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A plan to preserve a much-loved deceased rescue dog who helped save hundreds of lives during the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake has triggered widespread controversy as people disagree on which is the best way to commemorate the heroic animal.
Rescue dog Yinhu (Silver Tiger) died last month in a training base in Kunming, the provincial capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province.
Yinhu participated in many rescues after earthquakes or mudslides, and was famous for his proficiency. He was named a "Hero Dog of Wenchuan Earthquake Relief Work," as Yinhu and six other dogs helped rescuers locate 206 people buried in the ruins of the fatal 2008 earthquake.
Yinhu's keeper Liu Shiwei said that the dog suffered poor vision and groaned in pain in its last days.
"It was horrible to go in the doghouse, because I was so afraid of losing him," Liu said. "But now, we are questioned by netizens all over the country on how to memorize our heroic fellow."
Yinhu's death on Sept. 17 went viral and tens of thousands of Chinese netizens expressed their love and respect for the dog, who was the last to die of all the Wenchuan quake rescue dogs.
The dog base decided to mount the dog in an "Honor Room." Previously, only two other rescue dogs have been made into specimens and kept at the base while others were buried at a nearby hillside.
Unexpectedly, the plan triggered widespread controversy, with many feeling it an inappropriate way to immortalize the heroic dog. Liu said a number of people had written letters to object to the plan to preserve Yinhu as a specimen.
Traditionally, Chinese society believes that a burial brings peace to the deceased.
"It is so ruthless to disembowel Yinhu after his death, especially after he has contributed so much," read one online comment. Some suggested a bronze sculpture or wax statue instead.
"We thank people for their concern and respect, but they don't understand the honor or tradition here," said Duan Chaohua, an official at the training base. "A wax statue is just a rough model, while a specimen can resurrect the dog as if the flesh-and-blood friend were still alive."
"A specimen makes the dog look like it is alive," another netizen wrote. "People should respect this way of honoring the dog, since Yinhu is no longer in the world."
Yinhu's remains were sent to a special unit in Kunming after a short but grand funeral. The specimen will be returned to the base in six months.
"I wish a lifelike Yinhu comes back," Liu said. "For us, this is the best way to honor him."