What is it like to have a Taiwanese street dog? Adventures with Ali

As many of you know, two weeks ago Ali came to live with us from Taiwan. We are fostering her for a group called Salty Dog Rescue.

So what is it like to have a street dog from Taiwan?

I asked this question before fostering her and couldn’t come up with a whole bunch of answers by Internet searching.

Surprise number one was that Ali came potty trained – I certainly was not expecting that. Not only is she potty trained but she will not poop on our property and prefers not to pee in the yard if she can help it. It means walks are very important but that she is a very clean and neat dog.

However it was difficult last week because she accidentally ate some old cat vomit. Very gross! This gave her diarrhea and since she wouldn’t poop in the yard it meant a night of me not understanding why she keep needing to go outside but would then kept run to the gate and jump up and down to get out of the yard. I was convinced that she hated us because we were not keeping her permanently and she had figured that out and was trying to run away in the night. Instead she was desperately trying to say, “please, please let me out, I really, really need to poop!”

The night after that she was better luckily but it still involved one walk at 3am. Not to mention trying to scrape diarrhea off of your neighbor’s lawns because your dog will not poop on yours.

The other thing that I really didn’t consider is how smart Ali is, and not in a Border collie or lab kind of way. We don’t have natural selection in our dogs in the United States. We pick and bred mostly for looks or for very specific intelligence traits. Ali is here because her parents knew how to make it on the streets. They knew how to blend in, get food, read people very, very well and get along.

I feel like Ali constantly watches us and learns from us. She also is the only dog I have met who doesn’t get tangled on a leash. The second the leash is in the wrong place she corrects it. When I walk her I feel more like I am working with a trained dressage horse. It seems like she can read my mind on where we are going and what my next thought is just by observing my body language.

Yesterday we were at the Fremont street fair with Ali and it was very crowded. She did very well, greeting people and other dogs in our path nicely until we hit the food and then she because completely crazed. There were all these people with plates of yummy smelling food and she wanted some, even more, she needed some. It was if her survival depended on it and it probably did at some time in her life. Before I knew it I had a dog dancing on the end of the leash. She would bound into the air, balancing on her hind legs and looking very cute in front of everyone we passed with the plate of food. Not the easiest thing to deal with when you are the person on the other end of the leash. I felt like I had a circus dog!

I’m sure she learned to stand on her hind legs to look cute and get food and that is how she survived on the streets.

We finally took her aside and feed her a whole lot of jerky treats we had picked up from the Darwin’s pet food booth. After that she calmed down a bit but still wanted to dance in front of people. I’m thinking there may be a good trick in this once we get all the basics down. Right now we are still back at sit and stay.

The cats are a bit harder. I think she has learned that if something small runs you chase it. One of my older cats quickly put her in her place by whacking her on the nose early on. That one whack sent her yelping to the far end of the room and since then the two of them are fine together. The two younger boys are a different story. We are slowly all learning to coexist and she does fine with them if she is on leash or if someone is petting her. We are trying to teach that very good things happen (you get lots of love) if you are in the room with cats and don’t chase them. I am hopeful that she will get this with more time and we have a trainer coming out on Saturday to help us with the process.

I keep on thinking she is going to finally get this cat thing down right before she gets adopted. But that will be good for her because it means she can go to a home with cats. However I picture my cats saying, “so we finally become friends with the dog and right when she is fun you get rid of her. What gives here?”

The third thing I didn’t realize is how hard it is going to be to give his girl up. She has now bonded with me, Adam and Martin. She sleeps with us at night. She is with me almost all the time when I am not working. And she is so sweet and loving and is starting to feel like a member of the family. I look into her eyes and worry about her feeling like we have betrayed her when she goes to a new family. At the same time I know we are giving her an excellent start in this country and in her new life. I know that with time she will get used to a new family and learn to love them as much as she loves us. And if they can provide plates of yummy food even better!

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