A typical pet dog’s day-to-day consists of a regular schedule for meals, the toilet, brisk walks and if they’re lucky, some playtime. But not for Sylar.
The four-year-old border collie wakes up every morning in his 13-acre mansion in Beijing, where he’ll get to play in his personal swimming pool, enjoy a pamper session in a spa and have luxury imported dog treats such as cheese and sausages and greet his 800,000 fans in viral videos.
For 31-year-old Zhou Tianxiao, spending three million yuan (£335,000) to transform an abandoned warehouse into a ‘pet paradise’ for his beloved pooch is more than worth it.
‘I’ll do anything for Sylar,’ Zhou, a popular blogger, told MailOnline.
Zhou Tianxiao, 31, spent three million yuan (£335,000) to transform an abandoned warehouse into a ‘pet paradise’ for his dog
Zhou said he got a dog after becoming tired of ‘a life with no meaning’. The experience turned out to be life-changing
Zhou learned how to train his dog from watching YouTube videos. Sylar can now do all sorts of tricks on command
Before he met Sylar, Zhou said ‘he had no one to live for’.
His parents separated when he was only a year old and he had been living with his grandmother. He dropped out of high school when he was 15 and started drinking heavily and playing video games at Internet cafes, day in, day out.
‘Back then, I didn’t have a meaning in life,’ the Beijing native said. ‘I was lonely and I had no one to work hard for.’
Then one day four years ago, tired of video games and drinking, he decided to get a dog. He had never owned a pet before and had no knowledge of how to look after one.
The experience, he said, was life-changing.
Four-year-old border collie Sylar enjoys a dip in his personal swimming pool wearing doggy goggles
Sylar enjoys a nice long bath in his luxury villa in the suburbs of Beijing. His owner Zhou said he would spend anything on him
All 29 rooms in the ‘pet paradise’ are equipped with individual backyards for dog guests to play in the sunshine
Zhou found the abandoned warehouse in Shunyi a and spent a total of six months on the entire design and renovation process
He started watching dog training videos on YouTube and learned how to be the best pet owner. He taught Sylar to stand on his hind legs, shake hands, roll over and play dead on command. He even trained him to fetch and push a trolley full of packages.
Videos of Sylar performing various tricks were uploaded to Meipai, a Chinese video-sharing platform. The clips soon became viral, and Sylar became an internet celebrity with nearly 800,000 followers.
However, a Beijing law on pet dogs forced Zhou to make a difficult decision.
It is illegal to keep dogs taller than 35 centimetres (1.1 foot) in the city. Owners who violate the ban would have their dogs locked up and put down.
‘I was only able to take Sylar for walks at 5am and 10pm in order to avoid being caught,’ Zhou said. ‘He wasn’t able to get any sunshine.’
Zhou tattooed his beloved pooch’s name on his arm. The 31-year-old owner said having Sylar is the best decision of his life
Four years ago, tired of video games and drinking, Zhou decided to get a dog. He met Sylar and decided to bring him home
The blogger saved up by operating a dog food and toy store on Taobao, China’s largest e-commerce platform
He then decided to move to a two-acre lot in Shunyi, an upscale Beijing suburb. There, he continued to save up, hoping to get an even bigger place for Sylar.
‘Sylar made me into a better, more responsible person,’ Zhou said. ‘This is my way of repaying him.’
He opened a dog food and toy store on Taobao, China’s largest e-commerce site. He sold nutritious dog treats – all pre-approved by Sylar – and offered tips and techniques to fellow pet owners.
Two years later in 2017, he saved enough to move again. This time to a much, much bigger place.
Zhou found the abandoned warehouse in the same area and spent a total of six months on the entire design and renovation process – including a giant colourful mural with Sylar’s face on it.
The result is a 13-acre ‘pet paradise’ that opened in May. The luxury residence is currently exclusively open to Zhou’s friends who are also dog owners and customers of his Taobao store.
In 2017, Zhou saved enough to move again. This time, to a much, much bigger place, also in the same area in Beijing’s suburbs
The clips of Sylar doing various tricks soon became viral, and he became an internet celebrity with nearly 800,000 followers
On his online shop, Zhou sold nutritious dog treats and toys – all pre-approved by Sylar – and offered tips to other pet owners
Before Sylar, Zhou had never owned a pet before and had no knowledge of how to look after one
All 29 rooms are equipped with heating and cooling systems as well as a personal backyard. Dogs and their owners can take a dip in the heated swimming pool, which is installed with fur filters to prevent clogging.
Zhou is currently working on a 500,000 yuan (£55,991) project to build a indoor training court. This way, dog owners can come and train their dogs all year round, even during the winter when temperatures usually drop to -8 degrees Celsius.
‘Just like parents who want to give their child the best things in life, I want to give Sylar the best things in life,’ Zhou said, who named his beloved pooch after a character in American TV series ‘Heroes’.
Chinese shoppers are set to spend 46.3 billion yuan (£5 billion) on their pets by 2022, up from 17.5 billion yuan (£2 billion) last year as the market grows at around an annual 20 per cent, according to estimates from Euromonitor cited by Reuters.
The luxury villa is currently exclusively open to Zhou’s friends who are also dog owners and customers of his Taobao store
The luxury villa also has a cafe and bar that lets dog owners and guests grab a drink while their dogs are having fun outside
The glam life: Border collie Sylar gets his fur air-dried in a machine that also keeps him warm as part of his pamper session
Owners in China spend an average of 497 yuan (£56) on their pets every month in 2016, according to research firm Statista.
This is a great shift from China’s communist past when few people kept dogs as pets, and those who owned a pet dog were scorned and marked as bourgeois timewasters by revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.
However, some dogs are not that lucky.
Despite protests and petitions, a dog-meat festival is held every year in the southern Chinese town of Yulin. Reports of animal cruelty, abuse and abandonment are reported every day.
‘This is allowed to happen because there is no animal cruelty law,’ Zhou said. ‘It breaks my heart reading these news reports.’
While China has legislation safeguarding land-based and aquatic wildlife, it currently lacks legislation protecting animal welfare or preventing cruelty to animals.
Chinese owners are set to spend 46.3 billion yuan (£5 billion) on pets by 2022, up from 17.5 billion yuan (£2 billion) in 2017
Sylar changed Zhou’s life. He used to drink a lot at bars and spend all his time at Internet cafes before he met the pooch
The 13-acre ‘pet paradise’ opened in May after six months. Zhou spent a total of £335,000 on its construction and design
In September 2009, animal rights activists and legal experts began circulating a draft Law on the Protection of Animals and in 2010, a draft Law on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for the State Council’s consideration, according to Human Rights in China, a Chinese non-governmental organisation based in New York.
The draft proposes a fine of up to 6,000 yuan (£672) and two weeks’ detention for those found guilty of animal cruelty, according to China Daily.
However till this day, no progress has been made.
‘If you decide to get a pet, you should be responsible for it,’ Zhou insisted. ‘It’s not a toy – it’s your family.’
‘In return, your pet will give you all the happiness in the world,’ he said. ‘Sylar is the best decision of my life and it’s God’s best gift to me.’
‘He saved me.’
‘If you decide to get a pet, you should be responsible for it,’ Zhou insists. ‘It’s not a toy – it’s your family’
‘Just like parents who want to give their child the best things in life, I want to give Sylar the best things in life,’ Zhou says