|Up the road, morning bike ride|
Even as we were negotiating with our now landlady, we were planning to finally get a dog (or two.) It really didn't seem like a feasible idea living in an apartment. Once we got the house, it was just natural. As my friend Chris was walking around Taiwan (Footprints) raising money for one of the many dog shelter/orgs for strays, he picked up Gina, a stray who followed him on his journey. They came by as they passed through Yilan in July and Chris basically gave me his blessing that we could take her. For a month as we were settling in she stayed with friends in Taipei.
During our first month settling in, we contacted Jenny from the French bakery for another stray. Far be it for her to not only be a business entrepreneur with her French husband, but she dedicates all her free time, feeding, caring for strays and finding them owners. She knows the ins and outs of various local shelters, dog "farms" and vets (She uses and recommends 開口笑寵物精品店). It was through her that we got Zarkon our German Shepherd/Taiwan Mountain dog mix. He maybe is 6 months, no one is sure. He spent 2 months on a farm after he was found and was just annoyingly LOUD, that the neighbors would throw firecrackers at him to scare him quiet. His bark is pretty loud, but his first few days here were quiet. Thanks to Jenny, Zarkon came to us already fixed, chipped and vaccinated. (Its the law here for all pets to be chipped to keep from owners abandoning their pets, although pet stores don't sell them chipped.)
It was a week after we got Zarkon that Chris' friends from Taipei drove Gina over. (Their son was one of the boys who walked around Taiwan with Chris.) Fantastic people. I was worried Gina and Zarkon wouldn't get along as Zarkon was jealous and territorial, but they're the best of buds now. Zarkon is a big bully/baby, but Gina knows how to wind him up and she's much faster.
|Gina post fixin'|
Gina was already vaccinated when the Taipei clan brought her so we just got her fixed and chipped like two days ago for free.The only 2 places to get a pet spayed or neutered for free in Yilan (normally costs around 4000 NT) is either the Yilan Animal shelter, a reputed hideous place or the kind people in Dongshan's 湖光動物醫院 - 宜蘭分院. My car was in the shop and Jenny got some of her dog volunteers to drive Gina to Dongshan to get fixed. I ended up paying 1800 for her and Zarkon's ear mites drops, meds for her skin allergy and meds for her wound to not get infected. I'm very thankful I didn't have to pay for her getting fixed because that money went to fixing my car!
Around seven or more of them started to cross our path, about 30 meters away, and Gina takes off as she does full speed into the forest, while Zarkon is barking like a nutter and I have him on leash, waiting for them to all cross. There were infants, a few adolescents , the bigger ones were Zarkon's size but heavier. I was flipping scared, utterly defenseless. The troupe had crossed, but their alpha was holding the line as they escaped into the forest. He was barking at us, like ten feet above us, and not liking Zarkon barking at him at all. The branches under him were heaving, leaves were falling, I feared being mauled and jumped on my bike, leaving Gina hidden in the trees and yelled at Zarkon to, "GO!" We made it home and I was just about to get on my scooter and return to for Gina when she comes trotting along from the back way. What a relief, I literally wept from relief.
I haven't been down that bit since, which is a shame because its my home road, just up the mountain and very pretty. I debated getting pepper spray and I'm looking for an air horn (like in basketball) which is harder to find than I thought, so I can just scare any monkeys away. These aren't your friendly, tamed, Kaohsiung monkey mountain sort. They are here almost every morning, this is there territory. So I go downriver where the mountain is further in land behind the many BnBs, far from monkeys. Its still pretty, but not my first choice.
Zarkon and Gina are hard work, but give us a lot of joy and entertainment (watching them play is therapeutic). Besides taking them for a run in the mornings, I come home during my lunch break to take them for a quick walk and pee, and then rush home to do the same thing after I clock out. My kid helps when she can, like in the evenings. In the mornings I feed them dry food from Carrefore and in the evenings mix it up with gourmet wet food from Cookie and Cream a pet store owned by my friend (my former trainer and meat head) who lived in NZ. All his food is high quality, he won't sell animals and he takes in strays too. His big canned wet food is imported from NZ and has clean ingredients, like lamb, pumpkin, chickpeas (and is cheaper than Wonder Pet in front of Luna Plaza).
Sometimes I give them raw, but not everyday its just too expensive buying at the supermarket. My former housemate 17 years ago from my Tamsui days, has a house in Hsinchu and adopted 2 strays herself. Her dogs are on a raw diet and she buys the scraps from the traditional market, costing them 200 NT a week for 2 dogs. Going to the local butchers at the traditional market is next on my to do list. My friend in Dongshan has 12 dogs all on a raw diet which just blows my mind, the expense, the time, the personal sacrifice. Respect.
Its easy to think Taiwan isn't a pleasant place to be a dog. When I was first in Taiwan 17 years ago (I worked in Tamsui for a year and a half before traveling, going back to school, etc.) it seemed like everyone hated dogs. Then when I returned with my kid in 2008, it appeared like a kind of fad that people have dogs (the little toy ones or an exotic Husky). The problem is people would get a dog and realize how much work they are and then drive out to the countryside, like Yilan and abandon their pooch. My neighborhood in Yuanshan is rife with street dogs, mostly because the farmers don't spay or neuter. Its one of the reasons driving a scooter here is dangerous at night (that and the old people.) Nevertheless, there are just as many people in Taiwan (expats and locals) who are also working tirelessly on the behalf of animal rights, or are responsible dog owners themselves. Recently, Taiwan became the first Asian country to officially ban dog and cat meat for human consumption- yes that's a thing.
Boulangerie Française bakery, ask for Jenny. She is very transparent with her doggie bills and you can be one of those people who monthly helps her pay for taking care for all the strays' food and medial expenses. Likewise, you can visit the kind people at 莉丰慧民V 臉書官網 and buy some of their products that also goes into taking care of strays. Or if you have the space and time, you can just take home a stray.
Next month are 2 holidays weekends (10/10 and Moon Festival) and any other time I'd be planning a short stint somewhere, Japan, Korea like last year. Now, having these wild dogs, who love chasing flying squirrels and scaring wild pheasants, these dogs have domesticated me. I'm more of a homebody now than ever.
RESOURCES and NEWS:
List of animal shelters in Taiwan
Taiwan Unofficial Animal Shelter List