Meet the Buddhist monk who saved 8,000 stray dogs
“Let me cut your hair, sweetie,” Zhi Xiang said affectionately to a long-haired, rain-tangled stray dog ââhe just collected from the Shanghai kennel. 51-year-old Chinese monk Zhi Xiang is an animal lover who made Buddhism serve man’s best friend.
Since 2019, he has managed to send some 300 dogs to foster homes abroad. Twice a week he goes to the kennel, where the police round up the stray dogs. The monk takes them all or a hundred more survivors at a time. It is his inspiring story.
Abandoned dogs –
He cares for around 8,000 dogs at his temple and at a suburban shelter in China’s largest city where the change in lifestyle leads to the abandonment of animals.
Without it, the animals would be euthanized –
Without the intervention of the monk, the animals in the kennel would be euthanized. “I have to save them because otherwise they will die for sure,” he told AFP.
Animal rescue since 1994 –
Obeying the rule, Zhi Xiang has been collecting animals from the streets since 1994. At that time, he mainly took care of run over cats that were run over by vehicles. But in recent years, animal abandonment has increased.
The so-called dog lovers –
“It’s not caused by people who don’t like dogs, or by the government, but by so-called dog lovers who don’t have the necessary knowledge of animal care,” said Zhi.
The statistics speak for themselves –
Chinese media estimated in 2019 that the world’s most populous country had 50 million stray animals, a figure that doubles every year.
Growing number of wanderers –
With the enrichment of the population, the pet market has exploded and pet stores sell purebred puppies at high prices in major cities. Some find themselves on the streets after their owners no longer want them. There they breed at high speed, increasing the number of stray dogs in Shanghai.
Chickens, geese and peacocks –
In his Bao’en temple, Zhi Xiang welcomes hundreds of dogs, but also chickens, geese and peacocks, under the gaze of golden Buddhas and in the midst of the smell of incense.
He gets up at 4 a.m. every day to take care of these animals
It does not receive any public aid and subsists. He borrowed from his parents and other monks and receives donations from donors.
To finance the purchase of 60 tons of dog food each month, he spends more than 12 million yuan ($ 2 million) per year. âThe problem is, I can’t borrow any more money now,â he adds.
Send stray dogs abroad –
The monk has managed to send some of the stray animals to the United States, Canada and various European countries including Germany with the help of volunteers who speak English and use social media to reach an international audience. âI think they’re very happy so I think it’s worth it,â he said. “But of course I miss them.”
Sad goodbye –
One Saturday morning, with tears in his eyes, he handed a poodle to a passenger who volunteered to take it to a new home in Seattle, United States. He holds the little dog in his arms until the last minute, muttering “goodbye, goodbye”. He wipes away his tears as the woman and dog disappear through the boarding gate.