From man’s best friend to China’s craziest trend, dogs have indeed come a long way in the heart of the Asian mainland. It’s been two years that pictures of dogs coloured to look like other animals—pandas, tigers, buffaloes and snails included—made their jaw-dropping debut on the Net, but 2013 is going to be year of multi-coloured dog in China.
The new doggy style was apparently barking up the right trees: it went viral, and the West was won in a wag, sniff and jump. In the US, they’re called Technicolor dogs, a name that couldn’t but help but reflect the ubiquity of Hollywood in everything American. The dogs love the attention that their new tones get them, it is reported.
In the coloured canine sweepstakes, it’s still a case of US and them, as Chinese owners of well-bred dogs have now started reverse engineering the Darwinian tree of life, finding the best matches between particular breeds and desirable animals. For example, furry white Chow Chows make the best pandas. All it takes is a dye job, says one shop owner at Beijing’s huge Liyuan Dog Market, a dog-meet-dog world where one can buy anything that has anything to do with four-footed. Of course, the great Chow Chow Panda makeover gets tangled up as soon as the ‘panda’ opens its mouth and show a blue tongue. Similarly, Golden Retrievers can be striped and dyed to turn into tigers, and poodles and Bedlington terriers can go the camel and bison way on a good haircut day.
The great Bow Wow doesn’t come cheap, however. One grooming centres in Beijing takes the equivalent of $100 to turn a Chow Chow into a panda. And it can take up to five hours; the tie and dye shouldn’t be done more than twice a year. Which, of course, gives a Chow Chow owner the pleasure of seeing the dog become a panda, revert to canine status, and go right back again to dedicated pandahood, all in the space of 12 months.
Fade to black? Not too bad for a country where dog meat was, and still is, called fragrant meat, and where till recently dogs were kept as pets only by the very well-heeled.