Old dogs and new tricks

I remember when I first moved into Pham Ngu Lao… like, really moved into the suburb, not just visiting, I spent a lot of time taking photos of the neighbourhood. I was fascinated with the local people. I loved watching them all wash their dogs on a Sunday.

There was this one old guy who owned the souvenir shop on the corner of Bui Vien and Do Quang Dau that I bought so much stuff from over the years. And one day he got these two cute little dogs. I remember taking some photos of them from across the road with a zoom lens.

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The dogs were just puppies at the time, but they never grew any bigger. They were always that same size. I saw the old man feed and play with his dogs day and night and I saw his love for them. They meant so much to him. Years later when I saw them I always had this dream that I would bring him a photo of his dogs and say “Hey, I remember the week you got those dogs, here’s a photo” but I never got around to it.

And then last night, I was in Saigon unexpectedly and I was walking along Bui Vien at around midnight and I saw the guy sitting outside playing with his dogs. I’d been drinking a but and I was on my way somewhere but I got to the corner and I just froze. I couldn’t cross the road. I knew that if I didn’t turn around and show this old guy the photos of his dogs right now, at this moment in the middle of the night, with my 3G equipped iPad in my bag over my shoulder that I would leave Saigon again and probably never get a chance to do it.

So I turned around, and I fished my iPad out of my bag and I quickly searched my Google Photos library for the right gallery.. it was easy to remember which it was.. it was called “Sunday in Bui Vien” because Sunday was always “dog grooming day” in Bui Vien, and I flicked through until I found the photos and then I got his attention.

“Xin chao ong. Toi co anh, con cho cua ong” and I held out the iPad.

He took it from me and looked at the photos for a while and gave me a quizzical look as if to ask “When was this ?” and I tapped a button on my iPad and up came the date and time the photos were taken.


Jun 24, 2012.

Almost four full years earlier. A big smile came across his face as he realised that I had photos of his dogs as puppies when he first got them. I wish I could have given him a copy of them but I think it meant enough to him just to see them again. It sure meant a lot to me to show him to me. It had been something that had been on my mind every time I walked past that corner for years and finally, one late night in 2016, four years later, I showed him the photos I took of his puppies.

He thanked me and got his dogs to pose a little so that I could take some new ones from 2016.

I really don’t know who made whose day… me making his special or him making mine special. Having been anticipating that moment for almost 4 years, I think it was me who was most honoured to finally show him the photos and get some new ones. He played with the dogs and I petted them and then I said goodbye and kept walking. I had a big smile on my face. I’d done something I wanted to do for years and I felt good.

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