An Unexpected Encounter: Impulse or Destiny?


Photo by Tina Su

I did something crazy and completely random yesterday; I bought a puppy on the streets of Beijing.

How are you gonna bring it back to the US? I don’t think you’ll be able to take it back.” seems to be the common response I get asked. That and bewildered looks on the faces of my relatives. My answer has been a quick shoulder shrug and a reply of, “Eh, I’ll figure something out.” Everyone else seems to be more stressed out by it than me.

The sequence of events went something like this:

Sept 23, 7:30 pm – paid for puppy in cash.
Sept 23, 7:49 pm – drove to pet supply store for food, leash, pee-pee pads, chew toys and treats.
Sept 23, 8:46 pm – went to animal hospital for details on shots and health certificates needed.
Sept 24, 8:07 am – booked puppy’s spot on the same return flight as mine.

It all happened very quickly.

How I Ended Up Buying a Puppy (in Beijing)

We were walking along the streets in the historic Qianmen Hutong area. While waiting for my uncle to return from the bathroom, a woman (let’s call her Rose) walked by holding an adorable puppy in her arms. I asked to pet him and ended up playing with him.

At that moment, a local Beijingese couple on their evening stroll stopped in front of us. The woman (let’s call her Betty) asked rudely, “How much you gonna sell that dog for?” without first asking whether the dog was in fact for sale. Culturally, I was shocked by the way she questioned this stranger. If I had asked someone that on the streets of any North American city, I’d get a nasty look or a few choice curse words.

Turns out, Rose is a street umbrella seller who will not be able to afford to keep the puppy. She said politely, “He is for sale to a good family. I’m not an expert on pet prices. How much do you think he is worth?”

Betty and her husband continued along with their rude tone and asked ridiculous questions that were both purposefully belittling to Rose and demeaning to the dog. They spent the next 5 minutes picking out all the things that might be wrong with the puppy:

  • “His tail is not straight”
  • “How come he is walking wobbly” (Because he’s a bloody puppy! He’s only 8 weeks old.)
  • “How come he has a beige patch by his eye? Is that a disease? Will I get the disease and die?” (No. He was born that way. It’s part of his fur. I think he is perfect the way he is.)
  • “The colored patches on his back aren’t balanced on both sides.” (He was born that way, the same way that one of your eyes is higher than the other.)
  • “How come his ears are so flimsy? Too soft and doesn’t stand up straight.”

Turns out my relatives would later ask me the same annoying series of questions – along with commenting that I paid too much. I don’t think owning dogs is generally an accepted practice in Chinese culture. Many of the locals have the notion that dogs are dirty and that horrible diseases can be contracted from them.

It was clear that Betty wanted to and was ready to buy the dog. Yet, she was afraid to even touch the little 3-lb ball of fur. She said that she might get a disease and die. “Okay, I’ve had enough.” I thought.

While playing with the dog the entire time this took place, I became disgusted by the behavior of the potential owners of this innocent creature. It appeared that he would be going to a bad home that would mistreat him. At that moment I decided that regardless of how much Betty tried to pay for the puppy, I would out-bid her.

We ended up in a bidding war, which I won, and I took the puppy for 300 RMB (~ $50 USD). I know it sounds impulsive and irrational, but if you were there in person, you’d understand. I followed my heart and listened to my intuition. It felt like the right thing to do. Anyway, I was sure that even if I couldn’t take him home with me, I’d be able to find him a better home.

Holding the tiny 3 lb creature in my arms, and looking into his innocent eyes, my heart melted and I was now in love with the little bugger. My little family just got a little bit bigger. I hope Tommy won’t get too jealous of the little guy.

Within an hour, a tiny puppy’s destiny had changed from a lifetime of selling umbrellas on the streets of Beijing, to that of an international traveler who will soon be moving to a new home in North America.

What Now?

So you’re probably wondering what I’m gonna do with Blackie (yup, that’s his new name) while I continue with my travels? Well, along this topic, more drama has unfolded. An uncle wanted to keep him while I’m traveling outside of Beijing, probably secretly hoping that he can keep Blackie in case I can’t take him with me to the US. However, I had to look for another home for him, after his wife flipped out on him (again, the assumption that their son could die from a deadly disease contracted by the puppy – silly woman).

Another relative agreed to watch him, since she is older, lives alone and has seriously considered owning a dog. So, this would be a trial run. When she came to pick him up the night before my flight to XinJiang, she demanded (literally, demanded) that I give her 200 US dollars. In a state of shock, my bargaining reflex took over and I shot back with, “Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding me. That’s too expensive.” My mistake, this remark triggered a serious of drama that I’m too embarrassed to reiterate in detail.

Turns out, she was pissed off that I hadn’t brought her a gift from the US and was demanding that I buy her something substantial. Maybe this is the norm in Chinese culture, but it didn’t sit well with me. It not only made me sad, but also made me angry. Many local people seem to think that westerners and Chinese descendents living abroad are walking dollar signs, are not very smart, and can easily and willingly shower you with money.

In the end, I didn’t give in to the cultural norm and Blackie will be staying at a doggie hotel in Beijing with a personal care taker for about 6 dollars a day.

** 11/20/08: Latest Blackie updates can be found here. **

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38 Responses (35 Comments, 3 Trackbacks ):


  1. 1

    The price of the dog (& dog care) seem very cheap to me, maybe that is because it is china though?

    It’s a great story and you’ve definitely got a cute puppy on your hands, i love the photo with you.


  2. 2

    Impulsive destiny. Well done.

  3. 3

    I vote for impulsive ;)

    I haven’t had a dog in a long time, but a couple of my recent roommates did. It was great. Kind of like being an uncle (or, what I imagine being an uncle would be like) – someone else is responsible for raising the dog, and I just got to play with it =)

  4. 4

    It’s so wonderful how the Universe works so that you and Blackie would find each other at EXACTLY the very single most right moment of EACH of you. I love that!!!

    Blackie represents the antithesis of the (interesting) experiences you have had with some of the relatives and locals on your trip. I love that, too!!!

    Can’t wait to see pictures of the two doggies together at home.

  5. 5

    Good for you! I’m a volunteer who helps find homes for the dogs at the local animal shelter. When I screen calls I have to figure out if the owners are responsible and if they and the dog will be a good match. The shelter used to charge $50, but the latest one was $60. I’m happy for you.

    This is my first visit here. I’ve just added you to Live Bookmarks.

  6. 6

    I am from India and I understand all about dogs not being accepted as well as the fact that people think we are walking dollar signs … at least that is he way it was when I left India as a student 11 years ago ….
    I live in Seattle but people in India wanted us to give up our dogs when folk in India heard that I was pregnant. The extent to which people went to convince me was amazing.

    I am glad you listened to your heart. Way too much of our lives is planned and thought out these days….

    The puppy looks adorable. All the best!

  7. PeaceLoveJoyBliss


    Tina, this is what I call spontaneous living – and learning. Blackie is one lucky pooch. Destiny, definitely.


  8. 8

    As a dog lover myself, I can understand how this happened, but I sure hope you are looking into US Customs requirements and quarantine regulations before you just arrive with a puppy at your port of entry.

    Here is a page that will help you:

    The big concern is that if the US Customs agents decide at entry that your puppy isn’t healthy enough to be in the states, you will have only two options: send him back to china or let them destroy him, both of which sound like sad endings to me.

    Even if he does stay, he will probably have to be in a quarantine facility for a month, so you will need to be ready to pay for that and hopefully go visit him there while he does his time.

    Good luck! I’m an american moving to the UK in a month, and getting my dog his passport is a literal 6 months long process, mostly due to the fact that the UK doesn’t have rabies and the US does. It’s not as simple as just arriving at the gate with them usually.

  9. 9

    I have been thinking of getting a puppy, so it is serendipitous that you wrote this post. :)

    I am so happy Blackie has a home with you! The little one will be well taken care of. :)

    Tommy is so so cute! What kind of dog is he?

  10. 10

    Hey Tina,
    So happy that you found Blackie (and Blackie found you!)
    Isn’t every day a day to learn about life, both the good & the bad?
    I think learning to deal with wisdom with self-focused people is one of the great challenges of life— hopefully you won’t be challenged like that too often.
    Have a great time rest of your time in China & be blessed,

  11. 11

    It was destiny, and meant to be. They say that we don’t pick our pets – but that they chose us!
    You are going to be a great doggy – mommy. :)
    Congrats hun!

  12. 12

    That is such a cute puppy, I am glad he ends up in a good home :) Well done!

  13. 13

    I would have done the same thing if I could–How could you resist his adorable, sad eyes?

    Good luck with getting him back to the US! Hopefully things will turn out well for you and Blackie.

  14. 14

    awww he’s so cuteee! :)

  15. 15

    Wow! I am not yet used to the ideas of Chinese people, but this is giving me something to think about.

    I must say the dog is so adorable! I love that you went with your gut instincts, those are more right down the line. Funnily enough, my childhood dog was named Blackie too! :D

  16. 16

    It’s the cutest story for today =)

    i slept with my dog/puppy/cat (she’s a mix!) on my bed yesterday, she’s so adorable!

    that’s so random to buy the puppy but that’s crazy kool!

    priceless gift is the love from a dog =) i’ve got two, i love them dearly

    takecare and have a great journey around the places~*



  17. 17

    You saved a puppy! Yey!
    I’m glad. I really want to have a dog or a cat, I love them just the same, but as I live in a small apartment and Im not home a lot, I just figured out that I won’t buy a dog or cat, I’ll just wait until I find one on the streets who needs me, if I run into a pet that is in need and will be better in my small apartment that on the streets, that’s the pet I’ll have.

    I think my destiny will find me.
    Although now that I think about it, maybe there are pets in shelters that nobody wants cause they are old or sick. Maybe I should go and take home one of those…

  18. 18

    Tina, loved your post! That is a very lucky (and adorable) puppy. FYI- to get your new puppy back into the US with you, you need a valid rabies certificate, a valid health certificate (issued within 10 days of departure from an accredited vet) and an export permit issued by the Chinese government. There is no quarantine time for US importation, but you do need all that paperwork for your puppy to be able to enter the US. Good luck!

  19. 19

    Wonderful photo and adorable puppy. Hope you bring each other a lot of happiness.

  20. 20

    He’s adorable! Everyone has puppies in the part of China where I live – it’s a rural area, so most people grew up in villages with guard dogs being an important necessity to protect their livestock. Even living in town, now, most people have a dog, even if just for fun!

  21. 21

    I’m happy that you are keeping Blackie, he’s absolutely adorable and you will provide him with a much better home than anyone else…he is a very lucky puppy!

  22. 22


    What a great reminder for us to live each day in the moment. Just go after what you want and as you do everything else will fall into place.


  23. Lunarmony


    Just wanted to comment on the supposedly culture norm thing as well as the bit you mentioned about dogs not being accepted… seems that there are still a lot of misconceptions about China…

    I am not sure about the situation in Beijing as I’ve never stayed there long-term… but in Shanghai I’ve seen many people who absolutely love their pet dogs.

    Also with regard to the last part where you mentioned your relative … I think it is a thing that varies from people to people. Certain guys just enjoy taking advantages of other people :( The good news remains that there are still many of people in China who doesn’t think that way at all.

    Hope that clears a few things up. Personally I’ll just wait, see and do my best to get things a little bit better :) until that time…

    Anyway, my best of luck to Blackie and good luck with your travel!

  24. 24

    Blackie may have cost you a bomb but I’m glad that you followed your intuition and did what you could to help. He is sure one lucky dog. His destiny changed when he met you. And your life is richer for the one little dog that you saved.

  25. Andre Simoneau


    Hey, remember when I had Pochacco, the husky/shepherd mix? Good on you, I hope he grows up to be well-behaved.

  26. Sophia Pham


    What a heartfelt story. I honestly think you did the right impulsive thing. Who knows what “Betty” would have done, they might have eaten the dog for all you know. [joke, hope it doesn't offend anyone].

    I hope you have many great adventures with Blackie

  27. 27

    I think that’s a very good deed, Tina! Blackie has found a great owner and he’s one fortunate goggie! *grin*

    Tommy is such a darling and he looks like a toy with loads of personality. :D

  28. 28

    im glad you did what you did with the puppy. if i were in your position, i would probably have done the same thing. anyways, so what happened to the puppy? were you able to bring him back to the US? if not, where is he now? :(

  29. 29

    we’ll … i need to drop something here … else i’m not human …
    ha ha ha

    we’ll done … i’ll support u spritually … if i we’re u … i’ll be doing the same thing …

    kudus and god bless !

    btw, keep us posted on blakie …

  30. 30

    Hi Guys,

    Quick update that Blackie and I landed safely and without any trouble in Seattle a few days ago. I will put up some pictures and an update post soon. Keep an eye out.

    Blackie says, *woof wooof” to you’all!


  31. 31

    Turned out a greatest fan of “Think Simple Now”. Looking forward for more posts

  32. 32

    I am so impressed with the compassion you have shown! You are a good person!! I love animals as well and what you did was absolutely wonderful. Blackie is definitely in good hands and besides…he is soooo cute….

  33. Alec Bright


    Well done for buying the puppy and good luck. You must be truely a wonderful person. Keep us informed of his progress!

  34. 34

    Good on you. I am glad that you were able to work it out and keep the dog. Too bad the relatives were so weird about the whole thing.

  35. 35

    Dear Tina,

    I visited my grandma’s cousin in China 5 years ago and all of them ripped us off with 2 table of Chinese banquet dinner (10 persons per table).
    Our reaction is,” where did all those people (so called relative) come from??? Needless to day, that was my last trip to visit my relative from China. We are not stingy but we don’t owe uninvited guest free expensive dinner. It’s a good thing that you stick to your principle and not pay us 200 dollar to your aunt. True family will not do this to another family member. ^.^

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