This is Mister Floppy. He lives at Shan Lan Xi (Sun Link Sea) together with three other dogs, and they are all stray and have no owner. I gave him the name Mister Floppy because of his left ear that wasn’t standing up, but flopping around.
If I have one weak spot, it’s dogs, and Mister Floppy found it for sure. The other dogs in his small pack are a dominant black male that is apparently the alpha male (but very scared of humans at the same time), a light brown girl who was in heat at the time we were there, and another black male – a cripple who’s left hind leg was broken a long time ago and didn’t heal properly (most likely entirely untreated), so he holds it up all the time, but acts normally otherwise.
Mister Floppy was friendly, not shy of humans, and smart: he knew that the “alpha” was rather scared of humans, so he tried to get us between him and the girl that was in heat (hoping to make some love;-) but the female dog didn’t want him. Also, he immediately knew that I felt some sympathy for him, and thus kept following us. He just lay down in front of me on this suspension bridge, so I made a photo of him (and Shuwen, in the background, snapping some Instagram from the bridge with her phone).
As we continued our hike on the other side of the bridge, he followed us for a while but then kept falling behind, whining miserably – perhaps because he wanted to stay with us, but also felt that he was getting too far away from his pack and the lady in heat. It was heartbreaking.
And so is the situation of a lot of dogs in Taiwan, it would seem. When I hiked the Tianzhong Forest trail I hiked past a small shrine of sorts and there were 5 or 6 dogs in really miserable condition. One of them had such a bad case of mange that he almost had no fur left, and had countless wounds on his skin. I saw them in the forest later again when I was on my way back to the car, apparently they all live there at the mercy of the hikers and their leftovers and trash.
I don’t know how expensive it is to treat a dog with mange in Taiwan. Vets are expensive here in the US, that I know, but then again, Toni gets an amount of care that the street dogs in Taiwan simply wouldn’t need. I found it odd to find food offerings for deities and ancestors left at temples and shrines, and then see super skinny dogs being shooed away by humans. I found it odd to burn shitloads of incense and “god money” at temples each day for people who are long dead, and see the suffering of a live animal, with a soul, right next to it. And I found it odd to see giant monasteries with huge granite statues and golden warrior statues and glass decoration panels, built solely from donations, and crippled, three legged dogs living next to it.
And the people that have dogs seem to regard them more like accessories or toys – it doesn’t make sense to bring a tiny Chi Hua Hua the size of a rat on a hike! People do it anyway, even though it’s quite plainly visible that the dog has a hard time walking these distances and keeping up. I saw other dogs in a small street side crate outside of the house that was in direct sun, and yet others being kept on a chain at all times. Dogs don’t seem to have much value in Taiwan, and people don’t seem to know or to care about what great companions they are. And that made me pretty sad.