Saturday, 12 November 2011

Picky (挑剔) / Little Red (小紅)

My Taiwanese friends call her 小紅 (Shao Hong) - which means "little red", which is nonsensical because she is neither "little" (she weighs almost sixty pounds) nor "red" (she's black with streaks of light brown). The reason they call her 小紅 is that three years ago she used to have a red collar.

I began calling her "Picky" shortly after she first showed up in the park because, after she overcame her initial nervousness around people, she was still very fussy about food - sometimes she would eat what was offered her, but often she would not even though she clearly must have been hungry (you could see her ribs). To this day, no matter how much I try to fatten her up, she is still very lithe.

This dog is tough. She's about five or six years old I think, extremely athletic, agile and physcially confident and has almost always bossed the other dogs (though not without being checked by me). She has survived three years in that park with only occassional medical help from me and my Taiwanese friends (although food has been regular). In the last couple of times we tried to help her, I have had to carry her around on my shoulder to take her for an X-ray (we had to use a dart to render her unconscious), and I've been bitten for trying to move her leg to help the vet give her a shot. She cannot be taken willingly to the vet's, and she never leaves the park (which is good, because that reduces the chances she'll be run over on the roads).

She does, however, like to bark at people riding bicycles or scooters through the park after dark. This is something of a problem, not because she will bite anyone - I doubt it - but because many Taiwanese people are afraid of dogs and because the younger dogs sometimes imitate her. I can check them when this happens, but I have to anticipate it happening and raise my voice before either Picky or the other dogs get carried away.

She is also a stickler for attention. She will often approach me orthogonally when I'm reading the newspaper or playing with another dog and force her nose under my elbow, or under the newspaper or try to stand in front of me so that I will stroke her back. I can only get on with what I'm doing if I pointedly ignore her for a few moments.

All the same, I cannot imagine what life at the park would be like without Picky.

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