There are plenty of Chinese immigrant success stories in Vancouver. But I doubt there are many less likely than that of Zhuang Zhuang.
I met the former Beijing resident in a shop in the tony neighbourhood of Kerrisdale, where he was wetly introducing himself to fellow customers who made the error of coming within range of his tongue. “Great guard dog, I bet,” I said to his owner, Julie-Anna Vogel, as I wiped slobber off my hands.
I took a closer look at Zhuang Zhuang, grinning up at us. An impressive white fluffball of a dog (a purebred Samoyed, as close as can be established), Zhuang Zhuang had only three legs but nevertheless looked pretty pleased with himself – as well he might.
Vogel later described the unlikely path that brought Zhuang Zhuang into her life. She was living in Beijing in May 2012, with banker husband John and sons Hunter and Jack, when their pet dog Chowder died of heart problems. “Chowder was the love of my life,” said Vogel with a sigh. “A big dog with a big bark, but not a terribly friendly dog.
“I was writing a thank-you note to the vet, and I was getting the address off the internet, and like a complete masochist I go to the section of dogs up for adoption. The very last dog was Zhuang,” Vogel said. “He had been on their site forever, I think because he had the three legs. No-one wanted him.”
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