Article by Maria Lobo

To 狗 (“gou”) or not to 狗 (“gou”): For Alylang and Zhuoma, it’s not even a question.

On a brisk February morning, in a small town grassland town an eight-hour drive from Lanzhou, Alylang walked up to me out of the blue and invited me to his brother’s house for lunch. A few minutes later I found myself sitting on a bench in a stove-heated third-floor room, surrounded by strangers I would soon come to call friends. I drank tea and ate noodles while Alylang showed me pictures of his wife and videos of their many, many dogs.

Meet Alylang: Originally from Aba, Sichuan. He and his wife Zhuoma live atop a mountain near Shenzhen and care for stray dogs. The couple has sheltered over 1,000 dogs over the past 17 years.

Having that many dogs might seem a bit radical. Honestly, when I first met Alylang I thought I’d misunderstood him: that there was no possible way that he had that many dogs, and that there must be a linguistic barrier between us. That was before he began forwarding me articles and videos about him and his dogs.

In 1998, Alylang and Zhuoma left their pastoral grassland life and headed to the big city. Eager to work hard and thrive, they opened restaurants and factories and bought property. Then in 2002, their life took an unexpected turn when Zhouma saw a sick dog in the garbage. She picked it up and brought it to the doctor, but to her surprise, the doctor turned her away.

After this first dog, Zhuoma couldn’t help but see stray dogs everywhere she turned. Unable to ignore them, she took them in. At first, the couple just planned to foster the stray dogs and find new homes for them, but they couldn’t find homes for many of them. As people learned that they were looking after stray dogs, sick and unwanted dogs began appearing on their doorstep. With no choice but to either abandon the dogs or to take on responsibility for their needs, their dog rescue mission began. Zhouma and Alylang currently share their home with close to 200 dogs, and each dog has its own name and story.

Each morning, the Alylang and Zhuoma drive their electric tricycle down their mountain to buy meat, and make a huge vat of meat-rice mix (the daily cost of food alone is more than 500 RMB). Then Zhuoma washes the ground with disinfectant, and Alylang bathes and takes care of the medical care of the dogs that need special attention. This big multi-species family sold their two homes to cover dogs’ expenses and moved more than 10 times before they settled into their current mountaintop dog haven.

When Alylang first told me that he has had over 1,000 dogs, it seemed like a tall tale, but that’s what makes this couple’s mission so noteworthy. As I sat with him and his family drinking tea, I couldn’t help but think to myself that Alylang is incontestably be one of the coolest people I’ve ever met.

They couple currently make their living performing music and selling Tibetan jewelry and handicrafts. Alylang sings and performs at events and venues around the Shenzhen area. He also has a shop where he sells Tibetan jewelry and crafts, much of which he makes himself. Zhuoma was also a model and singer when she was younger. I asked Alylang why he does it. Without a pause, he told me: “Taking care of these dogs is what the woman I love says she must do, so of course I cannot refuse.”

After spending several hours with his family, I looked out the window and saw my friend walking in the street looking for me. Time to go: I stood up, sang an American folk song at the family’s request, and bid my farewell.

Alylang messaged me a few weeks ago asking if I like to play with wax. I mean, who doesn’t? He then sent me a link to his Taobao store. For the dogs.
The Alylang and Zhuoma can be found on Douyin by searching:
“扎西和卓玛” (Tashi and Zhuoma)