Operating a taxi equipped with waterproof mats, paper boxes and pet food, a 54-year-old Taipei cab driver not only transports human passengers, but also ferries stray animals to their new owners.
For several years Yu Ho-ching (尤河清) has helped animal shelters and volunteers take strays to their new homes, for a reasonable fee, in spite of the threat of unpleasant odors that nervous animals may leave behind.
Yu has also provided free rides to stray animals whose foster carers are financially disadvantaged and he sometimes purchases pet supplies himself.
In an effort to ensure the comfort of animals riding in his car, Yu keeps a stash of pet food, places waterproof mats on the rear seats of his taxi and paper boxes on the floor mats.
Except for untamed strays, all animal passengers can be uncaged and are allowed to move freely around the taxi.
“I also try to ‘make conversation’ with these animals to alleviate their anxiety and calm them down,” Yu said.
Speaking about the drawbacks, Yu said some of the strays he has transported “smelled like sewage” and that he had to wear a facemask to reduce his urge to vomit.
“Thanks to the caring volunteers at animal shelters, the street animals I have carried in recent years appear to be far cleaner and healthier,” Yu said, adding that he nevertheless routinely deodorizes his car.
Yu said he was inspired to help animals after meeting a woman, surnamed Tsai (蔡), in Chiayi County about a decade ago who has dedicated her life to helping stray animals.
“The woman had taken such good care of the street animals she found that all of them were beautiful and healthy and were able to find new homes. I was deeply moved by her unreserved devotion to these lovely animals,” Yu said.
“Then I began picturing the hardships and predicaments these strays would have gone through if it were not for Tsai’s kindness, and I started feeling sympathy for them,” he said.
Since then, Yu has dedicated up to four hours a day to transporting strays to their new homes for animal shelters and people like Tsai.
“The thought of these animals being surrounded by love and living a happy life is enough for me,” Yu said.
Yu’s benevolence has touched many netizens, with some dubbing him “the guardian angel of fluffy children” and “a living Buddha.”
It has also made a lasting impression on a woman surnamed Chen (陳), who keeps more than 100 stray dogs in the hills of Taipei’s Beitou District (北投).
“After learning that I was a retiree without any source of income, Mr Yu not only offered to drive my sick pets to see a veterinarian for free, but also occasionally sent pet food to my house, delivered piles of newspapers for my dogs to urinate on and bought me lunch,” Chen said. “He is my savior.”
Recounting some of his most memorable experiences transporting strays, Yu said he had met three dog owners who asked him to take their dogs to animal shelters because they had to give them up because of financial difficulties.
“I started by asking why they wanted to give up their pets, then offered to give them free pet food and help them give their dogs temporarily to volunteers who work with strays,” Yu said.
“Then I told them to seriously consider their decisions and asked them not to give away their pets so easily,” Yu said.
Saying that he would continue to transport his animal passengers until the day he retired, Yu urged the public to think twice before getting a pet, and to adopt a dog or a cat from a shelter rather than buying one.