Ed. Note: In the course of writing this post, an article came to our attention that some would say was “spooky” in its timing. Here we were, writing a benign piece about an uncommon breed when a concerning article was sent our way. If this post ends differently than where it started, now you know why. So, on to the post:
Buddhists live in accordance with a creed that does not harm any living creatures, but Tibetan Buddhism has a special connection with dogs. When Buddha called all the animals to him, only twelve showed up, and in recognition of their loyalty, he dedicated a month to each of them in the Tibetan calendar, the dog being one of the twelve (2006 was the most recent dog year, the next occurs on February 16, 2018 when it becomes the Earth Dog year).
Valued in Tibet as companions and guards of temples, several native dog breeds emerged from that country. In addition to Lhasa Apsos having been bred and kept in the Potala, the palace and monastery of the Dalai Lama, His Holiness’ own dog was a Tibetan Terrier named, “Senge.”
Before he was forced into exile, the Dalai Lama kept eight Tibetan Mastiffs to guard his summer home in Norbulinka. Two of the dogs were posted at each of the four entrances to the estate. In the 1950s, His Holiness gave a pair to President Dwight Eisenhower as a diplomatic gift (though one source writes that it was a mistake because Eisenhower had requested two Tibetan Terriers).Eisenhower gave the puppies Senator Harry Darby who raised and bred them. Some sources say the fate of the dogs is unknown, but another source reports that Darby gave one of the dogs to the famous explorer, Lowell Thomas. It’s said that some of the Tibetan Mastiffs found in the United States today are descendants of dogs given to Dwight Eisenhower. And here is where our story takes a turn.
What was once a status symbol in China has fallen on very hard times. The article at this link is “safe” to see in that the photos and video it includes show no graphic abuse or cruelty, but it is beyond sad to see nearly 1,000 Mastiffs that have been abandoned in Yushu prefecture since summer living like cattle in a shelter doing its best to keep them. Perhaps word could spread in the Tibetan Mastiff community about the predicament of these wondrous dogs.
Tibetan Mastiff with child painting believed to be by Tang Jiang