There are times when the last thing I want to be is a foreigner. I want a simple life close to family and friends. It’s a part of the culture shock rollercoaster, and I have two antidotes: working out and TUAPA.
I posted about my first experience at the Taichung Universal Animal Protection Association, where homeless dogs and cats are sheltered and given a better life. I’ve now volunteered several Saturdays to the shelter, affectionately called The Mountain due to its location at the base of a steep hill; in fact, yesterday Johanna, the lead volunteer, let me take one dog, which was previously off limits to me because of her temperament, for a walk.
Johanna and Joey are a married couple. She’s from the United States, and he’s a native Taiwanese. They volunteer countless hours to TUAPA, raising money, doing physical labor around The Mountain, loving the dogs, creating promotional videos (I’m in this one!), and responding to emergencies (like the time The Mountain was on fire). They are generous, dedicated and selfless; on top of all that, they both know how to laugh. Because of them, these dogs and cats have a fighting chance.
I’ve always loved dogs, but my family always joked that I wasn’t a dog person. I didn’t understand what they meant, and used to get defensive when they said it, until I started volunteering at TUAPA. A person can like dogs and enjoy playing with them, but still not know how to interact with them. If you don’t know how to handle yourself around dogs, and if you don’t understand how to handle the dogs themselves, you’re going to be ineffective and a danger to yourself and the animals.
Normally I work with the dogs in Building 3. There are six buildings housing one thousand dogs, and our job yesterday was to replace four of the cages in Building 5, in the large cell that held the biggest dogs: rottweilers, a Dalmatian, golden retrievers, and a handful of others. As a big dog person, I was in love at first sight.
Of course, Johanna and Joey aren’t the only hardcore volunteers; many, many people shed blood, sweat and tears to keep these animals alive and healthy.
Taking care of a thousand animals is no small feat. When you take into consideration the supplies, the medical necessities, the food, the small salaries of the staff, you realize that TUAPA is a miracle.
Please consider donating to The Mountain. As it is a no-kill shelter, the population of helpless dogs and cats will only grow, and new cages, leashes, and international flights to no-kill shelters abroad are always in the budget. They need all the help they can get.