WeChat groups are a vital resource for Beijing’s international community, not only providing information but bringing together people with shared interests. Each week we’ll be highlighting a thriving group chat, so whether you’re new to town or just looking to expand your networks, you can find your people.
They say that a dog is man’s best friend, but for the dog lovers of the international community, the Beijing Dog Owners group might be second best. We talked to admin Dan Christensen about this canine club.
Tell us about yourself, and how you came to be admin of this group.
I’m originally from Vancouver, but I’ve been 15 years in China. I came to Beijing from Shanghai six years ago, and I left the wine business to start a dog lifestyle company called Pennys, selling fresh food by subscription. I ended up inheriting the group in 2015 when the previous admin moved back to Belgium. I suppose because in my day-to-day life I’m dealing with dogs, she figured I’d be suitable!
Who’s in the group and what do you talk about?
It started in 2013 as a small group of dog-loving friends, but there’s currently 457 in the group. It goes up and down. When it creeps too close to 500 [the maximum size for a WeChat group]I’ll do a cull. If anyone gets culled by accident they can just tell me and we put them back in! It’s a foreign majority group, we have about 20 percent Chinese members but the main language used is English.
Most apartment complexes have their own dog group, so we’re more of a general dog information resource. There’s a lot of questions which get asked often, so some people have suggested I post an FAQ! People ask who’s your favorite vet, about vaccines, where to buy food, where’s a good place to go for a weekend walk, about transporting dogs, whether it’s locally or moving to Tokyo or New York, or “I’ve found this bug on my dog, should I be worried?” There are also posts about strays or dogs in need, but I try to limit that, because it’s such a big issue in Beijing, it takes over a bit, though we try to be compassionate. And people like to post cute pictures of their dogs!
We have a short list of rules, but we try not to be too strict, to keep it easygoing. We try to keep ads and spam out of the group.
Do you do meetups in real life?
In the old days we did, but it’s a much bigger and more dynamic group than it used to be. We do a lot of events, and there are micro-groups to organize things locally. Sometimes there’s a flash mob dog walk!
If you’d like to join Beijing Dog Owners, add Dan on WeChat: dj1980c
Photo: courtesy of Dan Christensen