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20130818 Pet store window browsing

I currently live in Taipei by the Linjiang/Tonghua Night Market 臨江街通化夜市. On nearby Keelung Rd. 基隆路 is a concentrated strip of pet stores where the animal wares line up against the windows for a couple blocks.

20130929 Pet Park, Linjiang/Tonghua Night Market

I pass through the area frequently. And out of some semi-anthropological impulse and my longing for the Bows, I’ll often linger. I scan the windows and take note of presentation, cleanliness, apparent health and vigor of the puppies and kittens, etc.

Toy poodles, Corgis, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, Mini Schnauzers, Pugs, Maltese, Shih Tzu, and Dachshunds are in — as they were, when I last lived here. I see fewer large breeds in the pet stores, thank goodness, but many can produce Lab, Golden Retriever, and Siberian Huskies on call, if not in the display windows. What seems relatively new to me is the popularity of French Bulldogs, a minor surprise because I can only imagine how brachycephalic breeds suffer in this heat.

And of course, every pet store has Shiba Inu.

20130818 Pet store Shiba puppies know how to sell themselves

Sometimes, I stand in front of Shiba windows and try to re-imagine that swell of desire that made us pick Bowdu out from the pile. This is not to tempt myself anew with another Bad Idea. Rather, I’m trying to identify that first spark of emotion that results in these puppies getting sold — as they do, day in, day out.

20130816 Pet store Shibas

My feelings are far too mixed now to just succumb to innocent surrender, given what I’ve learned over the years. Yet, I do remember the lift of total transport, the moment you hold one of those puppies. And before the customer has the time to disperse those happypuppyclouds and think things through rationally, they’ve bought that wriggly ball of responsibility…

20130818 Pet store Shibas

And so it happened to the brother of that Shiba pair born July 11th, pictured above, playing with one of the pet store clerks. Two days later, I passed by the same pet store and noticed that only the sister was left, and a pug had been plopped into the missing Shiba’s place. Even curiouser, the date of birth had been changed in a pretty half-assed manner, with a single line added to make it look like the birthdate was July 4th, a whole week earlier. That means on August 18th, when the second picture was taken, the Shibas were just a few days over six weeks old, if the latter date is to believed. If the first date was right, the first Shiba was just a few days over five weeks old when he was sold.

Either way, those Shiba pups were way too young to be taken home, and the fact that the pet store proprietor changed the birthdate on the window indicates that they knew and were trying to fudge perceptions. Not that there are any firm laws in Taiwan against the sale of young pups, as in some parts of the US. In Taiwan, pet retailer laws only stipulate that the animals should already be weaned, and have not been determined to carry any communicable diseases or illness that makes them unsuitable for sale at the time.

I’d be surprised if anyone’s actually been fined for selling underaged puppies. Chances are that the Shiba puppy didn’t die the next day (and if he did, he would have been speedily replaced by yet another underaged Shiba). The people got what they wanted, and all is, hopefully, well. Dogs are pretty hardy creatures, even the ones born and raised under less than ideal circumstances. But it’s precisely because these lives are so easy to produce that I feel like we have the responsibility to protect their fecundity.

And yes, sometimes that “protection” is rendered through reproductive control. More words about that some other time.

One last bit that I thought was interesting…

20130827 Pet store Shibas

After the Shiba sister was also sold, this is the pair that replaced them in the window. They are advertised as “mixed blood” 混血 pups — combining Chinese 中 (Taiwanese) and Japanese 日 lines. What they’re emphasizing is the presumed authenticity of import lineage. Mostly I’m just amused by the idea that the dogs themselves possess nationality, such that the breeding combination results in a “mix” that nobody can see anyway.