Today I took Lulu, the dog we're sitting, for an evening stroll. I stopped to buy fruit and the lady asked me who takes care of the dog when I'm at the office. I told her I have roommates, with different hours, and we all help out. I think it's the most intelligent - perhaps the only intelligent - thing anyone has ever asked.
Lulu belongs to the guy who hired me (a good friend) who just moved to Singapore. She's a rescue dog. My friend had to send her blood work off to the UK for rabies testing, which takes three months, and then Lulu will become an international doggie of mystery and move to Asia's shopping mall to be with my friend. Then, in a couple years, she'll become an Aussie dog, which will make her more well traveled than most people, which is funny because Lulu is totally timid and neurotic, so not the globe-trotting type.
Lulu never bothers anyone. She's a little foxy-looking thing, probably 30 pounds or less. I've only heard her bark once (delivery guy was at the door and we didn't notice). She loves cuddles but is too shy to ask for them. And if too many people pay attention to her she gets the shakes. It took a month for her to really warm up to us.
When I take her out, the reactions vary between friendly interest and overwrought terror. People will make a big deal of walking in the street to avoid her. I have a neighbor who - if she opens her door as we're heading out - will grumble "ai-yo" and shut it to avoid Lulu. Another guy snapped his fingers repeatedly in her face after he saw me snap to signal her to sit, then asked if she bites (making "YAR YAR!" sounds and gesticulating with his hands). I walked past an old lady once who kicked a kitten hard in the gut to get it farther away from Lulu (who was paying no attention).
Sometimes in the elevator I can tell everyone is nervous because she's obviously a former street dog, not some cutesy lapdog, and they're afraid of her. Then they'll get all wondrous and amazed when I tell her to sit and ... she does it. Then a lot of people say, "Wow, your dog is really smart!" Um, not exactly.
A lot of Chinese people don't train their dogs. So I guess I understand where, if some unpredictable foreigner has a mutt, you might be afraid what it will do. My coworker was dog-sitting this teddy bear poodle. It was totally adorable, but had absolutely no manners. It didn't know how to sit, didn't know how to come, it was totally crazy. He said the owners keep it in a cage all day because it poops everywhere and tears stuff up.
Pet culture is pretty new to China. And I suppose it's a good thing. Animals will be better off when people understand them better and care how they're treated. But suffice it to say, while the international travel will be stressful, I think Lulu will be better off in the long run as an expat dog.