The 5-Star Dog Hotel

JD's opinion:

While we're away, she is living in a maximum-security prison with 24-hour surveillance. She will get to socialize with other inmates twice a day before repairing to her completely secure cell.

Our opinion:

We’re paying thru our nose to board her in a premium air-conditioned room at Pet Oasis, the “Ng Sing Cup Gau Jau Deem” (5-star Dog Hotel, to go by their Cantonese name) in Tuen Mun, on the outskirts of Hong Kong (which is where many boarders are located, because rental space in Hong Kong is so expensive). Premium boarding itself doesn’t cost that much more than in Singapore, but extras do. Not that we splurge that much on extras (like grooming), but we tip, which has the wonderful effect in Hong Kong of her handlers even worrying we’ll think she doesn’t like them.

We get the occasional phone call saying she has a "slightly loose" fang. Just in case we think they harmed a curly hair on her head.

Her bag is packed, she's ready to go...

Dog toys check.

Bags of treats check.

Bones (for entertainment and teeth cleaning) check.

We unwrap everything and put the treats in tupperware (as advised, once upon a time) to minimize the chance of resale (but they're the “Ng Sing Cup Gau Jau Deem”, surely they wouldn't!)

We don’t really have a choice about the boarding – JD has a long history as an escape artist, earning us complaint calls in the middle of the night because she has scaled 7-foot fences, waking her reluctant boarders to a 2am game of Corral the Border Collie, even as her fellow inmates bark their lungs out.

Her school, the HKCWAC (Hong Kong Canine Working and Agility Club for pics), declines to board her because they have no quarters that don’t have a gap between wall and ceiling and our dog’s motto is, Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way. They watched her in training. They're on to her.

So it’s premium room and air-conditioning <guilty> to effectively contain our would-be escapee. I can feel the disapproval emanating from the many responsible, environmental residents of Hong Kong. (Sorry!! My dog really escapes from everything else!!)

Btw Kings has been yelled at for leaving his car engine running too long (though we don't really know how a passing jogger knows it's too long). We're not sure if Hong Kong law that will only allow engines to be  left running for 3 waiting minutes has come into effect but we will try our best not to be felons.

Did I mention JD has also patiently, methodically chewed thru thick rope leashes meant for a Bull Mastiff? We’ve toured not a few premises without finding anything else secure enough or who were willing to do our business, after we mentioned the jailbreaks – they have reputations to uphold, boarding the Spoilt Precious Pets of Hong Kong, and probably calculated the cost of an escapee whose owners might go nuts is more than what they can make. <Excusesexcusesexcusesexcuses>

Our Hongkie-ized dog enjoying herself out on a lake, Somewhere Quite Near Where We Live

Welcome to Hong Kong’s dog culture, where some people choose to have pets over kids, where dog lovers sometimes have to live near dog eaters.

Dogs get walks, baths, and swimming pools (usually a shallower one for the small pooches, and a large deep one for the Labs, Golden Retrievers and, on one occasion when we picked her up from boarding, a German Shepherd doing laps on a leash as physical therapy following a hind leg operation).

Eating dog is apparently illegal – when we lived at Pok Fu Lam, other local dog owners told tales of reporting dog-meat stalls and guarding their dogs against kidnappings (they say it’s only the mongrels who get eaten, usually during cold winters - pedigrees are resold, and “everyone knows Border Collies aren’t edible.” Phew.)

The most heartwarming one I’ve heard was around Christmas when some kids threw a bunch of mutts off the loading bay into the freezing water thinking it was funny (may they get grounded for life and beyond). Dog lovers called the police, who spent an hour fishing out all the mutts.

JD is friends with those mutts. After we check her Frontline dosage and tick collars, of course. We've met a dog owner who brought her dog in for checkup after finding a tick (yes, one) - we soon find out why, when we meet not a few who have lost their beloved pets to tick fever (one 9 year old Maltese didn't make it even after a blood transfusion). Tick fever is rampant among Hongkie canines, even of the spoilt variety.

Shortly after Rockstar was born, JD contracted Babeosis tick fever.  It's easily fatal and there is no permanent cure - we have to watch for relapse symptoms (pale gums, lack of appetite) for the rest of her life. I cried in the clinic because I had "promised her things wouldn't be different after the baby was born."

With the new baby, there was a gap of a few weeks between the Frontline doses you have to constantly apply on your dog every 2-4 weeks - we simply couldn't remember if we had applied one of the doses. The vet (who is Australian, coincidentally, and never stops giving me grief about her getting table scraps) says "you can do everything right (with the tick medications) and the dog can still get it," but well, she got it during this lapse.

It cost HKD 5,000 in medications to fix. "It's almost all medication, except for (almost negligable) consultation fee. Would you like to get a second opinion first?" We didn't bother. Syringing JD with the neon yellow medication was how I learned to administer Rockstar's meds - flick the syringe to let all the air bubbles out, otherwise the dose isn't exact. Her babeosis medication was so expensive we were to return the remaining portion for a refund, or get more if she spat it out.

Yes, I miss JD. Wish she could come with, but she hates flying – she found relocating here from Singapore traumatic despite Kings allocating a large chunk of the moving allowance from his (then) employers.

HKD 16,000 gets you:

A box meant for a Great Dane

A doorstep visit beforehand by the person who will be picking her up with all the paperwork, so she can get used to him

Lots and lots of advice and counselling - for the dog and maybe you, if you're feeling a little needy

Or 3 new Border Collies at the pet shop in Singapore where we got her

(In contrast, a Border Collie in Hong Kong costs between HKD 9,000 - 12,000 depending whether you buy from a puppy mill or a reputed breeder. Last we heard couple years back the waiting list was 1 year for the HKD 12,000 ones.)

It’s just a 3.5 hour flight Singapore – Hong Kong, but the dog is locked in for 12 hours because of vet checks and customs. No quarantine though.

With Rescue Remedy drops in her water and my t-shirt by way of Comforting Smells we were still delivered a living, breathing, mummy of a dog. The people who drove her to our apartment said she never moved so they sat her next to the driver untethered.

Some of JD’s HKCWAC classmates have a kind of special doggy passport that lets them fly to Japan for competitions, negating quarantines. (But we participated only in the competitions held locally since our dog hates flying.)

Think we’re nuts? Nutty loves company. One of Kings’ former bosses has a poodle who went to Dog One Life for grooming – there’s a two month waiting list. (Please don’t ask me what grooming – I thought they just shave poodles.)

Oh, and we found a mobile dog-grooming service who parked near our home once – they were busy with a Schnauzer but yelled a rate over their shoulder: HKD 300 – 500, book 2 days in advance.

We slum. JD has a bath and her nails filed at HKD 150 a pop, after a day at the beach when she is walking ball of sand and tangled, salty fur. When she came back after her first bath of summer, her belly and part of her chest  had been shaved.  We thought they’d made a mistake. (JD was no help, she looks almost violated every time she gets back from a bath.)

Learned much later that’s the standard service if you send your dog for a bath in summer without instructions on how you want them done – because standing on all fours the dog still looks the same, but probably feels much cooler. It was the local groomer's way of being nice - to the dog.

JD should be halfway through your bag of bones right about now... Wish she were here. She my best friend.

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About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
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