China’s Wild Side: My Dog Bite Story
We tend to focus on our great experiences on this site, but occasionally traveling can be scary or painful. Or both.
On our last day in Langmusi, China, I was out taking pictures of the unique town, while Dan hung out in the Black Tent Cafe (doing his fantasy football draft, lame). I was walking on a dirt road overlooking the town, taking this awesome shot of a goat, when I heard a dog barking like crazy near me. This was not uncommon for the trip, and we learned soon after we arrived that dogs are kept as guard dogs only, not pets, in this village. All the dogs I’d heard barking ferociously had been chained up, at least until this one. I soon saw two knee-height dogs running toward me at full speed, barking like crazy. Having been around my share of stray dogs over the last few months, my first instinct was to not anger or excite them with any sudden movements, so I crossed the street and kept walking, though more quickly. I really didn’t think they’d bite, that they were just telling me I was on their territory, but suddenly they BOTH dug in to my right calf with the full force of their small jaws.
At this point, I screamed with surprise and ran about 10 yards until they stopped. I walked the 10 minutes or so back to our hotel in shock. My leg was tender but I could walk fine, and I didn’t see any blood soaking through my jeans, but holy crap, I just got bit by a stray dog in China! What do I do? At the hotel, I told Dan the story and cleaned the bites with soap and water, and antibacterial ointment from our first aid kit. The bite wasn’t terrible, but it definitely broke the skin in a few places which was enough to make me nervous.
We walked back to the Black Tent Cafe for dinner where we told Liyi, the manager and tour operator who speaks great English. She told us not to worry because she gets bit by her dog all the time. WHAT?! That’s not how dogs work in our country… but anyway… She didn’t know the dog by my description, so she called a clinic in the larger town of Zoige, on the way to the airport we were taking a bus to the next day. She confirmed they had the rabies vaccine, and wrote down the word for rabies and the address of the clinic in Chinese.
The next day, we got off the bus in a town we were told has no English speakers, and managed to get to the clinic with the address from Liyi. I sat in an office for 45 minutes with a rotating crew of employees and what appeared to be their friends or passersby who were interested in this rare white person sighting. They spoke in Chinese to each other and to me, and after several of my blank stares, they finally gave me the shot and a form with a table of 5 dates, presumably the dates I needed more shots. We paid ¥70, about $12 USD and finally left.
Three days later in Xian, we went through a similar ordeal of finding a clinic, showing them the form from the previous shot, and getting another one. This time we paid ¥100, about $16 USD.
Another four days later, we attempted to find a clinic in Shanghai, but after spending four hours following the directions of one well-meaning local after another, we gave up. Our flight to London was the next day, so I waited and easily found a travel clinic back in the world of English and business with websites. The doctor in London listened to my story and determined that I had gotten the proper course of treatment and told me that all brands of rabies vaccines are similar and interchangeable. Phew. His services and my third shot was $150.
When the time came for my fourth shot, I was in Amsterdam. I found public clinic, was seen without an appointment, and paid about $60. Twenty eight days after the initial bite, I was back home in the US and needed my final shot. The cost wasn’t covered by my high-deductible insurance plan, so I went to a travel clinic and paid $375.
I waited to post this until I completed the full five shots and I was in the clear of dying from rabies (no need to worry, mom). The ordeal makes for a good story but was such a pain. Sitting in a clinic waiting room is not the fun part of travel, but I was happy we could navigate with limited language skills and get the shots I needed!