Da Vinci

Trevor C. Hale, a Cullman native, lives and works in Shanghai, and doesn’t care that only old spinsters have cats named “sweet dumpling.”

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