Thailand. A dreamer’s paradise where anything can, and will, be handed to you on the metaphorical silver platter. Sometimes holding yourself back from letting loose is really one’s effort to try and tame this beast of manipulation and temptation. As you struggle to avoid the temptations, there is a problem that is easily seen but not readily heard: The dogs of Thailand.
The amount of stray dogs is astonishing. These wandering souls are often being neglected and deprived of proper love and care. Many have homes to head to at the end of the day and someone to look after them, but many others are orphaned children of the gutter.
Some friendly, and some not so much, constantly searching for the next meal, the amount of dogs roaming the streets depends on which city or town you’re discussing but their presence throughout the country is a constant. There are shelters for these lost animals, but usually only the injured or sick are accepted leaving the lonely and homeless without refuge.
During our short 2-month visit we came across some dogs we grew to know and love. Others we had to avoid because of their aggressive nature (especially, for some reason, when we were riding by on a moped).
Connecting With The Dogs of Thailand
On our visit to Thailand, our first stop was Northern Thailand to the second largest city in the country – Chiang Mai.
Before flying there we decided to check out accommodations on Airbnb and found Bob, an expat from Canada, who has called Thailand his home for the last 25 years. Bob built some beautiful teak guesthouses on his property and within the last year decided to rent them out to people looking for an alternative to hotel living.
On his profile he made sure to say “must be a dog lover” because Bob has 7 of his own dogs. Some, he told us, fail to read this part of his profile and end up being a bit hostile towards the dogs. We, on the other hand, were excited! He picked us up from the airport and on the way back to his house he told us a bit about himself and his dogs.
Unfortunately, one was missing, “Pepper hasn’t been home for days – it’s not like him”, Bob told us.
When we arrived we met the other 6 dogs: Blackie, Bug, Strawberry, Burt, Lucy and, our favorite, Geeky. We got to know and love these dogs during the 2 weeks we stayed with Bob.
Luckily, after 3 days, Pepper returned home. He must have been out looking for the ladies, as he was at that stage of his life, and it was the only reasonable excuse we could come up with.
We were sad when we finally parted and had to say goodbye to our Chiang Mai family and the dogs we had come to love. That was our first experience with the dogs of Thailand and in this case, they were well cared for even though they roamed free and never stepped a foot inside the house.
As we mentioned, Bob’s dogs were outdoor dogs but they had a home. Some others had homes, but the majority seemed like they had none. Nose low to the ground constantly searching for anything to eat, they appeared alone and without direction.
We didn’t have much of a relationship with any other dog after Chiang Mai until our last few weeks in Thailand.
We made our way down to Koh Phangan, a small island in the south known for its world-famous full moon parties. Our visit here was strictly business, arriving on the boat as the “full-mooners” were leaving. This visit was for a writing workshop and it so happened that this workshop was taking place at the Phanganburi Best Western (Now the Buri Beach Resort) the island.
After a few days of getting to know this resort and the area of the island we noticed a little four-legged guy, very straggly and appearing as though the only bath he had was in his beachfront bathtub (the ocean) – we realized quickly that he lived on the beach. He tended to come over to us when we were in the area and follow us around as we walked the beach.
We immediately dubbed him “Mr Scratchy” since he couldn’t seem to walk ten feet before he had to scratch some itch, somewhere. We found it amusing but after a while we became concerned. An itch like this would drive anyone truly insane – imagine having to live with it every day?
We enjoyed his company (from a distance) and we think he enjoyed ours.
Another funny character was the dog that lived at the 7-Eleven down the road from the Buri Beach Resort He hung out in the front waiting for people to feed him and when he was hot we would find him inside cooling off with the air conditioning. We thought this was amusing because seeing a stray dog relaxing in a convenience store is not something we would ever witness back home. He even followed us back to our bungalow one night and hung around long enough to drink the water we offered him before returning back to his spot at the 7-Eleven entrance.
The dogs that roam the streets of Thailand are numerous and sad to see for someone from a culture where stray dogs are considered creatures in need of rescue. What makes it harder is that these animals sometimes reach out… when your eyes lock with theirs you can almost read their thoughts and it can break your heart. Most are kept fed and treated with dignity, but there are some that need a bit more love and caring. Perhaps Thai culture isn’t ready to fully let these creatures into their homes and their hearts.
Have you ever travelled somewhere that had a very different approach to the treatment of animals or people than your own culture?? Comment below and let us know about it!