Dogs in Vietnam: Not just for dinner anymore

Dogs in Vietnam: Not just for dinner anymore

HANOI - Relatives offered words of comfort to a teary-eyed woman paying her last respects as an undertaker slammed shut the door of the cremation chamber and flames engulfed the small coffin of a cherished family member.

The hastily arranged prayers, cremation and scattering of ashes in Vietnam's capital was for Capi, a 13-year-old dog that died that day after a battle with diabetes. Capi's owner had called Bao Sinh Dog-Cat Resort, a one-stop shop with services rivalling anything on offer to humans.

"I'm so glad this place exists. Otherwise I wouldn't know what to do with Capi's body," said Nguyen Thanh Huyen, a teacher.

The pet resort - with a spa, hotel, clinic and crematorium - is testament to changing times in Vietnam, where a love for dogs goes beyond the soups and barbecues that have earned the country an unsavoury reputation as the global hub of canine cuisine.

Capi, a Japanese Chin, was a family member, Huyen said. Like many Vietnamese who buy fashionable breeds such as Chihuahuas and poodles, they draw a clear distinction between the dogs they give homes to and the ones they eat in restaurants.

Expensive breeds are becoming popular among the wealthy as status symbols or as guard dogs for grand homes.

Dog dealer Nguyen Duy Hiep said German Shepherds can fetch $14,000 to $40,000 each, sometimes more. He owns three himself and would not dream of eating them.

"Eating dogs is one thing, raising them is another," he said.

The 300 pampered pooches at a recent dog show in Hanoi would certainly agree. The number of participants has risen by seven times since the inaugural contest in 2009 and fashionable foreign breeds are not always guaranteed victory.

The judges this year were most impressed with Ven, a 19-month-old local Phu Quoc ridgeback. With 50 well-trained and immaculately groomed foreign breeds in the competition, Ven's victory came as a big shock to his owner.

"I signed Ven in just for fun," he said. "I did not expect him to win."

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