As Siu Bak peered warily through the rusty bars of her cage and viewed the unfurling chaos around her, she closed her teary eyes and tried to block out the pitiful yelps and terrified screams of her fellow captives. “Why me?” she thought, “why now?”
Squashed into a tiny cage with two other dogs, Siu Bak tried to lie down, but there wasn’t enough room. Instead, she managed to find just enough space to sit down between her cellmates. She was one of the lucky ones; as unlike some of the other captives, she was in a cage with two non-aggressive dogs. The bigger, golden haired dog, Wong Gu-Leung, looked resigned to her ill fate and kept to herself. Her smaller, black haired cellmate, Hak Jai, looked quite sick; he had yellow puss in his eyes, was listless and had lost half of his fur. She prayed that he would make it through their dreadful journey.
As the open topped truck sped down the road, an icy cold wind blew right through to their bones. Siu Bak licked Hak Jai’s seeping eyes and snuggled up next to him and Wong Gu-Leung in a valiant effort to keep them all warm and safe.
Siu Bak was born on a chilly November morning in Mianyang in China’s Sichuan Province. She was the runt in a litter of eight and the only girl. Her mother was run over by a car when Siu Bak was only six weeks old and she and her siblings were left to forage for food on their own. Half starved, bewildered and in desperate need of fresh water, she wandered away from the rest of the litter to try and find some sustenance. She went further and further afield with no luck; eventually she got so lost, that she never saw her brothers again.
One cold and windy night Siu Bak was so desperately hungry and alone that she lay down shivering at the side of the pavement and started to whimper. After a few minutes she heard a strange noise behind her. Before she had the chance to run, she was grabbed by the scruff of the neck and thrown into a dark sack with two other small puppies. Their abductor started to run down the street with them and they heard loud yelling noises behind them. All of a sudden their captor tripped over and they all went flying through the air and landed on the ground with a big thud; ouch! As Siu Bak wriggled out of the sack last, she looked around terrified as the angry man was trying to grab the other two puppies appearing before her. As he lunged at her, Siu Bak bit his hand, shot between his legs and ran for her life down a dark alleyway. She somehow managed to find a tiny crevice in the alley wall too small and dark for the scary man to see. She stayed there very still and quite for what seemed like an eternity, quivering and fearing for her life. She worried about the other 2 puppies and hoped that they had escaped too.
After a while, Siu Bak finally stuck her nose out and smelt a waft of fried chicken. She crept slowly out of her hiding place and looked warily around. There was no one there, so she followed the scent and came across a busy place with lots of humans eating delicious food. Mmmmm! How hungry she was! As she edged closer to one of the outdoor tables, she saw a small human suddenly appear in a big fluffy coat and a bobbled wooly hat. She looked straight into her kind eyes as the little girl quickly scooped her up in her arms and rushed her over to one of the tables. “Mama, Baba, Ngoh Yiu lee gor bebe gow; koy hai ho leng loy; ho dak yee!” They both turned to the little girl’s parents, who in turn looked into their pleading, innocent eyes. Eventually the two adults looked at each other and gave a big sigh, “Aiya Wan Mei, okay, but this is the last puppy we are taking home!”.
Siu Bak’s life in Wan Mei’s home was a luxurious one. Wan Mei’s parents owned a big restaurant, so food was plentiful and she and her adopted brothers, Bobo and Miu Miu got to eat lots of delicious meat and rice twice per day. They lived in an apartment above the restaurant and Wan Mei got up early each morning and rushed home from school each day to walk her puppies in the local park. Wan Mei’s parents were both Cantonese but they had both grown up in Shanghai. They had moved to Mianyang to open up the restaurant when Wan Mei was only four years old. The majority of people from Shanghai were much friendlier and more tolerant towards dogs than in the provinces; Wan Mei and her parents were no different. When they were at home, the puppies were allowed to follow Wan Mei everywhere; they were even allowed to sleep at the foot of her bed, which until then, had been unheard of in Sichuan! For the next two years, Wan Mei loved her puppies and her puppies loved her; unconditionally.
One day, whilst out for a walk with Wan Mei, a car back fired right next to them on a busy road and made them all jump. Siu Bak was so scared that she ran like the wind across the road. She somehow managed to dodge all the rush hour traffic on the road, including some big trucks. She heard screaming and shouting all around her and stopped momentarily to look around for her beloved Wan Mei, Bobo & Miu Miu. Before she had chance to run again, she was hit with two big bamboo sticks, grabbed and thrown into a cage in the back of one of the bigger trucks on the road. The door was quickly slammed shut and she was engulfed in darkness.
As the truck moved quickly away, Siu Bak barked for help and tried to adjust her eyes to the dark. Foul smells filled her nostrils and she heard whimpering cries coming from behind her. To her horror she saw lots of other dogs crammed into tiny cages one on top of the other. The ones on the bottom were covered in excrement & urine from the ones above. Several had broken legs and most were covered in nasty cuts. One emaciated brown dog had blood pouring from her nose and leg; she had got them caught in the cage bars when they had moved the cages on top of each other. Their captors had just laughed when she had yelped in pain. She could not understand how anyone could be so cruel and heartless.
Siu Bak was bewildered as to why they had put her in this dreadful truck; after all she was someone’s pet, someone’s devoted companion. Had her captor’s not seen her floral pink collar and name tag, seen how clean and white she was? Surely as soon as the doors opened they would realise their mistake and call her beloved Wan Mei to come and rescue her? With this thought in mind, combined with the long, dark and bumpy journey, she eventually fell asleep.
Siu Bak awoke to a big bang and a sharp stab of daylight penetrating her eyes. As the truck doors opened, the cold fresh air rushed in and she stood up with a bolt. They were now in an unfamiliar place with strange smells and all of the cages were being unloaded, one by one, onto an open topped truck. Siu Bak looked at the truck drivers and barked at them indignantly; surely they had noticed her collar and name tag by now? They looked at her with loathing and hatred in their eyes, shouted obscenities and threw something at her. She seared in pain as a sharp rock hit her front leg and it immediately started to bleed and swell up. She was just licking her wounds when her cage was thrown carelessly onto the new truck with the others.
As the second truck set off on its way to the “Meat Market”, two dogs in the cage adjacent to Siu Bak’s cage started to fight. The third dog in the cage was stuck in the middle and got kicked, shoved and bitten. The bigger of the two fighting dogs lunged at the neck of the other dog and blood started to spray all over the surrounding dogs and cages. The injured dog cried out in extreme pain and fell to the cage floor with a thud. He twitched a few times and then lay quite still. He never moved again.
Suddenly they heard a loud siren and several vans and cars surrounded the truck and made it pull over to the side of the road. The car and van drivers shouted at the truck drivers and forced them into a car with flashing lights. They then moved around the truck staring, pointing and talking. Some of the dogs barked at them loudly but Siu Bak sensed a softness in their voices; compassion. One of the ladies had the same colour hair as Siu Bak and Siu Bak felt a connection with her; she looked pleadingly into her eyes for help as Hak Jai lay dying beside her.
The cages were taken down from the trucks and Siu Bak and her fellow prisoners were released in a dog rescue centre in Chengdu. Their saviors were all very friendly and examined each of them in turn. The friendly, healthier dogs were allowed to walk around freely and were given some well needed food, water and medical attention. There were 149 dogs rescued that day from the truck, but unfortunately only 47 dogs could be saved; some were found dead in the cages and the aggressive, badly injured and dreadfully sick dogs had to be put to sleep. The atmosphere was seared with both victory & sadness from dogs and humans alike.
Siu Bak was lucky to be alive. Unfortunately her collar and name tag had been lost during her traumatic ordeal and she was a long way from home. She was left at the rescue centre waiting for her beloved Wan Mei to find her; forever hopeful, forever optimistic that there was more love and kindness in this unpredictable world.
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This short, fictional story was written by our Chairman Hazel Black in 2009 and is based on Jill Robinson & the team from Animals Asia’s rescue (in 2009) of 149 puppies and dogs crammed into trucks destined for the meat market in China; sadly only 47 survived. Through hard work and perseverance, Animals Asia have since rescued many more puppies and dogs in China from a similar fate, as well as many Moon bears from the horrific bile industries in China & Vietnam. Their founder and Chairman, Jill Robinson (OBE) works tirelessly to educate the Chinese and Vietnamese Governments and citizens about the proper and humane treatment of animals. Keep up the good work Jill and your team at Animals Asia!