The bald head of the Chinese monk glistens with sweat while he looks lovingly at the stray dog’s eyes. The dog’s coat has become matted heavily because it got wet in a heavy outpour. Zhi Xiang soothingly pleaded to the dog to let him cut its hair.
The pooch which is bedraggled is one among the scores of stray dogs that the Shanghai city police had captured and cleared from the streets. Their holding area had a nasty smell and the dogs were packed into small, dirty, metal cages.
A single plastic yellow crate has over 20 puppies crammed inside it. Another one gets dragged inside carried in a bag, all tied up. If the Chinese monk had not intervened, all these dogs would have been euthanized in a couple of days, not even weeks.
The Chinese Monk Is A Buddha For The Dogs
However, Zhi Xiang is not like any other animal rescuer. A monk of the Buddhist religion, he also strived to provide new lives for stray dogs. The Chinese monk either looks after them in an ancient monastery of his or in a shelter in Shanghai that he runs.
The Chinese monk presently has almost 8,000 stray dogs at the two locations. All the responsibility for caring for and feeding them fall on his shoulders, for now. However, several hundred will be given a new home in North America or Europe eventually.
Zhi Xiang, who is now 51 years old, said that he has no option other than to save them. Otherwise, he knows that the dogs will definitely die. He also gives free vaccinations to dogs that are all disheveled since they have been just caught from the street. During that time, he temporarily takes off the robes of a Chinese monk and wears an orange suit meant for workmen.
The Chinese monk claims that faith has driven him on his efforts. He has been an animal rescuer since 1994. He primarily rescues dogs but cats and several other strays have also been rescued by him.
The Journey Is Getting More And More Difficult
His journey began by caring for cats that vehicles had hit. However, he points out that there much fewer strays back then. In the previous five years, the Chinese monk has noticed a huge increase in the numbers.
The growing wealth of the country has led to the market for pets booming. However, Zhi sadly says that some just abandon them when they lose interest in them. So the root cause lies with those who claim to love dogs but do not know how to care for them. Then the strays breed on the streets and thus their numbers have exploded. Chinese state media reported that the number of strays was 50 million in 2019 which was doubling every year.
Zhi has volunteers and a small workforce helping him. He is the head monk of the Bao’en Temple. A couple of hundred dogs stay there. Visitors are greeted with golden Buddhas and the howl of pooches.
There are other animals too including cats and chickens. Although he does not have any training as a vet, his love is clear. However, the financial strain is getting larger each day. The government does not give him anything. So, donations and borrowing from monks and parents are what he depends on. But he laments that he is out of places to borrow from.
So, since 2019, his English-speaking volunteers and he have been finding new homes for the dogs through social media. The Chinese monk sheds joyful tears when he remembers the dogs. Even while parting, he bids them farewell with tears. His dream now is to visit and take photos of them in their new homes, if he gets the free time. He hopes to look at these photos when he gets old and cannot walk anymore.
All Image Credits: AFP