This week: The big problem of pets in the wrong environment I am going to share a rare animal story, not about abandonment or incurable disease, but about unfortunate circumstance and family betrayal. The first I heard of Missy was during a casual conversation with a regular client who ran a pet cafe in Causeway Bay. She told me about her elderly aunt who lived in Sheung Wan alone with a 90kg St Bernard named Missy, and not surprisingly she needed help. These large dogs were originally bred in the Swiss Alps, supposedly by monks to rescue people. The most famous St Bernard is a dog called Barry that saved hundreds of lives in the mountains. He is a national hero and has a monument in Le Cimetiere des Chiens. His preserved body is in the Natural History Museum in Berne, Switzerland. This breed really has no place in a humid and tropical climate like Hong Kong. So what was an elderly woman living on her own doing with a St Bernard? At first I figured it was some medical issue my client wanted to alert me to, but it turned out, not surprisingly, that her aunt was having trouble caring for her behemoth. The story of how she came to own the dog made me furious. It turned out Missy was originally owned by the woman's husband, who died recently and had passed the dog to their daughter. After she found that she couldn't look after the dog she decided to dump it on her mother, who could not refuse her dead husband's dog. It was a cruel thing to do to the elderly woman, so I decided to help. After work one evening I made a house call and I was absolutely shocked at what I saw. The elderly woman was obviously arthritic and had trouble walking herself, with a crooked back, and was in obvious pain when she moved. She was a very small person and must have weighed less then 40kg. There was no way she could have taken that dog out for a walk even if she tried. Her home consisted of one room and a toilet cubicle that doubled as the stand-in shower, directly adjacent to a very small kitchen. The whole apartment was probably less then 100 sq ft and it reeked of dog urine. It was amazing that Missy and the woman could share such a small dwelling. Missy was a wonderful dog, really sweet and tame, albeit rather poorly trained. When Missy urinated the elderly woman would attempt to catch it in a plastic tub. I can only imagine how her faeces were handled. The elderly woman tried her best to look after Missy but it simply was not good enough. I agreed to take the dog and try to find a more suitable home. The elderly woman was sad and relieved at the same time to see Missy go, but for both the owner and the dog's sake it was for the best. I quickly discovered Missy had a serious case of arthritis in her hip joint. She was also not leash trained and would incessantly pull on the lead and needed a really strong hand to keep her under control. It was clear Missy loved the outdoors and had not been out for some time. I kept her for a little over three tiring months, during which time I house-trained her. Leash training was easy and a very low dose of aspirin (a cheap treatment that is safe for a large dog) gave Missy a new lease of life as it cured her arthritic pain. After advertising her in a local magazine, she found a new home, and is now the largest dog on Peng Chau Island. I miss Missy very much.