Walking into the 2013 Taichung Pet Show in Taichung City, Taiwan, the first thing I notice is the strollers. These are the high-end SUVs of strollerdom—large, canvas contraptions, some of the double-decker variety, with enormous rubber wheels and mesh shades. People whisk dogs, cats, and bunnies to and fro in the vehicles, sometimes opting for Babybjörn-like carriers and tote bags instead. “People have more pets due to the low birth rate,” a stroller salesman tells me. “It’s not easy to raise kids—you just have to feed dogs and don’t have to get them an education.” You do, apparently, have to get them a stroller.
The strollers are only the start. At the Ronger Design Studio, pet outfits include not just the sweaters on display in the U.S., but also two-part ensembles involving a hat and underwear (the “Physiological Pants” section of the Ronger catalog features everything from bumblebee-themed undergarments to French maid-esque pink-and-black-lace panties). “We originally started making outfits to make the animals look prettier, and then we needed to create a diaper, and then we needed to make the diaper look prettier,” the woman at the booth explains. The Dog and Royal Food stand serves up artfully arranged salads with julienned carrots, flaked salmon, and yellow sushi rolls—for dogs with discriminating tastes. During a wedding ceremony of sorts, pet owners ascend a platform and pledge, before a crowd of spectators, to always care for their animals, whom they refer to as “family members.” At one point, a human couple takes the stage holding a white terrier, only for the man to surprise his girlfriend with a marriage proposal after swearing fealty to the dog (stunned, and suddenly surrounded by other white-terrier owners, she says ‘yes’).