First, my friend Jen and I were invited to dinner. We were promised a home-cooked meal of cow tongue tacos.
This may not sound very appetizing, but I knew the woman who was hosting us is a good cook and makes tongue all the time. And honestly, once you've lived in China for a year, you're not too squeamish about trying new things.
Unfortunately, by the time we got there, my stomach and taste buds weren't feeling very adventurous. I'd had another full day of errands and packing, and I was feeling pretty darn sleepy. I was determined to try it, though, so I reasoned with my stomach and taste buds.
I pointed out to myself that the tongue was a muscle (as opposed to an organ), and was therefore exactly like any of the other cow meat that we eat. Steak, for example. Just another muscle.
You know, I had never thought of it that way. As soon as I did, I realized the truth of it, and no longer felt that I was doing anything adventurous at all. It worked! And a good thing, too - the tacos were amazing! Tongue, cooked right, is pretty much like pot roast. Tender, nice texture, and delicious. Thanks for dinner, Norma!
After dinner and some packing, Jen and I took a walk around the neighborhood. It was a pleasant evening, warm but not hot, humid but with a breeze. We took the same route we took two nights ago. Should have been pretty relaxing, and it was. Until the Muscular Growling Dog.
The Muscular Growling Dog looked like a large pit bull of some kind. That is not, in and of itself, terribly concerning to me. Nor is the fact that it approached us as we walked down the street in the night, although it was clearly unaccompanied by human handlers.
What was concerning was the way it approached us. Most dogs who approach strangers walking by do so casually, and will stop when you speak sternly at them. They'll hear the firmness in your voice and it will give them pause. This dog did no such thing. It approached us not so much confidently as aggressively.
We stopped. I told it in no uncertain terms that it should go away. It did not. It just stood there. Except it didn't just stand there. It stood there, a belligerent two feet away, barring our path.
Now, this is a fairly large dog. And did I mention muscular? Also growling. It growled menacingly at us. I've heard dogs growl in various ways before. This dog meant business.
I snapped my fingers and pointed away with my hand/arm while telling it to sternly to 'go home'. Another growl, and I repeated myself. It walked away into the night.
I thought about turning around, but Jen recommenced walking, and I thought better of it - the dog had gone, after all. We kept an eye out and passed the area it had gone to.
And then there it was again, coming toward us from behind. We stopped, it stopped, probably about 5-10 feet away this time, perhaps escorting us out of its claimed territory. I repeated the previous 'go home' routine that had worked before. This time the dog did not respond.
Incidentally, I kept thinking about those episodes of the Dog Whisperer that I watched over the summer. But here's the thing. I'm not Cesar Millan. I haven't been hired to correct bad dog behavior. I'm a dog civilian trying to walk through the neighborhood without being attacked.
So rather than stay and try to dominate the dog into a submissive state, we resumed walking carefully away, keeping an eye over our shoulders. The dog disappeared back into the night, and I walked backwards for a bit just to make sure.
I don't mind telling you that I had a mild adrenaline crash after that second encounter.
Now, I didn't see a collar on this animal, but it looked way too well fed and groomed to be a stray. So to the owners of that dog: Keep your dog in your yard. That was not fun. I have never felt threatened by an animal before, even when I was followed by a jackal in Afghanistan that one time. This was much more disconcerting than being stalked by a wild animal in a foreign country!
Be responsible dog owners!!
And that was my evening.