Taiwan Rescue Dog Spreads Love Around the World

Taiwan Rescue Dog Spreads Love Around the World
Photo Credit: Greg Brost

What you need to know

A rescued puppy captures a visiting couple's love for Taiwan.

Driving south along Provincial Highway 11 my wife and I weren’t prepared for the scene emerging ahead of us. We’d been surprised by stone sculptures and mountains and fog in Hualien, but we weren’t ready for the rich vegetation, cliffs, and open space of the east coast.

Powerful surf exploding on empty and sometimes armored beaches lured our eyes away from the highway and toward potential doom hundreds of feet below. It felt tropical and exotic and special, like an Asian Kauai or Big Sur. We felt lucky, and also a bit embarrassed.

花蓮 台11線
Photo Credit: Joe Lo @ Flickr CC By SA 2.0
Taiwan's east coast offerings oceans of stunning vistas.

Visiting somewhere new, stereotypes are sometimes inescapable, even for experienced travelers. We’d done some basic research on Taiwan, and planned some things to see, but visions of industrial sprawl still crept into our expectations.

Thoughts like these were reinforced by an encounter, weeks before our trip, with an American insurance executive who lived in Taipei for a time, but called it “an ugly city.” Based full-time in Bangkok for the last year, we had traveled throughout Asia during that time and even before. Just a day into our Taiwan visit, the island was rising near the top of our travels.

Taiwan was also in our hearts, we loved what we saw and the people we met and hoped to return for a longer visit.

We drove, ate, walked, explored, and generally did tourist things. Three days to visit wasn’t much time, but we relaxed and made the most of it. The geographer in me made sure to stop at a Tropic of Cancer landmark (two, I admit). We walked on deserted beaches and explored tidepools. We checked out the Baxiandong archaeological site and later crossed the eight arches bridge to Sansiantai Island. Returning north we ventured inland, exploring the Huadong Valley west of the Haian Range we passed bright green farmland and by streams through quiet townships.

After the east coast we went to Taipei and did more tourist things. Museums, a super tall building, markets, and more eating filled a day. We saw young women practicing hip-hop moves under intricate eaves of a historic building, and we saw tourists rushing out of colorful shiny buses, eager to explore shops and take pictures.

All groups added to the energy of a dynamic and impressive city. We returned to Bangkok with another adventure in our passports and in our memories. Taiwan was also in our hearts, we loved what we saw and the people we met and hoped to return for a longer visit. But we never made it back.

A few months later, we returned to California, our permanent home, for work. Settling into a Western routine we reflected on our experiences in Asia and especially our brief but impactful trip to Taiwan.

One Saturday afternoon my wife said, “Let’s get a dog.” She read about a nearby pet adoption group partnering with a Taiwan dog rescue organization. I wasn’t ready to add a dog to our one cat household, but I went along anyway to an adoption event. My gut told me we wouldn’t come back alone.

Puppies are cute, but the Taiwan puppies were over-the-top cute. Irresistible. When three-month-old James reached out through his pen, pawed my big toe sticking out from my flip-flop, I knew he was the one. Or, maybe he knew I was the one! We had a cat named James, so to avoid confusion, James the dog became Harry the dog after joining our family.

I learned more about him, too. His four brothers and sisters were rescued from Qishan sugar factory in Kaohsiung County on the west side of Taiwan, and then transported to California for medical care and adoption. We were told he’s a Basenji and German Shepherd mix, but I think he might have some Formosan Mountain Dog in him too.

We often hear, “That’s a good looking dog,” and I think Harry also knows he’s good-looking, self-confidence isn’t a problem. Even the time he needed a head-cone—to prevent scratching an injury—Harry strutted around with the cone and without a care, his head held high.

Photo: Animal Rescue Team Taiwan
James (now Harry).

A year after Harry’s adoption, work took us to Michigan. Harry loved the snow and the oversized squirrels. Scenes of his dark coat racing against blinding white snow form fun memories. In Michigan, Harry grew into an adult, and his loyalty matured too. One noteworthy incident involved a two-year-old nephew, who took advantage of his parents’ blind spots and a few seconds. While his parents’ and everyone else was distracted, the youngster climbed up on a kitchen table, shakily got to his feet, raised his fists upward like Rocky, and then danced with danger trying to keep balance.

Unlike the humans, Harry wasn’t distracted, and alerted everyone to potential disaster, barking with maximum urgency while keeping his focus on the boy. Harry saved the day, and from then on performed a kind of side-by-side body guarding service for his energetic little buddy.

After a couple of years the snow was too much for us, so we headed to Florida. Squirrels are much smaller in Florida, but Harry loves the beach. He’s back in a climate and latitude that’s similar to Taiwan, so maybe it makes sense in some cosmic way. He’s a loyal and protective member of our family and when we tell his story it warms the hearts of all, especially for my wife and I, because when we look at Harry we also think about Taiwan.

Photo Credit: Greg Brost
Harry, guarding bananas in Florida.

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Editor: Morley J Weston