Sunday, April 24, 2005

Street dogs

You see them by the dozen in every corner of the city. Scroungy, hungry-eyed and skulking, they look prepared to bite off your toes and eat them for dinner. Yet I know of only person in Taipei who's actually been bitten, and he was merely nipped. Plus he deserved it.

What dawns on you after a while is that not all these furry vagabonds are as homeless as they appear. Many of them, in fact, can be observed consorting with human families, and the street-dog population seems to fall dramatically when the sun goes down. So a lot of these characters actually have homes. It's just that they're left free to wander the streets from dawn to dusk, darting into traffic and crapping on the sidewalks.

A few weeks ago I went into a shoe shop so I could get a heel replaced. While I waited for the work to get done, a short fat dog with black circles around his eyes, raccoon-style, kept running inside to shake water off his fur. The shop owner would chase him out but he'd sneak right back inside, flinging dog-water in fine droplets all about the shop. I'd have chased him out myself but I was afraid he'd touch me.

Back to the issue of dogs darting into traffic -- a friend who has lived in Taipei for years tells me that he's never seen a dog hit by a car in this city. The claim is preposterous on its face, but I've never seen a dog hit either, and I've been watching eagerly. How can a city with so much traffic and so many dogs fail to produce dog carcasses? I think we may be witnessing evolution in action -- a form of natural selection in which animals unable to deduce the logic of auto traffic don't get the opportunity to reproduce, making each generation cagier than the last. I've actually seen dogs standing at intersections among the pedestrians, waiting for the light to turn green, then trotting across the crosswalk as if on the way to work. I'll be on the lookout for dogs hailing taxis.

1 comment:

the j said...

You're completely right. I was always surprised about the lack of roadkill in Taiwan. I've seen the dogs waiting at the lights too. In fact, I saw one this morning on one of the busier intersections in Xinzhuang.

Until today though, only roadkill I'd ever seen was a couple of mice. Then today, I saw something bigger, outside my office. It was otherwise unidentifiable - it looked like a big, bloody leg of mutton, but with fur. Dog? Cat? No jokes about the size of rats in Taipei please.

Kind of creepy.