Life with Wangzi

11th Jul, 2019

Written by Lloyd and Liesl Louw

Professional photography by Kym Clayton Photography

In 2011, Liesl lived in China while working as a lecturer.

As I walked home one afternoon I saw a group of men chasing a terrified tricoloured puppy down the street. Knowing his fate was probably the kitchen of a restaurant or an impoverished family somewhere, I couldn’t do anything else but save him.

I took him home without much more of a plan than that and named him Wangzi, the Chinese word for prince. I rustled up some food for the night and thought I’d decide what to do the next day. But I fell in love that very night and knew we would be together forever.

Streetpup companion

I had him checked out by a vet a day or two later, who informed me that he had worms and fleas – not too surprising for a street dog. He also had some tummy and kidney issues that persist to this day, but we have a good routine that keeps these in check.

Over the next few weeks, he became my best companion. He’d go with me everywhere when I wasn’t working, often riding “shotgun” in the basket of my bicycle like my own little E.T.

He was quite the little terror growing up, always chewing on some cord or piece of furniture. My shoes never lasted long with him around, and he had so much energy that I sometimes thought there must be something wrong with him; I wondered how I was going to cope. I often had to throw balls from the time I got home to the time I went to bed. I even moved from the fourth floor down to the ground floor so he could have a garden in which to play.

Travelling prince

Fast forward three years, and at the end of 2014 I began the process of bringing him back with me to South Africa, as there just wasn’t any other option for me.  

It took nine months of planning with pet moving companies, vets, getting health documentation, and adhering to strict import and export laws. I chose to use a company based in Atlanta, USA, who’d had some experience in moving pets from China, although they’d never had South Africa as a destination. I had to get a vet from Hong Kong to come and take blood and nail samples and even cut a tiny piece of Wangzi’s ear to be sent to a laboratory in the UK for a health certificate.

After months of stress the last few days finally came, and, having been trained to receive his food in a little travel cage, Wangzi left China and crossed the border by minivan to a doggie hotel in Hong Kong. The next day he flew to another doggie hotel in Dubai, where he could again rest and stretch his legs. Another day, another flight – this time from Dubai to Cape Town – and he arrived in quarantine at Milnerton. Fortunately for him, I’d arranged his flights so well (and at such extra cost) that he arrived on the same day of the week that the Cape Town vet’s visit to do blood tests on the new arrivals, meaning minimum time in that scary place.

When he was cleared, my parents went to fetch him and I flew from China that night (I’d had to stay until I knew he was safe in case something went wrong and he ended up being sent back to China). Twenty-four hours later, my little prince and I were reunited!

Wangzi’s heritage

Five years later, I’m married and expecting my first human child. Our family, including Wangzi and my husband’s Husky, Pi, have a lovely and happy home.

Wangzi lives the high life of squeaker toys and feather duvets. He thankfully has slightly less energy than seven years ago (bringing him down to “normal”, I suppose), but his intelligence is not diminished. He’s even more expressive and communicative than ever and has at least four or five distinct barks for different communicative purposes. And every day he pushes his ball under the coffee table or the sofa, throws it into the pool, drops it into the bath or puts it in a boot, or under the bed or in a box or a pot plant. Because he likes the challenge – not because he necessarily has a solution for it!

My husband and I often speculated about his breed, but it was difficult. People had guessed Fox Terrier, Jindo, and had even tried entering Chihuahua on some of his travel papers, which I changed to “cross-breed terrier”.

For Christmas 2018, Lloyd got me a DNA test from MuttMix, and to our delight they identified him perfectly!

Wangzi’s MuttMix Results

        Level 2 Tibetan Spaniel

        Level 4 Boston Terrier

        Level 4 Lhasa Apso

        Level 4 Maltese

He’s primarily Tibetan Spaniel, a breed originally bred by monks as companion dogs, with high intelligence and loyalty, with some noticeable Boston Terrier in the mix too. We’d never heard of a Tibetan Spaniel before, but it explained his characteristic face and his silky soft fur perfectly! Even the character traits, like protectiveness and separation-from-owner anxiety, were spot on.

So now we know his Tibetan roots! From the dirty streets of Zhuhai to feather duvets and baskets full of toys, he really lives the life of his namesake. I’ve been told I could have just about bought a second car for the money I spent on Wangzi, but I don’t see it that way, and both my husband and I agree our lives would have been poorer for it. He’s the best furry companion either of us has ever had!

Dominique of MuttMix adds…

Extremely intelligent, the Tibetan Spaniel is one of the most cat-like dog breed; they are also assertive, independent and alert – they’d be quite a handful if it weren’t for their added extreme affection for humans! The Boston Terrier is also very affectionate and has quite a sense of humour, so adding that to the Tibetan Spaniel will make for a very loving dog that needs a LOT of attention!