The Liu family bond

The Liu family bond

For Melody Liu the addition of two big dogs to her family did exactly what she hoped for, Max and Manny are loving companions and provide much laughter. But they also brought the unexpected- a busy family of four closer together than ever.

p32 IMG_3696-edRadiating excitement and warmth throughout the house, Max, a Kunming wolf dog and Manny, a German Shepherd, are proof that there is no reason to feel intimidated by big dogs. Their size and appearance might look deceptive to outsiders, but their innocent and affectionate personalities show their true devotion and love towards the Liu family. Max’s many facial expressions and poses bring ripples of laughter to the family and Manny’s sharp police training, accompanied by his submissive attitude towards Max, make for a funny and entertaining contrast.

Both were brought to Zhongshan, a city located in the Guangdong province around 50 km from Macau from a police dog training base. Max and Manny have not only come to be important members of the Liu family, but they have also acted as a bridge, bringing together busy family members including Melody Liu and her husband Alfred Liu, a well-established Macau businessman, and their two sons, Joe Liu, a young entrepreneur, and Owen Liu, a financial analyst.

Today, Melody Liu cannot spend one weekend away from Zhongshan without missing and worrying about her dogs, even though only a few months ago, canines petrified her.

“When I was very little, I encountered a very fierce dog that chased me non-stop until I fell down very badly “one day”. Our family also had a dog that passed away from illness. These two experiences made me on one hand, afraid of big dogs, but on the other hand I was fearful of the emotional connection I could establish with them.”

For many years Melody always found good excuses to not have dogs in their Macau home, even though her family always wanted them: “an apartment is not suitable for dogs” she would emphasize, and because of this the family would settle on other animals including fish, turtles and birds.

Joe Liu recalls these childhood moments, “I have experienced having salt water fish, fresh water fish, but they were very boring.” Wanting a more exciting pet that would accompany him around the house, he tried caring for birds and turtles. “Both of them were unsuccessful stories, the birds both died of sickness, and the turtles accidentally fell from the apartment. After that, I gave up having animals in Macau because it ended badly every time.”

When Max joined the family, Joe admits he was a bit wary of the situation – he had never encountered such a big dog before, but very quickly Max started to familiarize himself with Joe and showed much friendliness towards him.

Back to the beginning

When the family’s holiday home was completed, Alfred thought that their spacious home would be the perfect environment for a dog or two. Understanding that his wife feared them, they came to a compromise that she was to personally choose their first dog.

On one of their road trips to the Golden Triangle in early January 2014, they passed by the police dog training base on their journey back to Macau to see if there were any dogs that Melody liked. Out of all the dogs, there was one big female dog in an enclosed space and every time the dog saw the couple she would try to stick her paw out of the fence to reach them. “She was a pure Kunming wolf dog and was the only dog to give us such a special reaction, she looked like she wanted us to love her and take her home. Unfortunately outsiders could not buy her,” Melody explains.

After returning to Macau, their friend did some research into the dog’s background and records and found that she had just had a litter of five puppies, available for purchase. These puppies were also Kunming wolf dog purebreds and were around two months old. “We then made a short trip to pick the dog, but because they were all quite similar we didn’t know how to choose one.” To help the decision making, local training instructors performed a variety of simple games for the five puppies to play. The results were obvious; Max was the strongest and fastest out of the litter.

Melody wanted to make sure Max and her had a connection, so very carefully she held him to see what he was like. “I was very scared then, but I saw his face, his aura and I liked him.” In that one instant, she formed a very strong emotional bond with him, she felt as if he were part of her family and wanted to take him home as soon as possible. Only two days later, the travel arrangements to Zhongshan were in place and carried out.

The strength of a human animal connection

p32 IMG_3518-edMax’s traveling arrangements had worried Melody, but to her relief as soon as he stepped out of the cage and into their home – he was active, loving and wagging his tail. He was only a puppy when he joined their family, unlike his parents who had received formal police training. Max was still very innocent and pure; he quickly adapted to their Zhongshan home and recognized Melody as his carer. “He understood that I cared for him a lot, and we had these moments where we shared each other’s gaze, it was very special.”

Every time Melody goes to their Zhongshan home, Max runs to greet her and smothers her with kisses. Music is also a common passion they share; Melody likes to sing into his ear and when she does his head moves from side to side, swaying to the rhythm. He also loves swimming, and has a designated pool for him. Melody usually swims in the house’s indoor pool with music playing on the speakers, and Max watches her swim from one side to the other. “I know that once in the middle of the night, Max sneakily jumped into the indoor pool and swam for quite some time before anyone found out, ” Melody laughs.

“Max is very human, his reactions, his emotions are just like a baby’s. He will do anything you tell him to do without thinking it through first,” adds Joe.

A new sibling

p32 IMG_3459-edMaybe it was the good experience with Max that invited further thoughts about adding a new member to the family. Alfred worried about Max’s loneliness and thought it would be best for him to have a companion, a brother. Being already familiar with the police dog training base, he decided to find another dog from there at the end of April 2014.

On their first trip to the base, Melody had mentioned that the German Shepherds looked very sweet and were quite handsome – Alfred remembered this comment. Their friend helped the family choose a German Shepherd, although he was no longer a pure innocent puppy like Max – he had already undergone a few months of police training. It was almost a form of surprise as Melody only found out about this new dog when he arrived in Zhongshan. “The first time I saw Manny I was very scared, ” Melody recalls.

At the time she was rather uncomfortable with the idea of not having chosen Manny personally, not having gone through the same process she did with Max, but gradually she grew accustomed to him.

Max had joined the family at two months old; Manny on the other hand was already eight months old and had received formal training. When he arrived at the house, his reaction was the opposite of Max’s. “His body language showed that he felt very insecure and I was worried because at their base, one dog only followed one police trainer, so Manny was only accustomed to listen to one man’s command, ” Melody explains.

“That’s interesting, my first impression was very positive. I felt like he gave off quite a good vibe. The only thing that worried me was the relationship between the two dogs, because at the end of the day Max has been in our home for much longer than Manny,” Joe intervenes.

Manny and Max did not get along during the first few months and were always fighting. Max, being the playful innocent dog he is, would try to play with Manny but because Manny is quite a strong and mature dog, his immediate reaction was to think Max was trying to fight with him. Many of these battles ended with Max being hurt quite badly. “My heart grieved when this happened, I feel as though Max is my son and seeing him hurt made me extremely unhappy. The fact that Manny was hurting Max also made me resent Manny even more,” explains Melody.

It took months and months of living under the same roof for Max and Manny to settle into a brotherly relationship. They don’t fight anymore and if anything ever happens, they seem to help each other out. Because Max came into their home first, even though he is the younger dog, he still acts as the older brother. When Max is playing with the family, Manny tries to keep his distance as Max becomes a bit possessive over his relationship with the family. “Max has the mentality of everything being about him first, he is very self centered. That’s why I try to give Manny more attention, to try to even out their relationship a bit more, ” says Joe.

p32 IMG_3426-edThe one person in the family who Manny loves unconditionally is Alfred; every time Alfred is around he becomes extremely happy and runs up to him to play with him. He always tries to be near Alfred, whether or not they are playing together or just resting: “He is a bit obsessive over my husband,” Melody giggles.

“It is really great to see Alfre totally relaxed with a huge smile on his face whenever he is playing with Max and Manny, especially nowadays when he has been extremely busy and under a lot of pressure from work,” adds Melody.

Family Ties

Being such a busy family, it is difficult to always find time to spend quality time together. Max and Manny being loved by all members of the family have acted as a pulling force to bring everyone together. Melody’s fear of dogs has also been overcome by this experience – she would have never accepted having a dog in the house if it were not for the love she has for her family. “My husband and my sons are the most important ones in my life, and more important than my own life.” Whatever challenges she is faced with, she will confront them because she loves her family more than anything else.

Now there are talks of a third dog. In the very beginning before Max and Manny joined the family, Melody had told Alfred that she wanted a very sweet dog, the Golden Retriever type, but neither Max nor Manny are like this. Now they might look for another dog that fits into that category.


Where we need to start

Speaking of Macau, Joe explains: “I think it was the right decision for us never to have a dog in our Macau flat. I think Max and Manny are very lucky now – they can swim, play in a very spacious environment. If you can’t give them the exercise they need, they suffer.”

Animal lovers in Macau sometimes tend to treat their pets too much like their children, dressing them up and fitting little shoes on them. Joe disagrees with this concept, he believes that dogs are suited to a natural environment, a place where they can run, communicate and not be constrained. In regards to Macau’s animal culture, Joe believes that we need to create more awareness campaigns and start from the roots, which are education and culture. “In western cultures, people run around with animals, they grow up with them. Here, we don’t have that kind of opportunity. Education is a long nurturing process and it’s never too late to start.”

Melody ends by saying: “We need to promote laws of animal protection in the city, and keep educating people on the correct way of caring for dogs.”


p32 IMG_3643-edJD: Unexpected behaviour

During Joe Liu’s years in Macau, he had turtles, birds and even fish. When he went to university in London, he thought it would be the perfect time to have a dog. The birthday of his flat mate gave Joe the perfect excuse to buy a puppy for the apartment. During the party, the puppy was hidden in the bathroom, and when it was time to blow the birthday candles, Joe presented him as a present to his friend, Shen. In the midst of all the excitement and surprise, Shen was pressured to name the puppy by all his friends – a bottle of Jack Daniels being the first thing he saw on the table, he decided to name the puppy “JD”. Joe had the perfect vision in his mind: Shen and him would stroll through the many parks of London with their very cute puppy and this would subsequently attract much female attention. Unfortunately, the reality was a little bit different. Jack Russell Terriers are very active dogs and instead of taking him for a stroll it was the other way around, he took Joe and Shen for a run. At home, when they were working, he would purposely bite the Internet cable so they couldn’t finish their assignments. He was mischievous, but still had blissful moments. Sometimes he would lie on their lap when they worked and Joe exclaims that the happiest moment was when he went to the toilet outside the home – “We tried to train JD, but he was way too naughty.” Now JD happily resides with Shen’s parents in Malacca, Malaysia where he can run around and play in a spacious environment.