Long-distance call

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 April, 2010, 12:00am

Having lived in Dubai, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Britain and the United States before she was out of her teens, it took writer Hsin-Yi Cohen a long time to feel settled enough to be the dog owner she had always longed to be.

'Children adapt. I learned to sing the Star-Spangled Banner when we lived in New Jersey for a year and by the time we went back to Taiwan for my fourth grade, my Chinese was completely gone - but we were only there for a year and I don't remember much about it,' says Taipei-born Cohen, 35. 'Despite having moved to different places, I consider myself Taiwanese.'

Her stepfather, who raised her, had an insurance business based in the Middle East. He was used to moving around.

'I just took it for granted when I was a child that we moved and lived in lots of different places and I was always changing schools,' says Cohen. 'We settled in the UAE when I was 11 years old, so that's ... where I spent most of my childhood.'

She went on to complete a degree in biology and earn a master's in social anthropology, both at Oxford University, Britain, where she met her husband, Paul, a medical doctor.

Twelve years ago, she returned to Taiwan to get married. During their wedding, Cohen says, street dogs walked alongside her and Paul as they made their way to the ceremony. They took it as a sign but it wasn't until years later, when they were settled in Auckland, New Zealand - where, after having risen through the ranks in advertising, Cohen had found a job working for Oxford University Press - that she realised her childhood dream. The couple acquired a dog; a Great Dane they named Honey (pictured with Cohen).

'When we went to New Zealand, my husband said, 'If you really love doing something, that's what you should do,' says Cohen. 'It was a bit of luck. [Honey] has given me opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise.'

After taking Honey home, Cohen began researching training techniques and studying up on Great Danes. When she heard that a magazine was looking for breed profiles, she wrote an account of her life with the kind of dog that makes people on the street stop and stare. That article led to others and now Cohen writes full time for British titles Dogs Today and Dog's Life Magazine, and Pet Magazine and Fetch, which are published in Australia and New Zealand, as well as non-pet magazines.

Since relocating to Brisbane, Australia, this year, Cohen has had to readjust again to living in a new city and country.

'I consider home wherever my husband and I live,' Cohen says. 'We have moved so much.'

And, fortunately, writing is a portable skill.

'Because of [Honey], I really wanted to work from home and I couldn't think of a job I could do from home,' she says. 'I was so desperate to get my dog and all the preparation and research [I have done has] paid off. I can write about dog stuff easily. It's easy to write about stuff you're passionate about.'