The full spirit behind the Yiddish word chutzpah can’t really be adequately translated into English, but roughly, it means a display of extreme audacity, gall, or nerve. Leo Rosten gave the classic example in The Joys of Yiddish: “Chutzpah is that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he’s an orphan.”
With all due respect to Rosten and all the scholars of chutzpah who have explained the concept with that story, I think that we may have found an even more definitive example. In Brescia, Italy, police arrested the owner of a circus for claiming that two Chow Chows with black-and-white dye jobs were actually Pandas. The circus was charging parents money to take pictures of their children with the “pandas.”
That alone would qualify as a brazen display of chutzpah, but when some parents got suspicious about the ersatz pandas, they were told that they were actually dog-panda hybrids. Because after all, crossbreeding a bear with a dog is completely feasible, right?
The dogs have been taken into custody by the police, and the owner is being charged with animal cruelty and defrauding customers. He might also be charged for providing false information to customs, because the police say that the dogs are six months younger than is stated on their pet passports. The dogs are in good shape, although police say that their eyes were very watery, possibly an after-effect of the camera flashes.
While this is the first time I’ve heard of someone trying to actually claim that a Chow is a panda, the unnamed circus owner isn’t the first person to see the resemblance. A few months ago, Michael Leaverton wrote about how it had become a massive craze in China to dye Chow Chows to look like pandas. The idea apparently originated with Hsin Ch’en, the owner of a pet store in the Sichuan province. Presumably, the circus owner read the news stories and decided to take the obvious next step: Just claim that they actually were pandas. Or dog-panda hybrids. Thanks to the fact that there actually is a limit to people’s gullibility (yes, I’m shocked, too), the dogs will have new homes, and the circus owner will have to find new ways to scam people.
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