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May 09, 2006

Dog Bites Man

In the United States, “Dog Bites Man” isn’t newsworthy. It isn’t in China, either – for Chinese. For me, though, it was another new adventure.

Two weeks ago, I left our factory office building at the end of the day and headed for the bicycle parking area. On the way, I passed the two dogs that belong to our landlord (who uses one of the two factory buildings in our compound). The dogs were not in their usual spot. The big one was on a chain, but one of the landlord’s employees seemed to be playing with him, so I just walked ahead, not trying to avoid the dog (which I could have done). Well, the big dog lunged at me and bit my leg – not seriously, but just enough to break the skin on both sides.

Next, I learned how China deals with the threat of rabies. The country does not compel dog owners to routinely update their pets’ rabies vaccination, as is the case in the Unite States. Instead, each city has a special rabies clinic, and everyone who gets bit by a dog and doesn’t want to worry about getting rabies goes to the clinic for a series of injections. I had never detail firsthand with a rabies threat, and I knew the situation was potentially serious, so I didn’t want to rely on my own Chinese and the presumably similar English of the clinic doctors to clarify decisions about treatment. One of my colleagues, Xi Jingyou, accompanied me to the clinic and explained a course of six injections I could get. First, the doctor directed my colleague to wash my leg with soap and water for ten minutes. This episode was interesting. The soap was a communal bar. The basin was a rusted enamel sink. When I finished, I looked for something to dry with, and the doctor gestured to a stiff gray rage that was hanging from the window guard. I went with the drip-dry method instead.

Xi Jingyou then said the doctor wanted to know whether I thought I needed the injections. I replied that I was relying on the doctor for good advice. During 20 minutes of back-and-forth discussion, I was getting phone calls from my colleagues tao Hong and Liu Sheng, from my boss Jim Kaplan (who was in town) and from my wife. Terry was on the internet and wanted to know why I wasn’t getting offered immunoglobulin. Finally, I signed up for the injections and got the first one. But the consensus at work the next morning was that Chinese dog bit victims do get immunoglobulin. So, Liu Sheng took me back to the clinic, where a new doctor was more informative and gave me that (fairly painful) one-time injection. I had to sign a statement acknowledging that I understand I was going to be injected with a “blood product.” (You sign statements like this in the U.S. whenever you have surgery or go skydiving – “Shit happens, and if it happens to you, it’s not our fault.”)

For injections #2 and #3, I successfully got to the clinic on my own. I always enjoy successfully doing something new independently. The first time, I had yet another new experience “shunlu” (literally, “on the way”). After I had waited half an hour, the number 13 bus still hadn’t arrived, and I wanted to get to the clinic before it closed down for a 2-1/2 hour lunch break. So, I finally caved in and accepted a ride from a “modi.” There isn’t anything exactly like this in the U.S. A “modi” is a guy (I’ve seen only guys, so far) on a motorcycle who hangs around bus stops or supermarkets, offering to provide transportation at a lower cost than a taxi. (This was the first day of the May Day holiday, and there were no taxis available.) So, I hopped aboard, told my driver where I wanted to go, and arrived with no problem. He provided a “helmet” of a style that is popular in China – sort of a hardhat with a short bill. (There are also good motorcycle helmets, and the “modi” drivers usually wear them.)

The landlord is paying for my medical costs – a little over $200, about half for each kind of treatment – and I don’t have rabies yet. So, the outcome is fine. -- Norty

Posted by now at May 9, 2006 12:29 PM