An American visiting Taiwan will be surprised in turns to see evidence of a rich, first world country that has many things America lacks (America still has coin operated phones, for example!) mixed with the feeling that you stumbled into a third world ghetto. One of the first things that will surprise an American is to see the hordes of stray dogs running around the streets, sleeping outside of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and occasionally picking fights or dodging in and out of traffic.
Due to the habit of Taiwanese people to ride motouche on the sidewalk where the dogs are trying to sleep, many of the dogs have lost a leg, and sometimes two. Yet the dogs, in all their handicapped glory, continue to run the streets, getting in fights in the intersections, quite oblivious to the fact that a three legged dog may not be the most powerful figure in the middle of a street filled with 10 ton keyun.
It briefly offended me, or at least seemed odd to me, that the Taiwanese people were so blase about homeless handicpapped dogs living amongst them, until I realized that in America, we only got that blase about people.
Life amongst the stray dogs will correct some notions some people may have about canine behavior. The fundamental tenent of canine anthropology is that the pack is the fundamental unit of canine life, and that most activities of any type somehow relate to the social structure of the pack. In Taiwan, much of my knowledge of canine anthropology was demolished at the same time as my understanding of sinic anthropology. Namely, that while the social structure may come into play at certain times, there is just too much eating, sleeping and playing to be done to worry too much about the ins and outs of the rules at any given time. Also, it is just too damn hot.
All jokes about eating dogs aside (yes, I've heard them, and I bet they were the first thing that came to mind when you saw this node title), all the dogs in China are relatively pampered. The stray dogs are collared, and they tend to orbit around one specific area, probably where they get a lot of food and\or a lot of food is dropped on the ground. Some of these places seem to be not very lucrative in the dropped food market, such as the little used utility trails around the Cingwen resorvoir. Whatever their home, the dogs always act very proud when you approach them, as if they were a proud yeoman farmer inviting you into their humble yet proud home. Although sometimes in a fit of excitement, they forget their hubris and yip at you threateningly while running away.
The dogs seem to have a fairly standard appearence, usually, looking something like a beagle, only somewhat slimmer, larger, and with a uniform tan coat. They usually run in packs of from 2 to 10, when they are running in pack mode. Some of them are more friendly to humans than others. The ones that live in undeveloped lots and scrubland tend to be rather nervous, while the ones that live next to trendy lingerie shops will often try to adopt people, embarassingly following you home and bobbing in traffic behind you as you walk down the sidewalk.
They also have curly tails, which may mean they are immortals.