Care for Dogs in Thailand

March 2012

Well I am home again after 2 months in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I got to meet up with a very good old friend of mine from Florida USA – after not seeing each other for 40 years, so it was a great and joyous reunion. My friend had been extremely helpful with helping me to find a flat and to get me “settled in”. I also got to work as a volunteer at a dog rescue center, Care for Dogs.

It was an amazing and fantastic time.

The center was situated about 15 km from Chiang Mai. I rented a small motorbike (moped) to get me there and back. I was at the center 4 days a week – the three other days were for staff only. I shovelled at least a ton of dog-poop. With 160-180 dogs that are fed twice a day there will be a certain amount of poop and if it isn’t removed it will attract flies and other unwholesome insects and diseases – not to speak of the smell that would be if the poop was left lying around. So I spent most of my time traversing the compound with my shovel and a scoop. I just loved it. It is such a meditative task that you can do while floating. So I took it upon myself to keep the compound poop-free. I got the nickname the “Pooper-scooper”, and I was proud of it!! I did also get to give a few dogs a bath from time to time and to assist in other small practical matters. But the best was of course the interaction with the dogs!!!

There were 169-180 dogs – it varied a bit – of all kinds of mixtures of breeds. There was a Rottweiler, a couple of Siberian huskies (in Thailand! – with no sledge!!!), some schnauzers, cocker spaniels, pugs, and of course a lot of “Thai-dogs” – yellowish “general” dogs, which could be very sweet but also very feisty. A slow trickle of dogs were adopted by hopefully good homes, but new dogs were continually being added to the stock – some were left outside the center on a string, some were brought in by the police, and some were picked up by the staff, and some were transfers from other rescue organizations.

The compound was around 2000 m2. It was laid out with 3 dog platforms/gazebos under roofs and some separate enclosures for special cases such as chemo-therapy, post operative R&R, quarantine, geriatrics, puppies etc. One platform was inhabited by mostly male dogs, one with a motley crew, and one with mostly females – they had distributed themselves that way. The whole compound (except for the special enclosures) is an open area where the dogs can freely roam around and get acquainted (or in a fight). But most of the dogs had their preferred hang-out. In the Male-dog fortress there was always something going on – a fight (usually never a serious one), a quarrel, and an argument with lots of howling, growling, and yapping. They were the ones who started the howling concert every time a staff member left the compound. Oh yes, they can distinguish between the different person there – some get a whole concert and some just a cursory “howlette”. It was a very lively place. The same goes for the “Office-block” where there were all kinds of dogs – blind ones, lame ones, some with a missing leg, the Rottweiler, and they were quite rambunctious too. The “Ladies Castle” was at the back and was really quiet and mellow and usually very peaceful, except when an unwanted male dog came to prowl around – the ladies didn’t like that at all – then they would really gang up on him and tell him in no uncertain way that he was NOT wanted there and better hit the road jack.

Whenever I took a small break from the poop-scoop, like when I came back after having lunch (”kao pat jair” – fried vegetables & rice), at a wonderful little café-place at a petrol station nearby, I always went to their little peaceful haven where I was greeted with open laughing doggie smiles, and I lay down on the top platform and then the dogs would come and lie around me and on top of me having a really good time. They were overwhelmingly sweet. I could well have brought 2 or 3 of them home with me, but I had promised my wife and our own dog to NOT do that. But I did fall in love with one of them. Leaving her again was hard.

Every other week there was an “adoption fair”. That took place at a large shopping mall where we had a stall with a couple of tables with goods for dogs and T-shirts, and a collapsible dog-kennel with a sample of dogs for adoption. It was of course also done to promote the Care for Dogs organization, which relies solely on contributions. It was mostly the puppies that got adopted at these fairs, though.

The Staff, the regular workers at the center, were extremely nice and sweet, and there were of course many other volunteers besides lil’ ol’ me. A fantastic work was being done here. Not one dog was rejected or put down. All the dogs were tended and cared for, they were fed very adequately twice a day, they had a bath at least once a month, and if they got sick they were attended by a veterinarian. All the dogs were (or would be shortly after admission) neutered so they couldn’t make any more street dogs. There were 3-4 blind dogs who managed surprisingly well, and one of these who used to hang around the female castle got to know my voice and also the tread of my feet. She took quite a liking to me. There were also dogs with other ailments – a couple with a missing front leg who were able to get around reasonably well, there was one with a missing lower jaw – yes there were many small tragic cases that might make a tear well up. Sometimes I couldn’t help but wonder if we would have done the same at home. I think some of the more tragic ones would have been euthanized in Denmark – but this was the attitude at the center, that they didn’t euthanize unless it was because of some REALLY SERIOUS circumstances with much pain and no prognosis.

When walking around in Chiang Mai city and in the area as a whole there were of course dogs everywhere, but they weren’t strictly speaking ”street dogs”. They all belonged to somebody or some place. They would lie outside the temples, in front of a shop or workshop, in a family’s driveway, in the yard of an apartment building. But of course not all of them were in good health and fit for fight, so the staff of the center also spent time going around checking on the dogs they saw, offering treatment and neutering as needed, and following up on previous “customers” and adoption families. After treatment the dogs were delivered back to their owners if possible.

It was a really good place for the dogs – I would say that these dogs are the lucky ones – they have food and water and shelter and companions and people who care about them and love them. What more can a dog want? A little freedom perhaps – but that is of course dangerous what with all the traffic and the danger of being picked up by a dog-meat squad who wants to take them to get slaughtered for their meat. It is forbidden in Thailand but it can still be found and many dogs are caught on the street and freighted to Laos or Vietnam to get slaughtered there. But also in this area have Care for Dogs been active.

As you can see I had a fantastic experience there at the center and in Chiang Mai, and if anyone should want to go to Thailand, which is a wonderful place with beautiful, friendly, and smiling people (I haven’t smiled so much for ages), then consider spending some days with Care for Dogs helping out and talking to a few dogs, instead of just loafing about on the beaches, in temples, or in girly-bars. They will be days well spent I can promise you. And it FREE!!! As opposed to many of the other “volunteer programs” that you can find.

”If dogs run free – why not we – across the swooping plain” – Bob Dylan

"We cannot change the world, but if we help a dog surely the world will change for that one dog" - Karin from Care for Dogs.

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