Saturday, October 08, 2011

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Of Taiwanese and their dogs

10/08/2011 Taiwan Explorer
»Properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend.« ~Corey Ford

There is something in Taiwan, that you'll most likely see, when you live here for a while: The close relationship between some Taiwanese and their dogs. Truth is, only a certain part of Taiwanese population are pet owners, however the majority of them would be owning a dog, according to my impression. That's why seeing a dog on Taiwan's streets is very common. And that would not bother me, if all dog owners would follow some standardized rules of behavior. The thing is, Taiwanese are very obedient, when it comes to social norms and how you carry yourself in public, but sometimes I feel that certain dog owners live in a completely different universe. I can understand it, since I love my pet, too, but I still think it's not good. This post was triggered by the image above: My wife and I went to a restaurant yesterday and an elder couple had 2 dogs with them. The dog in the center was very eager to sit like a human and sniff all the food, that was served. But not only that, if he wanted to go down, they put his feet back up on the table! I was like wow. They fed him, placed a drink under his snout and took photos of him, it was truly a very unusual image. Not sure, how an average Taiwanese reacts to this kind of behavior, but my wife said they went too far and probably take their pet like a family member. Frankly, I have nothing against people loving their pets like their own kids, what bothers me is that you do that in public, next to other guests, who eat there. I was thinking: This dog might have walked in all kinds of unsanitary places and you put his feet on the table, where people eat? That's certainly not good. I'm fine, if you do that at home, but in a restaurant is a completely different thing. And of course I was thinking: Why does the restaurant tolerate this behavior? I saw the waiter serving them and saying nothing. My wife said, maybe they asked him in the beginning, if the dog can be seated and got the permission. But even so, it's hard for me, an average Central European to relate to this kind of thing. I don't know, is it a cultural difference? Is it a Taiwanese particularity that this is ok to do? No idea, but feel free to enlighten me.

Of course I have seen those usually small dogs brought to many restaurants and caf├ęs in and around Taipei, so that it doesn't shock me anymore. Let me tell you that I have owned two dogs in my life and I loved them with all my heart, however, the line between the dog world and human world was always very clear to me. And I would always clean up after them, if they dropped some pies. This is another thing, that seems to be a problem in Taiwan, especially in some parts of New Taipei, where I reside: Dog turds are seen aplenty in certain areas and you really need to look down when you walk in order to avoid stepping on one. Again, let me be clear, this is not predominant throughout whole Taiwan, but it is a big enough phenomenon to be mentioned as an issue. And apparently the mayor of New Taipei agrees with me, since he recently decided to reward people with tickets for gold-ingots, if they bring dog feces to sanitation units. Not sure, how well it works, because the area, where I usually go for lunch is still full dog turds. But we'll see. At least someone's aware of the problem and some measures were taken to tackle the issue.

What is there else to say about Taiwanese and their dogs?

There's a full spectrum of how dogs are treated in Taiwan, from being loved and cared of as one's own child to being completely neglected and abandoned. Not sure, what is more common, but I've seen it all: The good, the bad and the ugly. I'm not familiar with laws here, I don't know of any organizations, who take care of these animals in need of help and shelter, I'm just touching on the issue on the surface. If you have any additional info on that, I'd be glad to add it to this post. Of course that's not only a Taiwanese problem, it's a global problem. If you go to southern Europe like Italy and Balkans, you will see worse things. But since I'm living in Taiwan, I will focus on what's happening around me and try to bring them closer to you. Speaking of which, below are some photos I took during my time in Taiwan and they are related to this dog issue:

Taiwanese love to walk their dogs in parks during the weekend. You can see that they really care about their pet, as well as mind other visitors of the park and always clean up their dog's big business.

A campaign in Yingge, a small town near Taipei, where dog owners are encouraged to clean up after their dogs. Plastic bags are offered for free (thumbs up!). I'd like to see more of these things in New Taipei.

Seeing dogs transported on scooters is very common in Taiwan, as the scooter is one of the most basic means of transportation here. Even two dogs can be squeezed on one, if they are small enough.

Seeing stray dogs eating from trash is sadly a common sight in many Taiwanese cities and towns. I've seen this one in Wulai, Taiwan's famous hot spring resort.

This dog was tied to a scooter, while his owner was selling something on the sidewalk. Not sure, what I could comment on this, but it certainly makes me raise my eyebrows.

If you see closely, you will spot two dog turds under that rack on the photo above, which I took in a 7 Eleven. Here is what happened: A guy came in carrying two poodles in his arms and one of them suddenly started to poop. When he saw that two turds fell down on the ground, he kicked them under the rack and left. I was completely speechless in that moment. My colleague and I told it to the clerk and he immediately cleaned it. He was of course shocked, too, but I doubt that this will in any way affect their policy of letting dogs inside their convenience store in the future. It's natural for our four-legged pals to poop whenever they feel like, the whole problem related to these things is on the human side. If there are no fix social norms for dog owners, these problems will be carried on. One thing is clear: We first and foremost need to train humans, not dogs.

This is a famous photo circulating around the web.

[My UNIQUELY TAIWAN page][All photos by MKL, 2010 and 2011]