There are some good responses, particularly from Icon (who is awesome for taking good care of responses), but here's my input as a cat owner and someone who has thought more than once about getting a dog. My house growing up never had fewer than 3 dogs and 1 cat at any time, all of them rescues.
StiffUpperLip wrote:1: eczema and asthma
I have asthma, and my wife (who hasn't moved in with me yet) has eczema, both of which are exacerbated by my two cats. Taking proper care of their fur and vaccuuming/using 3M fur-collecting tape helps immensely.
2: Related question. Are there breeds that are less likely to cause potential allergic reactions?
Poodles are very loving, though if you're a big dog person like me, their yapping and coquettish behavior is a little unappealing. They're really smart, though. The wife's family has one and try as I might, I just can't hate him.
3: Pet insurance.
The vet is pretty cheap. I suppose if your pet comes down with a chronic illness treating it would be expensive. But loving pets like children is a relatively new phenomenon in Taiwan (past decade or so, I would say), and I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes more common in the future as . No guarantees, though.
4: Moving house. At some point in the future we might well return to the UK. How easy/hard is it to move house with a pet? How expensive?
I don't know about the UK. I have a friend who got married and moved to the US and had to take her cats with. (They're part of the family, of course.) She said it wasn't too much of a hassle because they have their shots and everything in order. They were probably scared to death on the plane, though. I may move home at some point in the relatively near future, and my plan is to call an airline to ask about regulations because I assume they're on top of that.
5: How do you cope with the certain knowledge a large part of your life is going to be spent following it around parks and picking up its shit?
It's the same way with babies, isn't it? When you're playing with someone else's kid, he or she is cute and cuddly until a sudden vomit explosion or diaper emergency occurs, and then you hand the kid to his or her parent to deal with the unpleasant under-the-hood aspect of it all. But when it's your own flesh and blood (or, uh, fur) you just do what needs to be done without thinking too much about it.
That being said, many dogs can be trained to do their business indoors, which is pretty necessary because of Taiwan's unpredictable weather. My wife's family's poodle goes on a newspaper, which can be easily tossed into the trash when done.
7: I keep hearing how the Taiwanese are friendly wonderful people, and often they are, and then I see the huge number of stray or abandoned dogs and it infuriates me. What's up with that?
Feral dogs and stray dogs are two different things. Taiwan has tons of the former, which tend to be Formosan mountain dogs or their mixes, but you very rarely see a poodle or dachshund wandering the streets without a home. While all those xiao hei and xiao huang would make great pets, people see them the same way you see feral cats or even squirrels.
8: How safe is it keeping a dog in a high-rise building?
I like kids, but let's face it -- toddlers can sometimes be dumber than dogs. People raise kids in high-rises (after child-proofing, of course), and if they can do it with fleshy bipedals, you can certainly do it with a furry quadriped.
I know the level of responsibility you have, or should have, towards a pet.
It's important that you recognize this, but that's exactly the reason why you should adopt. So many people treat fancy designer dogs as fashion accessories. Wouldn't it be nice for you, someone who realizes a dog is a family member and not a toy, to rescue a life that nobody else wants? Your hestitation is precisely what makes me think you would be a good pet owner. Good luck!