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My Dog Sunday
Shi-Lin, Taipei, Taiwan
Meeting the Local Dogs
When we lived in Taiwan (which used to be known as 'Formosa' - beautiful island), our home was in Shi-Lin, a suburb of Taipei City. My husband was there to minister to the 'Ex-pats' and was the only foreign Anglican priest in the Diocese. Some of the people who attended the church were more or less permanent, but many came for business and did not stay long.
Among those who came to the English services quite regularly was a group of children and their carers from an orphans' 'village.' After we had settled in, we visited the village complex and found, behind a protective wall, a neat road dotted with cottages set in their own gardens of flowers and vegetables. Each cottage had a 'parent' who cared for about eight children - and a dog. They were similar to those we had seen in the streets, a pale golden colour with a tail that curled around over the back, and I admired them. At that time I thought that they were the Formosan Native Dog, but since then I have come to realise that they must have been the result of cross-breeding with imported dogs, as their colour was different. We called them Taiwanese dogs.
It was lovely to see these dogs well cared for and they made good, reliable pets as well as good watchdogs. However, at that time back in the city there were many street dogs that roamed in small packs, half-starved, mangy, and a number had been injured by the heavy traffic. I found it hard to cope with seeing these poor animals, sometimes dragging broken limbs, or even with part of their entrails showing as they struggled to find food. It is not like that now, for which I am very thankful.
We Meet Sunday
One steamy Sunday, as we came out of the church, the children were keen to show me a cardboard box that had apparently been sitting in the hot sunshine all through the service. Inside was a gift for me; a tiny, panting puppy. When they asked me what I would call him, I decided on the name of 'Sunday.'
So Sunday came to live with us. I found that, apart from food and water, the first thing I was expected to buy for him was a cage. That was what people here did, they had a cage for their dog, so eventually one was set up in the glassed-in balcony. As he grew, apart from taking him for walks in the evenings when we had time, we took him up and let him roam on the spacious flat rooftop, as no-one else in the building used it since the garden there had been blown to pieces in the last typhoon. There he had freedom, water and shade during the day.
One Sunday the children came to visit him and couldn't believe how much he had grown; he was now much bigger than his mother and I was told firmly that I was feeding him too much meat, he needed more rice.
When he jumped up on me with all the excitement, I said,
"Sunday! Down! Sit!" He sat. The children were astonished.
"He understands English!"
I found that some people had expensive breeds of dogs and cared for them like a baby.
- I noticed that one local man took his poodle, that was quite young and fit, for a 'walk' in a shopping trolley. When there was a long stop at some traffic lights, he took out the dog's hairbrush and whisked some fur back into place when it had been pushed the wrong way.
- There were vets and, from my experience, found that they were very good.
- The dogs at the children's village were well cared for voluntarily by a kind local vet, but unfortunately he did not ever neuter their dogs, so there were always puppies that needed to be given away. I guess it was educational for the children, but a nuisance for the village managers.
Once I went with one of the village leaders in his van. He had invited me for a ride to see the local area as he tried to offload the puppies.
At one place we stopped at a factory. My friend made a little speech and offered them to the workers, adding the proviso,
"Mind! These are for pets and are not be be eaten for dinner!"
Sunday is Lost
A new family came to live on the fifth floor. We explained about Sunday and asked them to be sure to always close the child safety gate as they came down the stairs, so he wouldn't escape. I found they did not always close it properly and reminded them again. I felt they thought I was being overly fussy.
Shortly after this, one Sunday evening when I went to get Sunday, the gate was open and he was missing. I had grown to love my pet and was devastated. I think the locals thought it was a lot of fuss about nothing, but I got my husband to go with me, walking around the streets in the dark for hours, calling,
"Sunday! Sunday!" with tears running down my face.
I think they thought the missionaries had gone mad. But it was all to no avail. Although I watched for him whenever I went out, I never saw him again, but at least I did not see him wounded, so perhaps someone else had found him and adopted him, as often happened.
That is what I like to think.