It is true when they say a dog is a mans best friend and at the safari park we had every piece of evidence to prove that!
Though they can survive on their own wondering the streets for drabs and scraps, a dog really is a mans companion and only dreams of all that love and attention, I believe with lots of TLC any dog could be transformed into a lovable, gentle creature. Thailand is a country with a high population of street dogs know in scientific literature as free-ranging urban dogs. They are seen as pests and unfortunately cost the community to much to keep as pets, with lack of medical care, vaccinations, and neutering/spaying the numbers of dogs roaming the streets is getting higher and higher!
This problem is occurring all over the world in countries such as South Asia, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Europe, Italy, Romania, Russia , Serbia, North America, Puerto Rico, East Asia, Philippines and Thailand.
I would like to talk about my experience with our own rescue dogs during my time at the Safari Park…
My first day I was greeted with 2 week old puppies, 4 of them! They couldn’t bark, run or barely open there eyes yet, at this point they were just precious little bundles who were smothered with love with from every volunteer like me who just couldn’t get enough of them! Their mother, Daisy was one of the volunteer dogs who along with her brother Sammy were the ultimate ‘leaders’ among the dogs at the house they had been there the longest and had earned there place, they were patched black and white and whilst Daisy chose when being a good mum suited her, Sammy enjoy being the cool uncle and playing with them once they were a little older. I left the park after my first week for 10 days to explore the north of Thailand and when I returned I found it hard to believe I was looking at the same 4 puppies. Barking they ran towards me eyes wide open, falling over there own feet and tugging on each others ears, they had transformed from bundles of fur into real little dogs with their own personalities and I just loved them! They now also had names… the 3 girls were called Ivy, Kota and Myttons and the boy was called Pepsi, they were all black with tan eyebrows, feet and cheeks apart from Myttons who was the runt of the litter with the cheekiest personality! she was all black with white speckles down her chest.
As the puppies got older and started to explore we started bringing one to the cat garden every now and then to introduce them to my other furry friends and before you think it… no we did not put a puppy in with our big cats! but they greeted each other through the fencing and whilst the puppies were extremely curious, Somying our female 7 month old leopard was dancing all over the place with excitement, a new play mate!
One of my favourite parts of the whole day was driving back from the cat garden on my scooter, pulling up at the volunteer house, getting down on my knees with my arms open wide and just shouting ‘Puppies!!!’ these little tennis ball sized heads would spring up all alert, turn to see you and run as fast as they could into your arms, biting the ends of your hair and licking you all over the face for kisses they were the best thing to come home too! Except one day I noticed one of the puppies did not seem herself, she seemed lethargic and uninterested in anything I had to offer her, toys or food. In fact all she wanted to do was lay in the shade and sleep and when I scooped her up she felt limp in my hands… we suspected she was anemic as her gums, tongue and eyelids had lost all color. This can be caused by a blood parasite which would be an understandable cause as multiple times daily we were having to pull ticks from all the dogs, it only takes a tick big enough to be carrying something to make these dogs extremely ill. I then realized how vulnerable they all were… especially the puppies but also the dogs, if something as small as a tick could be life threatening then imagine all the street dogs out there battling to survive when all it could take is a tick (a common parasite) to end their journey.
The puppies had their first set of vaccinations due in a couple of days so we kept a strong eye on Kota up until taking them to the vets. Every day she came with me and my room mate/head of cat garden/my safari best friend Marla to the Cat garden and we kept her hydrated made sure she ate and tried to keep her out the sun, she slept a lot and we gave her a few tepid baths when her temperature got too high. She also slept in my bed with me every night, she was good as gold and rested her head on my arm through out the night unless occasionally I was woken up to a quick lick on the cheek and then we’d go back to sleep. We arrived at the vets in those couple of days to follow, ready for their first set of vaccinations and Kota had her blood test with results showing she was severely anemic due to a blood parasite like we had suspected. The safari park was not responsible for the volunteers dogs as we had rescued and brought them in one by one of our own backs over time. This also meant we were responsible for paying the vet bill, 4 sets of vaccinations, an injection for the blood parasite and anemia tablets (Kota had to take for 2 weeks) however that was not a problem especially when all of that came to 900TBH, equivalent to around £18! I don’t know a single vet in the UK that would charge all of that for that price!, so what did it matter when it meant giving them the correct medical treatments.
I developed this special place in my heart for Kota after all the care and nights together seeing her get better was important for me before I left. I felt as if she was my dog like I loved her the way I loved my dog back home and leaving her behind was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I still check in on her and try to get updates when I can, she is far from the timid little scruff I knew and has grown into a healthy, mischievous dog.
Another one of the dogs that found himself a comfortable place at the volunteer house was A-Jax. He was also unlucky and almost died from a blood parasite, luckily the volunteers were there to take him in and give him care over night as everywhere was closed for the night and they were not able to seek him any medical treatment. The volunteers were sure he wouldn’t pull through until the morning, he was weak, lifeless, constantly being sick and wouldn’t eat or drink. This strong boy pulled through to the morning and was on medication which brought him to recover, he still has a lot of weight to put back on and looks quite thin in comparison to the other dogs but apart from that he is full of energy and spirit and can run for miles with his tongue flapping out the side of his mouth, he is a great companion who loves fuss and attention. One of the volunteers especially took a liking to A-Jax and will be bringing him back to the UK with him when he leaves the safari, A-Jax will have an official owner and A new home. There is even talk that they will be travelling to Canada together, they are both very lucky Boys!
There was also Princess… who really was a princess and a bit of a diva! When Princess arrived at the park she was one of the most aggressive dogs and was very weary of all human contact and extremely aggressive towards other dogs. Now she loves to be the little spoon for a bedtime cuddle and lives among the other volunteer dogs, though she still has her moments and can be a little temperamental she has come a very long way with the plenty of love and interaction, she would spend her days sun bathing with us down at the Big Cat Garden and she has beautiful big brown eyes.
During her time in Thailand our head volunteer Tat had come across many incidents with street dogs which ultimately resulted in her now owning 6 dogs of her own! Either because there previous owners have passed away, the dogs have had there own litter, the dogs were found nearly dead or needed medical care which usually gives you enough time to bond with them and then there is no going back. Though there is a couple in particular I want to talk about which are both pretty special and heart warming stories…
Firstly Meg, she was found on the side of the road as a pup covered in claret along side her brothers and sisters who very sadly were not so fortunate and had been hit by cars. Dogs will often nest of the side of the road and when the puppies arrive it can be a very fatal place for an upbringing, that is if they are not unwanted and dumped there. When driving a scooter in the bike lane it is very important to consider dogs may be sleeping in the lane and to keep an eye out when driving! I would hate to be responsible for one of these accidents. Meg has been the perfect pet, she has so much spirit and absolutely loves human attention, she lives among the other dogs and has done very well at adjusting into the safari life. In fact Meg has made such a lovely house dog Tat will shortly be sending her back to the UK to live with her mother and young brother who is disabled and will make them both perfect company! How incredible that a puppy scooped up from a gloomy fate, brought up with wild surroundings and influenced by dogs with street dog back grounds has been transformed into a trust worthy companion. Meg is a long haired beauty who loves to join Tat for trips into the city by catching a ride on the back of Tat’s moped, she is a blessing!
Recently there has been a new addition to the park, So Bo (Rainbow in Thai) was found in Kanchanaburi outside Mr Joe’s (Safari boss) English school.. She had severe mange, blood parasites and was infested with worms. She was about 6 weeks when they found her and she spent 2 weeks in quarantine at Mr Joe’s house for the blood parasites. When Mr Joe went on holiday unfortunately somebody took her from the house and dumped her on the road outside the volunteer house because they said she was being too noisy in the quarantine cage. One of the volunteers found her and took her to the vets as she was still hairless and malnourished, she stayed there for 2 more weeks in isolation. The day the volunteers picked her up from the vet was the day everybody fell in love with her and she moved in with Tat and Lee shortly after as she needed around the clock care. Within 2 weeks she was almost fully furred, worm and blood parasite free, and her immunizations will start very shortly! There was a set back when a left over duck bone from dinner was left in a bedroom and So Bo got hold of it, the bone splintered and lodged in her stomach meaning 3 more days at the vets but she is a fighter! Vet bills so far have cost around around 10,000TBH but she is worth every baht. She loves riding up front on the motorbike, and all the other dogs love her! Though she is the smallest dog in the house she has the strongest character and just look at the difference from before and after! What a transformation.
Unfortunately during my time in Thailand I witnessed many cases and sights with the street dogs that made me feel very sad and I’d maybe preferred not to have seen… however it has made me aware that this is not something we should turn a blind eye too. Unfortunately it is impossible to help every street dog you come across, that would be impossible but with more people becoming aware and willing to help, slowly more and more dogs can be homed and given the correct medical treatment they deserve. Many of the dogs are incredibly weary of the Thai people, ours at the safari were what seen as racist and would feel the need to put their guards up and become very defensive when near many of the Thai staff. They would become aggressive and chase them away, this is because many of them may have had bad experiences in the past among the Thai people. At the safari park the volunteers are working every day not only with the safari animals but also the temperaments and different behaviors of the dogs, giving them plenty of love, interaction and creating a bond allowing the dogs a chance to trust in people again, the ultimate goal would be to eventually home these dogs with loving families and even send some back to the UK.
If you are a dog lover and this page has reached out to you then feel free to visit my ‘Contacts and useful links’ page where there is contact information and also a donations connection. Simply select ‘International Smile’ in the header which will lead you to my other blog posts
Happy Easter everyone!