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The Rake - April_2016

FOX TWIST Since 1772

FOX TWIST Since 1772 email: info@foxflannel.com web: www.foxflannel.com www.themerchantfox.co.uk 45

FOLDS OF HONOUR This issue’s English-speaking pooch, the atypically insouciant Shar Pei, gets under the abundant skin of its unfathomably crumpled breed. HOUND by zhang xiu ying as told to nick scott I’ll never forget the day some impudent, crevice-free mutt — of Croatian descent, if I recall correctly — callously flicked some vicious invective towards me and my kinship in the Summer Palace gardens in Beijing. “Had Keith Richards injected free radicals with the same hungry abandon as he has other substances,” this little twerp quipped, his owner tugging at his lead with a grimace that betrayed many a similar experience, “his cheeks would still look like a newborn’s backside when compared to those of the common-orgarden Shar Pei.” Wrinkles: it is the first word that leaps to the imaginations of humour scavengers when our breed’s name — which translates as ‘sandy dog’, a reference to our course coat — is mentioned in so-called polite society. In fact, it has been thus ever since fired-clay Shar Pei statuettes from the Han dynasty showed great diligence on the part of ancient sculptors when fashioning multiple crevices with their jade carving tools. To the more charitable, our abundantly fissured mushes, necks and shoulders give us an appearance that is at once plaintive, poignant and erudite (although the American Kennel Club opts for “dignified, lordly, scowling, sober and snobbish”). Professional cynologists and selectionists, meanwhile, will point out the advantages of our loose skin in combat: an assailant grabbing a chunk of Pei between its jaws, and thinking it has a firm grasp, will soon find our molars in its backside due to our ability to twist around in our loose skin. Meanwhile — and here’s one in the eye for the developed world’s gazillion-dollar antiwrinkle industry and all its potions, snake oils and faux panaceas — our wrinkles, unlike those of humans, actually deplete with age. It was not a broader issue with ageism but anti-dog policy in China (in the form of extortionate taxes on all canines and later a ban on breeding) that saw my breed teeter on the brink of extinction in the 1960s and seventies — we were even named one of the world’s rarest dog breeds by Time magazine in 1978. Thankfully, a Hong Kong breeder by the name of Matgo Law launched a media campaign that brought us to the attention of the world, and today we’re ranked 50th in popularity in the United States. Our appearance on the global television hit series Lost — we have fantastic screen presence thanks to our ability to follow directions and our subliminal resemblance to Clint Eastwood — has only bolstered our popularity, and we’re now found in huge numbers of homes in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Italy, Cyprus and Russia. Let’s just say, we look set to be guarding the suburban McPalaces of the developed world for decades to come, just as our ancestors stood vigil at the palaces of Dah Let near the South China Sea. It’s a thought that has us furrowing our heavily creased features in pure, unadulterated pride. IMAGE: ISTOCKPHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES 44

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