Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Impressions: Taiwan - A Canine Loving Nation

Whenever and wherever I travel, I have a habit of taking pictures of the local dogs that I come across. They act as memory markers of the places I have visited, like "Oh, the place where we saw the big curly haired dog!" If you are not aware of it by now, I am genetically wired to be crazy about dogs. CRAZY.

Now, I have been to a number of dog-loving countries including Thailand, Greece and of course my beloved adopted country of Japan. However, Taiwan trumps them all in the doggie-craze stakes. And that was my very first, and likely, deepest impression of the country - not the street food, the friendly polite people, the gorgeous scenery, but the number of dogs EVERYWHERE. 

The fattest Jack Russell I had ever seen - in Jiufen, Taiwan.

Regardless of where I turn, I see dogs. Mongrels roaming the streets (but likely owned or fed by someone), and the most adorable miniature toy breeds (dressed in winter wear ok!) in the loving arms of locals. Whether they are rich or poor, they are all dog owners. Almost every single night market stall I visited has a dog roaming about or sniffing at your feet begging for food (who cares about hygiene?!); you can also find dogs in proper restaurants (outside of course), and temples and tourist sites are doggie havens. For the first time in my life, I stopped taking photos of the dogs I met because there were just too many. I would not be surprised if the dog population in Taiwan is about the same as the human population. Taiwan's fertility is the pits, anyway.

Super cute doggie at a night market stall in Kaoshiung.

A funny incident occurred while I was walking with the family at some night market and I saw a lot of young couples with baby strollers walking down the crowded streets (The night markets are forever crowded). I was thinking, "Who in the right mind would bring babies to such crowded places? It is noisy, hot and uncomfortable." Out of curiosity, I wanted to check out a cute baby and all I saw was fur. Those were dogs in strollers, not babies!!! In fact, most of the strollers contain dogs, not humans. And I did mention Taiwan's abysmal fertility rate - and we know the reason why. The hilarious thing is that I just read in the papers this morning that Singapore is also seeing a trend of dog owners buying pet strollers, and yes, our birth rates are sucky too.

Temple dog at Hengchun. Well fed and playful mongrel. The Taiwanese do not discriminate.

I chanced upon a row of pet shops in Taiwan and they all have just about the cutest puppies on display. According to a fellow dog lover who has been to Taiwan, the prices of a pure bred puppy is cheap too - one can get a Huskie pup for less than SGD400 (here it can go up to over SGD1,000). Little wonder why the Taiwanese are buying dogs like no tomorrow. I wonder if the country experienced high rates of dog abandonment, but I doubt so since everyone seems to love the canines to death.

Strangely enough, I only came across ONE street cat during my 8 days in Taiwan. Although I saw kittens for sale at the pet shops, I suspect our feline friends do not receive as much love as their canine counterparts.

A different Labrador from the one which chased me. :D 

But I am happy. They were the highlight of my trip (yes, I am weird, I know). I had so much fun playing with the doggies it was insane. A Labrador puppy was so enamoured by me that he ended up chewing my dress and refusing to let go, and kept on chasing me and pulling my dress (thank God it did not tear - hooray for wool!). I needed a few men to "rescue" me (Samurai was nowhere in sight) although all the pup wanted to do was to play, but sorry buddy, I had to rush to the toilet. Later our tour guide told me that it was an "auspicious and prosperous sign" for a dog to chase after me, and I must buy lottery since I would strike. I guess I should be off to Singapore Pools' now. :D

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