Six snarling stray dogs came at me and Spike this afternoon while I was walking Spike. They went for Spike, who was pleasantly going about his business at the park. They acted like a hunting pack and were growling, snarling, and snapping. When I saw them approach and surround my Frenchie Spike, who was off leash, I ran at them, shouting and swearing loudly, using my umbrella to scare them.
And scare them I did. They ran off, almost as quickly as they appeared. I pursued them until they were gone. Umbrellas work well with strays, who are usually scared of them and run away. Most strays are scaredy cats; they’ve grown used to men harming them, so they stay away from people who make noise and have umbrellas or sticks.
I realized I hadn’t been afraid and I’d be damned if some ruthless strays would hurt my Frenchie. Spike didn’t move during the exchange. He’s a dominant dog, but he knew that he was outnumbered. They didn’t hurt him either. One of them snapped at his neck and jowls, but I started my charge before they drew blood. Maybe I should have yelled ‘Sparta’.
When I arrived at the dog park today, Winnie was there. Winnie is a young Frenchie bitch that behaves strangely around Spike. I was curious to see how she would react to him. Initially, they were fine together, albeit somewhat testy. Once Winnie’s owner started petting Spike, things went awry. Winnie started barking at Spike, furiously. My guess is that she was jealous and didn’t want Spike around, stealing her mistress’ affections.
She continued to bark and turn around Spike for a while. It was funny when it started out, because she kept at it, even when Spike chased her away. As a full blown male Frenchie, the dominant one of his litter, meaning that he was also the largest, Spike rarely backs down, unless it’s from significantly larger dogs. I’ve seen him cower only a few times, and that was when he was facing an adult Rottweiler.
After a while, it stopped being funny. I could see that Spike was getting weary. In fact, he got quickly tired and started walking home. That was definitely a first. He will usually indicate when he’s finished and ask me to go home, but this time, he started walking away. I went after him and put the leash on. We continued our walk and left Winnie in peace.
Spike is a pretty laid back dog. He’s very friendly to everyone, and has never bitten anyone either. He will defend himself though, even against larger dogs. None of the Frenchies that I have seen in Taiwan are breed standard. Their chests aren’t large enough, which makes me think that they have been interbred with Boston Terriers, but I’m not sure of this. None of them have papers from the AKC or CKC. Spike does, as a purebred championship French Bulldog.
I still take Spike out every day to the dog park. The membership has slightly altered over the last year. Most of the people who used to come don’t come together anymore. This is down to an annoying dog owner, who was referred to as a “hick” by another Taiwanese. It was implied that she was ignorant of a lot of things. I don’t see her anymore. The language encapsulated her hickness from me.
This means that most nights, Spike hangs out withe a bunch of playful Border Collies, who are quite nice dogs. There’s Star, who’s got a genetically cued herding instinct, and keeps circling other dogs in an effort to herd them. When it doesn’t go her way, she gets really annoyed.
Most nights, I take the time to visit the terrier club that meets every night. I’ve known them for a while and I’ve noticed that Spike, the old dog that he is, likes to interact with them more than with bigger dogs. When Spike was younger, he enjoyed playing around with the big dogs. The big dogs play rough. At around 7 years old, Spike likes it easier.
There is a small poodle named Ciao Pan who keeps porking any bitch that is his size. He is relentless and will screw her for hours if possible. There’s Cue Cue, who keeps wanting to play with an injured terrier. The owner keeps him in his arms, and Cue Cue as well as Ciao Pan keep jumping up on the owner, trying to get to the terrier. They are also relentless in this. It makes me laugh, and I don’t hide that. It’s definitely funny seeing a small fluffy white dog screwing another dog. The other terrier owners try to take their dogs away, but the poodle keeps at it.
It’s a little past midnight, and a man gets out of a courtyard. He’s got a dog in tow and he’s walking quickly towards a nearby park. The dog follows his master obediently on the leash. It’s a French bulldog, all muscle and all clown. The owner is pulling the dogs along. He sees a bunch of stray dogs nearby, strangely clustered around a large container. The man doesn’t think too much about it and hurries onward.
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Moscow’s stray dogs are able to use the subway to forage for food. Kind of amazing.
They also acted differently. Every so often, you would see one waiting on a metro platform. When the train pulled up, the dog would step in, scramble up to lie on a seat or sit on the floor if the carriage was crowded, and then exit a few stops later. There is even a website dedicated to the metro stray (www.metrodog.ru) on which passengers post photos and video clips taken with their mobile phones, documenting the savviest of the pack using the public transport system like any other Muscovite.
His observations have led Poyarkov to conclude that this leader is not necessarily the strongest or most dominant dog, but the most intelligent – and is acknowledged as such. The pack depends on him for its survival.
“The second stage of becoming wild is where the dog is socialised to people in general, but not personally,” says Poyarkov. “These are the beggars and they are excellent psychologists.” He gives as an example a dog that appears to be dozing as throngs of people walk past, but who rears his head when an easy target comes into view: “The dog will come to a little old lady, start smiling and wagging his tail, and sure enough, he’ll get food.” These dogs not only smell who is carrying something tasty, but sense who will stop and feed them.
“The metro dog appeared for the simple reason that it was permitted to enter,” says Andrei Neuronov, an author and specialist in animal behaviour and psychology, who has worked with Vladimir Putin’s black female Labrador retriever, Connie (“a very nice pup”). “This began in the late 1980s during perestroika,” he says. “When more food appeared, people began to live better and feed strays.” The dogs started by riding on overground trams and buses, where supervisors were becoming increasingly thin on the ground.