Q&8! Elizabeth Rodewald of Furry Tales

Elizabeth Rodewald of Furry Tales is dedicated to giving abandoned and abused cats and dogs in Beijing their forever homes. In this Q&8, she covers what’s involved in animal rescue, the tales of Chip the Puppy and Remy the Cat, favorite dog-friendly restaurants in Beijing, the foods missed most from her home state of Minnesota, and more. (You can check out prior Q&8s here.)

1 You posted last week about rescuing an abandoned dog named Emmett. What’s the process after rescues?

Whenever my rescue partner, Sorcha, and I find a dog or cat someone has reached out to us about finding a dog or cat, we advise them to take the animal to the vet right away. At the vet, we recommend a blood and fecal test to determine if they have any infectious diseases like canine / feline parvovirus (CPV / FPV) or canine / feline coronavirus (FCoV/CCV), worms, anemia and so on.

Depending on the test results, we recommend the animal be taken home and quarantined away from other pets in the household for two weeks in case the test didn’t pick up anything right away. Boarding at the vet is our last option since there are other sick animals there and most of the animals we rescue weren’t vaccinated before, so they generally don’t have a strong immune system.

2 You raise money by teaming up with vendors and by running a weekly raffle. Who are some of your partners and where does the money go?

I host a weekly Raffle 4 Rescues that not only helps Furry Tale rescues but focuses on rescues across China. For that, we have several consistent vendors: Cammymade Confections, Tomahawk Biltong, FeedHer, La Cava de Laoma, Zulfia Homemade Body Scrubs, Tallow Candles, Messart and Pet Portraits by Janine. More specifically for Furry Tales, we’ve had a few fundraisers to pay our rescues’ veterinary bills, including vaccinations, blood tests, medications, sterilization and surgeries.

Many vendors came forward to donate prizes for our Christmas Raffle and Messart, Tallow Candles, and Cammymade Confections have offered deals for their products, donating a portion of sales to us. We have been so overwhelmed by their generosity and the generosity of everyone who has purchased their products.

3 For people taking their pets out on the town, what are three of your favorite friendly restaurants in Beijing?

Due to the “dog behaving badly” at the Opposite House a few months ago, a few establishments have discontinued their dog-friendly policy, but my favorite places to take Tilly and Lola are still Side Street, Zarah Cafe and Peach by Hulu.

4 You hail from Minnesota. What are the three foods from back home you miss the most in China?

Yes, I’m from the Twin Cities. I usually tell people here that I’m from Minneapolis since it’s more well-known than St. Paul but I was born and raised in St. Paul.

Besides the large snow piles and bitter cold, I really miss deep-fried cheese curds, chicken and wild rice soup, and Juicy Lucys! Minnesotans love our cheese. [A Juicy Lucy is a burger with a patty stuffed with cheese. Also, fun fact: there is a Minnesota-based baijiu brand!]

5 I was at a Maovember event and recognized one of the customer’s dogs. It turned out to be Chip, for whom you spent a much effort seeking a home, and I messaged you right away. How often do people follow up about the pets you helped?

Aww, Chip had such a wild ride before he was adopted! He was abandoned with his litter outside of an apartment complex in Shunyi, had a lovely foster, and when he went to a new foster’s home he ran away and we spent two days looking for him. We found him hiding under a car in the parking lot thanks to the help of a local security guard, Chip’s previous foster and Chip’s brother, Nacho! Many dogs that run away aren’t that lucky, so I count that as a blessing that we found him.

Most of our adopters upload Wechat Moments of their adopted cats or dogs and some will personally send me photos or videos. Sometimes I’ll reach out but I ultimately leave it up to the adopter when it comes to whether or not they want to stay in touch. Some rescuers require more regular updates, but I’m of the belief that once the adopter has signed the adoption agreement and paid the adoption fee, the animal now belongs to them.  

6 One of my favorite threads on your account was about Remy, a kitten that ended up on intravenous and looked like he wouldn’t make it, but eventually came around and is now adopted. What’s the story of Remy?

Remy has a very special place in my heart and that of my Furry Tale co-founder, Sorcha. A woman found him in the middle of a hutong street before a big rainstorm at the beginning of August. He was only about two weeks old and would require hourly feedings, but I knew Sorcha had experience with this so we agreed to take him on. Sorcha did warn me it would be a lot of work and I did not believe her until he arrived. We were like new moms with a newborn, helping him go to the bathroom and feeding him every two hours.

After we had been bottle feeding him for two weeks, he became lethargic, so we brought him to the vet and he tested positive for Feline Coronavirus. They told us that his odds of survival were nil, so we took it day by day. One day he looked stronger and the next it seemed like he wouldn’t survive.

After a few weeks of treatment, we were finally able to take him home where he became the boss of the house. He immediately became friends with other cats, chased the dogs, slept in our laps and parkoured off walls in the middle of the night. In the end, a co-worker and his wife came to our house for a game night, they both fell in love with him and adopted him a few weeks later.

It’s hard for us to believe he was this tiny weak orange potato when we got him and now he’s a gorgeous fluffy ginger. The best part of this work is taking animals that are suffering, giving them care and love, and seeing them thrive with their new family.

7 Abandoned and abused animals are a big problem but I’ve also seen how prevalent pets have become and how much people love them during the past decade in Beijing. What’s your take on the state of pets in Beijing, especially during the COVID-19 era?

The news that broke during the early COVID days about people throwing their pets outside of the window of a 20-story apartment building was extremely upsetting. I still cannot get those images out of my mind.

It’s impossible to go for a walk and not run into another dog owner. This is a city full of little furry friends. When I moved here, I was so excited to be able to take my dogs along with me to bars, cafes, and restaurants.

Recently the local government has announced the importance of cultivating good dog ownership, such as walking a dog on a leash and picking up after your dog. But enforcement has been lacking at times which has led to irresponsible dog owners. Ultimately the ones who suffer from irresponsible pet ownership are the animals. There is talk that the government is discussing a series of animal protection laws and I hope it gains traction so that rescuers like me won’t need to exist one day.

8. Say someone is thinking of getting their first pet. What’s your advice for them?

I will always say “Adopt, Don’t Shop.” There are already so many animals in foster homes, at the vet or in a shelter waiting for their forever homes. Their odds of leaving those places are lessened when you decide to buy from a breeder, a pet shop or an online platform. Not to mention, those animals might not have been raised in the healthiest of conditions or were subject to inbreeding.

There is a negative connotation surrounding adopting animals. Some might think these animals have psychological issues or traumatic pasts, which could be true for some but it’s not true for most. We rescue cats and dogs of all ages; some have been abandoned by their mothers and left in the wild to let nature take its course and some have been former pets of people leaving China.

When thinking about getting a rescue animal, you must go in with an open mind. There might not be a “spark” when you first meet them, but that spark will develop. Animals with a history need time, space and a lot of patience— once you break that barrier with the animal, the love you will receive will be never-ending.

[Note: Many of the canines on our annual Maovember Dog Pub Crawl are rescue animals and are both well-behaved and well-loved by their adopted families.]

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