Leashed child
Originally uploaded by athomson

I was wrong in my last post. Ah-Gou’s owner didn’t lose him while hanging out in the park, she lost him while out shopping. Either way, it’s a situation that could have been averted if Ah-Gou was on a leash.

One thing I’ve noticed about living in Taipei is that many dog owners seem very reluctant to put their dogs on a leash when they take them out for a walk. They might even have one in hand, but they don’t use it and instead let their dog scamper freely down the sidewalk. My friends who’ve studied abroad in Paris said a lot of Parisians also seem happy to let their dogs roam unhindered, even near busy streets. On the other hand, I rarely ever saw a leashless dog in New York City or San Francisco — if they were, it was because they were playing in a dog run.

I suppose the difference has more to do with local laws than with culture. Either way, I think it’s a horrible idea to let your dog go leashless and just because a lot of people do it does not make it any safer. Dogs are smart, but it takes just one distracted leap in front of a moped or one idiot dognapper for a disaster to happen.

As for the photo — yes, I know that is a small human and not a dog. I just think it’s funny because my Mom actually experimented with child harnesses when my brother and I were little. She was always worried we’d wander off or get kidnapped, but gave up the child harness thing very quickly. I have a vivid memory of my brother climbing onto the luggage conveyor belt while we were at an airport check-in counter, and my Mom nearly being hauled in.

This reminds me of another random unexpected cultural difference… The Trailing Child. When I was living in NYC, I often observed parents walking down the sidewalk with their toddler following them at quite a distance. This happened everywhere, even on the Upper West Side, an area that is supposedly a hotbed of helicopter parenting. It always made me wonder what the parents were thinking. Granted, the chance of your child getting snatched while your back is turned is miniscule, but they could very well do something like find a pretty pebble on the ground and decide that the best place to store it is up their nostril (I did this when I was a toddler, a misadventure that led to me being rushed to the emergency room). On the other hand, I’ve never seen trailing children in Taipei. There always seems to be a parent, grandparent or other relative watching them with an eagle eye.