They are everywhere. Fat, skinny, bald, furry, friendly, hostile – all sorts of dogs call this island home. They run around the roads, in restaurants and stores, in schools….just about all over the place. It’s really weird seeing a dog walking around the tables when I’m eating lunch, but no one else blinks an eye. Everyone is used to seeing them because the dog population is Taiwan is huge.
Just like people, the dogs have established their own class system. Over the course of the last year, I have managed to identify 3 distinct classes of dogs.
The pish-posh, bourgeois canines
These are the Beyonces and David Beckhams of the dog community. They have it all. Looks, money and a pampered life. They are adored by humans and envied by other dogs. Lucky enough to be owned by rich people, they lead a comfortable existence.
If they were human, the females would be seen strolling around with Louie Vuitton purses, Tiffany earrings and Gucci outfits, while the males would be decked out in Armani suits, Rolex watches and Versace footwear.
The following pics are for illustration purposes (they are not necessarily from Taiwan), just to give you an idea of what some of the hoity-toity pooches look like here:
As you can see, they are all very well groomed and stylishly appointed. These dogs are regularly taken to pet grooming stores and given haircuts to suit all seasons. They have all the latest fashions in doggy clothing. Their food is top notch and they want for nothing. They have made it up the ladder of success, and are truly living the (doggy) dream.
If they were humans, they would be fontiersman types (banding together to survive nature) or commune types (living together and practicing existential yoga…whatever that is). These guys are pretty well fed by the students. So much so that they are quite fat. Since they disdain fashion, the don’t possess all the accessories and accoutrements of the pish-posh class. Regardless, they are happy with what they have. Theirs is a happy, contemplation filled life.
The great unwashed mongrel masses
Here are the opressed (dog) children of Taiwan. They have the worst life of the classes. No one feeds them or sings to them. No one wipes their little tushy after a poo. Higher education is unavailable to them. They are the street dogs, the strays, and have to fend for themselves.
Humanized, they would be like the downtrodden who rose up against tyranny and started the French revolution(the violent ones) or like the thousands that followed Gandhi’s non-cooperation (the peaceful ones) movement.
All joking aside though, the life of a stray dog in Taiwan is a hard one. The government owned shelters are atrocious and conditions are horrible. Dogs are euthanized every year, and the methods are sometimes not humane (drowning, starvation etc). PETA and other animal rights groups have been fighting for animal rights for years, but the government has only recently started paying attention:
One of the people who is trying to put a face to this problem is Yun-Fei Tou. He is a photographer who takes pictures of strays just before they are euthanized to tell their story to the world. There are organizations in Taiwan and overseas that are also trying to help out with this issue, and you can find some of them on this website.
Seeing these dogs is heart wrenching for a lot of foreigners because some have never been exposed to this degree of animal cruelty. Many a foreigner has taken a cute stray puppy home (after all the necessary shots of course). When I get a bigger place, I plan to do the same thing. Hopefully with time and persistence, the suffering of these poor animals will cease.