You Don’t See Spot Before You Eat Him
By David Tran
David Tran is the pen name of a Vietnamese editor and freelance writer Tran Ngoc Chau based in
Ho Chi Minh City
Hanoi – People in
Vietnam love dogs in different ways. Some cherish them as pets. Others love to eat them.Mac Van has found a third way. He runs a pet-dog farm, and it has made him one of the wealthiest men in
Hanoi.This Communist – ruled country’s turn to a capitalistic economy has opened the way for many new bisinesses, including Mac Van’s dog business. He raises dogs for export, mostly to
China, where a new wealthy class pays big money for fancy breeds.Mac Van gets many of his dogs as puppies from Germany and from Russia, Poland,
Bulgaria and other countries of the former Soviet bloc. Through his connections with dog dealers there, he arranges for hundreds of puppies at a time to be sent by plane directly to
Hanoi.He keeps them in his three-story house hidden behind tall trees on
Hanoi, which includes a huge kennel with electric lights, running water and central heating. He walks the dogs daily in his adjoining formal garden.To prepare them for resal, he says he “reshapes” them “for a nicer look.” He grooms and trims them and somtimes performs plastic surgery on them, to improve their legs, ear, jowls or other features.Mac Van lats customer make their selection from photographs in his living room. When a deal is done and the price agreed upon, he has the dog brought out to the customer. [Editor’s note: Why would anyone buy a dog sight unseen? See box for explanation.]The prices he gets for Pekingese, German shepherds, Afghan hounds and the Vietnamesa Phu Quoc teriers range from the equivalent of $1,000 up to $ 5,000 when supplies are short. He made his $5,000 sale – for a red purebred pekingese – to a vietnamese trader, who probaby took the dog to the Chinese border and sold it for much more.Mac Van says Vietnamese traders are the best in the business, but he recalls outsmarting one. Mac Van paid him the equivalent of $3,500 for seven puppies and, after trimming and grooming them, sold them back to him three weeks later for $1,500 apiece.The dog farmer, 38 year old, trained at
University as a mechanical engineer but now seems happy to be called
Hanoi’s “Pet Dog King.”As the market for pet dogs expands, restaurants serving dog meat in various way are also thriving. A string of restaurants in a section known as “dog meat new town “ has opened along the highway from the capital to Hanoi’s international airport.They serve roast dog, fried dog and barbecue. One dish gives dinner paws – floating in broth called dog – paw soup.
Why would anyone buy a dog sight unseen?I NEVER LOOKED INTO the dog market, but my guess is that bargaining for dogs goes the same way it goes for everything else.For example, when my friend and I were looking for a place to rent, we would get a house only one desire to inspect the place and then, if we were interested, sit down and talk.The Vietnamese insisted on doing it the other way around. We had to sit down first and drink tea, talk about prices, furnishings and all the rest. At first I was quite impatien, always saying, “Let’s see the house first and then talk.”It got to the poin where I hated the sight of that little area in every house or office that had a sofa, a low table, cups and a teapot. I knew we would get stuck there.I can imagine a large-scale dog dealer having the same kind of place to “discuss” purchases. He probably feels that the area where the dogs are kept is not nice enough to have people walk around in it. They probably could, if they insisted, but it would be considered impolite.The system for buying a dog is not exactly sight unseen. You could pick one dogfrom the photographs and have it brought out to you in a more comfortable setting. If that one did not please you, you could always ask to see another one. And so on. Time is not of the essence in
Vietnam. (Worldwise, 2-1997)
Entry filed under: Viet Nam My Love.