When encountering stray dogs, most people in Taiwan will either walk the other way or maybe tease them for a while, but Liu Te-shun (劉德勳), vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, is different. He will often take them in, take them to the veterinarian and then begin to search for a home for them -- even dogs that are injured or are suffering from serious illnesses.
Liu's penchant for taking care of stray dogs developed a few years ago when a stray cocker spaniel followed his young daughter home from school one day and ended up never leaving.
"He was our first and he still lives with us now. My daughter was in high school at the time and now she is already working," Liu said.
He can't remember exactly how many canines he has adopted over the last few years or the amount of money he has spent on them.
Liu currently has eight stray dogs at home, including an Akita, which assumes the role of father to the younger puppies.
"Before contacting people who take stray dogs, we leave them temporarily at home or veterinary hospitals. So the Akita is always having to adjust to the new puppies coming and going," he said.
The Akita, which was discovered by Liu's daughter in the street, was in really bad physical condition when it was found. It had severe intestinal bleeding, and didn't trust strangers and growled every time his daughter went near him.
"We tried to coax the dog to an out-of-the-way place so he wouldn't be reported to the dog catchers. We went to the place every day and lit mosquito coils, fed him and cleaned up his waste until he finally began to trust us," he said.
The Akita was then taken to a veterinary hospital for surgery and had its intestinal problem fixed, turning it now into what Liu calls "Mr Nanny" to the other puppies that are currently staying at his home.
While many people might presume that all street dogs are homeless from their appearance and behavior, the first step should always be to have them taken to a hospital, Liu said.
"People who have lost their dogs might try to locate them in nearby veterinary hospitals. Plus, the veterinarians will rid them of fleas and bugs, check their physical condition and give them any injections they may need," he said.
How long the dogs willneed to stay in the hospital varies, Liu said, remembering he once took in a black dog that was suffering from a skin disease which ended up being hospitalized for about two months.
"That dog, who was being fed by a dormitory official, was thrown out after its hair started falling out. When we found him cowering under a car, he had lost almost all of his hair. Now, he has regained his glittering black coat and his new owner took him to the US when he moved there last year," he said.
Liu said that his family and friends used to give away the stray dogs they found to dog lovers outside the Jianguo Holiday Flower Market on weekends, but now they have set up a Web site that displays all the photos of the stray dogs they have picked up from the street.
"After giving the stray dogs away, we are constantly following up on how the dogs are doing in their new adopted homes, especially the puppies," Liu said.
"Late one night a family who had taken a stray called us, saying that the puppy wouldn't stop crying. We told them to take an alarm clock and wrap it in a towel and then put it next to the puppy because it might calm down, because the ticking of the clock sounds like the heartbeat of its mother," he said.