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China: Around The Nation

Bow wow! Retired Chinese police dogs spend their golden years in comfort thanks to kindly cop

Dog handler has spent US$150,000 making sure his ‘comrades in arms’ live out their final years with dignity

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 August, 2017, 5:47pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 August, 2017, 5:47pm

A police dog handler from eastern China has won the hearts of people across the country after the story of how he cares for his retired canine colleagues was told in an online video.

Bai Yan, who works in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, set up a home for the animals on a strip of hillside land he rented from a friend in 2010, as his way of saying thank you to them for their loyal service, The Beijing News reported on Sunday.

Over the years, 20 dogs have passed through its gates, and it is currently home to 16, including one of Bai’s closest friends and former colleagues, a 10-year-old dog named Xiaolong.

In June, Bai and Xiaolong appeared in a reality show broadcast by China Central Television in which the pair showed off their skills at fighting crime.

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Bai has had a long relationship with the police dogs, having set up the first specialist canine team at his bureau in 2004, the report said.

“They are my comrades in arms,” he was quoted as saying. “And now they are getting old, I want them to be able to spend their remaining years with dignity.”

After finding fame on CCTV, Bai was recently interviewed by another television about his life with the dogs, and the footage was widely circulated online.

“These dogs have contributed their youth to us and deserve our respect,” a person wrote after seeing the video on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter.

“I think measures are necessary to take care of them, just like we do for humans,” the person said.

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Most of the caring work is done by Bai himself, who visits the dogs at their hilly homestead in Fuyang district three times a day.

The first is at 4am, when he makes their breakfast and greets them all individually, the report said.

After that he gives them a quick medical check before letting them run and play in the open grounds. To maximise the time he can spend with the dogs he even takes a different one of them to work with him each day.

“I want to be there to make them happy in the last years of their lives,” Bai said, adding that he spends all of his weekends and most of his holidays with his beloved beasts.

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Over the years, he has also spent about 1 million yuan (US$150,000) developing the compound and paying for the dogs’ food and health care, he was quoted as saying.

In the past, once the dogs became too old to work the police bureau could not afford to keep them and relied on the public or the handlers themselves to take the animals off their hands. The idea to set up the home came after Bai saw one such dog that was being neglected by its new owner.

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“I saw he [the dog] was chained up and lying on the ground outside the front door next to a bowl of soured leftovers. His hair was all dirty and messy,” he said.

Bai knew he had to act, and so began the story.

“It’s probably only 10 years that I get to spend with them, but to them, I am almost their whole life,” he said.

Unlike pets, working dogs build up a very close bond with their handlers and need a lot of attention, especially when they retire.

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“If they are neglected, they quickly become depressed,” Bai said.

Despite having received several offers of financial help to pay for the dogs’ care, Bai said he always turns them down, as he considers it a personal responsibility.

“They have fought with me side by side for many years,” he said. “They are just like my family, and I will take care of my family by myself.”