Gimli--Our Dog^

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I've stopped updating this website, though it's pages will remain for a while. See "current update" for details.

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Our experience of raising a dog in China (page 1)

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Sub-pages:  Home Up Gimli 2 Gimli 3 Zoe

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One of the hardest decisions we ever had to make was to give away our beloved dog when we left Kunming in 2010. Basically, we knew it was best for her. Unlike in America, where small dogs can fly in the cabin with passengers, in China all dogs are crated and shipped in the dark, non-climate-controlled underbelly of the plane. Furthermore, you must drop her off early in the morning, and claim her sometime after your flight arrives, and with frequent delays and cancellations, there is no telling how long this will be. In the many hours in between, she will get no food or water, must be in the dark/heat/cold, sitting in her own urine. We just couldn't do that to Gimli, who can't stand to be alone! Besides, our neighbors were delighted to adopt her, and I'm sure she is as spoiled as any Chinese dog can be! Our loss was their gain, and Gimli did OK in the bargain as well. Nonetheless, I'll leave these pages on line for a while, in case some other foreigner is thinking about getting a dog in China.

This page was created to show off our Dachshund-Beagle-Basset puppy. I wrote most of it when she was a puppy, trying to keep readers updated on developmental information (especially for the sake of others who might be raising a dog in China like ours). Page two has a growth chart. Page three gave the latest information and updates.

Andrew holds Gimli for the first time





First kiss (at the pet seller's store).


      Though we don't really know what kind of dog she is, and didn't get to "test" her as we had planned, we know we've prayed about getting a dog and trust that the Lord led us to His choice for us.




See "Gimli 2" for a record of her growth.

A puppy joins our family


      On November 25, 2006, a new member was added to our family. The seller assured us that both parents were Basset Hounds, but when we went to a vet several days later he said she was a Basset-Beagle mix. As she grew, she looked more and more like a Dachshund. The seller said she was born on September 3, but the vet said that she was probably born in early October, and may have been sold before she should have left her mother. (In China, most dog sellers don't really know much about the animals they sell, and although many vets receive inadequate training we think our dog's new doctor knows what he is talking about.)

      While we were under the impression that she was a Basset, we read on the Internet that the name "Basset" may have been derived from the word for "dwarf" so Andrew decided to name her "Gimli." While it is true that Gimli is a male dwarf in the Lord of the Rings story, Gimli admits that it is very difficult to tell a male dwarf from a female dwarf, so we feel like Gimli works just as well for a girl puppy as it would for a boy. It also works just as well for a mix as it does for a Basset!


      While we got to know Gimli, the seller was breeding two black labs on the sidewalk in front of the store. The dogs in the store were going crazy, and a large, white dog jumped so much it broke a plate glass covering over some brown poodles, sending glass everywhere. For understandable reasons, Gimli was shivering (because of fear and the cold weather) and unable to respond to the "temperament tests" we tried to give her.


     Her first two days she yelped a lot, so we held her a lot! We thought she needed the attention because of her new environment. In retrospect, we probably should have left her alone and let her cry at the beginning--difficult as that would have been. Sooner or later, you have to treat a dog like a dog, and we think two days of constant holding were not really good for her. After several days we tried to bend her will a bit by ignoring her, and she howled for over 30 minutes (at which point we either gave in or she fell asleep).

Some of Gimli's puppy toys. (Nov 27)

Puppy house-training


     If you get a puppy, it is best to decide where you want her to go potty before you get her, and then be consistent. We didn't.

     Crate Training. For about six weeks, we put Gimli in her crate when she fell asleep (usually on someone's lap). When she woke up she started to yelp, and we took her to where she is supposed to go potty. After a month and a half, we could leave the crate open at night; she left to go potty and usually barked to let us know she had done so! During the day, she returned to the crate on her own to go to sleep.

     Gimli's "potty place" changed several times in the first few weeks (not a good idea, but we hadn't thought things through in advance). At first, we used a Japanese-import apartment potty (basically a plastic newspaper holder). We had one of these outside on the balcony, then put half in the laundry room and half outside (it breaks apart easily).

      Eventually (after three weeks?), we figured out how to cover the Asian toilet in the laundry room, where Gimli sleeps and stays while we are out. (Standard toilet covers are either too big or too little, so we modified a big one.) By the fourth week she pretty much knew that she was supposed to potty there--

at least when she happened to be in the laundry room. It took almost two months before she figured out that she could/should go there from other parts of the house. I guess that is one good thing about living here--it would be almost impossible to teach a dog to use a western toilet!

     At about the same time that we covered the toilet, we added a pan of dirt to the balcony (covered with holey plastic shelves and a potty cover), and she quickly figured out that this is a good place to "go" too.

     From the beginning, she also "went" outside during her walks, but she shivered a lot due to the cold so we kept her inside as much as possible.

     Until late January there were still lots of puddles and piles on the floor in other places. Sometimes, after 10-20 minutes outside on a leash (including a squat or two), she came in and urinated on the floor. From what we read, it could take four months or more of hard work before she is really house-trained.

     It was two weeks before we were willing to leave her alone in the house, and our schedules are such that we don't have to do this often. But when we all must be away we leave the door of her crate open (and have a panel blocking her in the laundry room). As the weeks passed, we returned to fewer and fewer messes on the floor--all we had to do was flush (or flip the potty cover and then flush).

     From almost the very beginning, she had two play areas: the laundry room and the outside balcony with a doggy door to a fenced "play area" in the living room. The laundry room has a tile floor (so clean up was easy), and we covered the living-room play area floor with plastic mats to protect the wooden floor.

     Some books/websites say to ignore her "mistakes" and simply praise her when she eliminates in the right place, but we chose to praise for the right thing, and put her in "time out" for mistakes. However, dogs need to know what they are being punished for and probably won't understand if put in "time out" for something that happened minutes or hours before--it must be for something that just happened. "Time out" means being whisked to the nearest potty place, then 3 minutes in the crate, followed by confinement to the laundry area for a while. When we put her on a potty, we gave the command "go potty" and when we locked the crate door we said "time out." (Note: she never "finished her business" on the potty after starting on the floor, contrary to what the books say--her bladder is pretty small so it all comes out quickly.)


     For us, crate training looked like this: she woke up in her crate and cried; someone let her out and made sure she went up to the potty place (and that she heard the command "go potty"); she stayed up there for several minutes or until something happened--even if it was just a squat that looked like she was trying! If she "did her thing" then we praised her and played with her for a while (or let her crawl up into a lap). Then, if everyone was busy, she was supposed to play by herself in the laundry room or in her living-room play pen (with a doggie door open to the balcony). In reality, this meant listening to her whimper about being alone!

    The "books" say that she should be in her crate all the time while being house-trained, unless she is "empty" and thus playing under supervision. We didn't do this. Perhaps we just didn't have the heart to lock her up all the time. Perhaps we couldn't face all her crying. "By the book" crate-training might have yielded a puppy with better bladder control, or a puppy that wasn't as insistent that someone be near her. But it could have also yielded a mean-spirited, independent dog if she had been constantly confined against her will. We will never know.

Expanding Gimli's territory


     Since she often urinated wherever she happened to be at the time for the first two months, we built a series of low fences to give her access to places where Vivian, Andrew or Michael were--but always with access to a potty place if she wanted it. We were following advice not to give her complete access to the whole house at one time. (There are no baby gates in China, so we first bought a rather expensive metal pet fence, and later found cheap wire grids that work nicely when clipped together with butterfly clips.)

     First, we let her play in the small hallway outside her laundry area. After two weeks, we opened Andrew's bedroom too. After a month, we added a tunnel to a large box in Michael's office. After six weeks, we added a runway that led through the dining room to the kitchen. Then we let her in the kitchen while someone was in there. Clips and fences made it relatively easy to close off any area when no one was there. Thus, by mid-January (3.5 months old) she could always see at least one person and could always go to her home or potty in the laundry room. (There are photos of these fences on "Gimli 2.")

     As of January 22, she has only had two mistakes in the past two days, but we couldn't say that a week ago!

     Another advantage to having a runway through the dining room, is that she is not under the table when we eat, but she can be in the room if she chooses. Normally, she sits in her runway and whines while we eat, and she gets sent to "time out" if she barks. As advised, we never give her "people food"--the books say to wait until a dog's second year to start giving table scraps. 

Going for a walk and facing dog haters


     Exercise is important, but Gimli was tiny when we brought her home. Scent hounds are known for "running after smells" so it's best to keep them on a leash at all times, and we started from the first day. At first, we took her to a patch of clover in the garden below our apartment to potty and play one or more times a day (depending on the weather). Initially, the complex guards said this was OK, but about a month later we were told that dogs weren't allowed in the garden (more on that later). When we tried to "walk" her on the street, it took her a while to get used to the idea. For a few weeks, she liked to sniff a lot, investigating all the new places and smells. Sometimes she would walk or run with us, but not much until mid January. For the first few weeks she often just sat down as if to say, "you go for a walk; I'll just clean the street with my back end." But by mid January, though she was still quite happy to sniff and stroll, she would also tag along at a good pace for a few minutes.

     Our complex has no written rules about dog ownership. But apparently, some residents really hate dogs, especially the huge dogs who make loud noise and occasionally leave a lot of "dog water" in the elevators or stairwells (a dog-hater pasted a nasty note to our door after we got Gimli, warning us not to leave puddles in the building). Officials have told us that dogs can only be walked along a small road at the back of our complex, and all dogs must be on a leash. We obey, but many of our neighbors don't, and little seems to be done about leash-less and owner-less dogs. I might add that I've seen several children "water" the sidewalks and bushes, and there are plenty of other "private" uses of the public spaces. We understand that people have to tolerate many things their neighbors do when living in such tight quarters, but we wonder why dog owners are singled out as the only nuisance. It's also hard to obey the "unwritten rules" when so many others don't. When we walk her on the street, our biggest fear is that she will eat what another dog has left behind, a prime source of worms. We are also worried about Rabies, since 95% of the dogs in Kunming have not been immunized; we also worry about attack from a leash-less dog. (We recently read that the govt culled 50,000 dogs in our province to help control Rabies.)


Going to the vet


     We took her to a vet a few days after we got her. He said to wait a week before starting any treatment. Her first Rabies shot (at least we think that is what it was for) was on Dec 5. We asked about tick and flea control and they tried to sell us medicine for large cats (over 5 kg)--maybe they couldn't read the English information on the package, but we could and decided not to subject our "less than 1 kg dog" to cat medicine. I bought her a flea collar at Wal-Mart a few days later, and my mom tried to send the right flea drops from the US by mail (but they never got here). The second shot was on Dec 19, and the third was January 3. She doesn't cry when she gets a shot, but she certainly cried when the vet clipped her toe nails! (I have done this myself twice, and she didn't cry as much; but I didn't take much off, either.) I took fresh stool for examination on our first visit, but the vet wouldn't look at it. I tried again on Dec 19, and after testing it the vet said she didn't have any worms but did have "worm eggs," and then sold us half a dose of Lopatol 100 with instructions to give her one pill per week for three weeks (the English instructions for this medicine are not clear, but it certainly doesn't say this!). I tried to find information on the Internet about this medicine, but nothing was helpful. Then I wrote to a Shanghai pet supply website (, which seems to be gone!) and they responded by saying to follow the manufacturer's instructions (pill, repeat in 48 hours, and repeat every other week until her 12th week). On our January 3 visit, tests said she had less "worm eggs" than before, but I needed more medicine to finish the treatment. They were sold out of Lopatol 100 and therefore tried to sell me Lopatol 500, saying to break the pill (but this is expressly forbidden in the instructions). The next day, a student found the right pills elsewhere. The vet also cleaned wax from Gimli's ears and said we should do this twice a week (with a dry cotton-tip swab). (Click here to see Gimli receiving an IV at the Vet in February.)

Craving attention

    In general, Gimli doesn't like to be alone. She is happiest in someone's lap, but increasingly (after two months) is willing to be alone if she is in the room with a person. When left alone (in the laundry room or in one of her fenced areas) she normally howls, whimpers and jumps up on a fence until someone growls "quiet!" or "bie ba!" (Chinese for "don't do that with your paws"). Once she realizes that she is going to be alone again, she usually plays with a chew toy or crawls up into her crate to sulk or sleep. I think it was about two weeks after we got her that we first noticed her climb up into the crate of her own will. On sunny days, she likes the play pen with balcony access, and will often contentedly play there by herself if someone is in the room (but even after two months, she fusses once she discovers that whoever put her there has disappeared).

     Gimli's first crowd was a group of former students and current classmates who came to help decorate our Christmas tree on Dec. 3. Other students and friends joined us throughout the Advent season. Click here to see some photos. (Click here to see photos from last Christmas.)


      The photos above (left to right) show Gimli's living-room play pen (with her "day bed") and the doggie door that opens to the balcony. (For an unknown reason, she likes to pee on her day bed--it's been washed many times.) You can also see the apartment potty outside.

      Next, Michael is sitting with her in the laundry room, but Gimli has climbed up to Michael's shoulder in hopes of jumping over the panel that normally blocks her exit.

      When Andrew gets home from school, he spends quality time with Gimli in her play pen. For the first month, her favorite activity was being held. After six weeks we discovered that she also enjoys running across the floor to chase a piece of dry dog food.

       Finally (far right), Gimli really likes tugging on a towel or her tethered ball, and sometimes won't let go even if you lift her completely off the ground (it's probably not good for her to do this very often!). She is standing on the covered "grass" we planted on the balcony.

      This is a nice profile shot; if she was born in early October, then she is about 11 weeks old in this photo. See "Gimli 2" for a record of her growth.

     We were curious about what she would do with a balloon. At first she was afraid of it, but eventually (with Andrew and Michael playing, too) she started to chase it. When it popped, it certainly startled her.

     But the next time we gave her a balloon, she started chasing it right away. When she carried it around by the stem, everything was fine, but eventually her sharp teeth got a grip more balloon. (If you try this, don't leave your pet alone with a balloon--if she tries to eat it after it pops it could be fatal.)


     By Christmas (click here for photos), we had used wire fences to increase Gimli's space in the living room, enclosing all the way from her doggy door to the sofa, where she can sit at someone's feet during a movie--until she wets the floor and gets sent to "time out." (This usually happens when she is tired or has just been playing, so she often falls asleep during her "time out.") Of course, she also likes to sit in a lap during movies; just stretch out your legs and she climbs up!

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