After Paul returned from an early morning excursion to sort out more boat business, we set off on the short journey to the Mai Khao area where the above organisation is located. We had already learned the whereabouts of the turn off in the road we needed to take, having passed it every time we went out in the car, but I hadn’t expected the road to carry on for the distance it did. It seemed we were going further into the country which made sense considering it’s a facility that cares for hundreds of dogs and cats. I had been aware of its existence and the work they do for several years because a friend of mine’s son works there and she had invited me to like their facebook page. It was thrilling to know that I was going to see it at last after following their pictures and updates for so long. We drove through tiny picturesque villages and lush countryside with fields of golden pineapples on either side of us. It had rained a lot during the night but as we drove along the narrow empty roads, the sun came out and by the time we reached the place, it was very hot. There were a lot of cars lining the track that led up to the entrance which I was pleased to see because up until then we had seen hardly any and I wasn’t sure what to expect or how the visit would work, as we hadn’t actually booked a tour. We could hear barking and yapping as we got nearer and I half expected a group of excitable dogs to appear as a welcoming committee at any moment. I was pleased to see that the photographic tribute to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej showed him surrounded by, and cuddling, some of the dogs. He was a great supporter of their work apparently.
I needn’t have worried about what to expect. We followed the path a little way behind a family group up to the entrance and saw them go straight into the information tent. Before we got to that, however a friendly man came bounding up to greet us and to ask if we wanted to join the tour that would start in five minutes at 11am. I told him we hadn’t booked but he said it didn’t matter and told us to wait in the information tent with the others and someone would explain the details to us. The tent doubled as a refreshment area for staff breaks and several of them were chatting with visitors, answering questions and there was even a dog adoption process taking place. A lady from Wales introduced herself and gave us a form to fill in about where we’d heard of the place, our nationality etc etc. I did that while Paul read all about the work the charity carries out on the information boards. Dianne comes to Phuket every year with her husband to spend a few weeks volunteering at the centre. She was the one who commented it was the wettest November they’d ever experienced.
Our tour guide was European (I’d missed the part of her introduction that specified where from, along with her name unfortunately) and she began by giving us a brief talk on the history of the organisation, its work with other charities worldwide, and an overview of what they do. There were about 8 of us in the group, including a French couple with their little boy. The mum had to keep translating what was being said to her husband and son but the delays when that happened provided a chance to look around. I spotted a cage opposite that housed the cats. The ones I could see were laying on their beds staring out at us. I wondered if the barking bothered them much. Unfortunately the picture I took of them didn’t come out and for some reason they weren’t part of the tour itself but we were told we could spend some time with them afterwards if we wanted to. We were unable to do this as we had to return the car by 1pm.
We were taken to each area of the centre and informed what it is used for, and about some of the staff working there and their particular roles. One area we came to was very poignant with its sign displaying just 3 letters: DMT. It stands for Dog Meat Trade and is where those rescued from that vile business are kept. Known as ‘The Trade of Shame’ it is totally illegal but still thousands of dogs are smuggled across Thailand’s Mekong River for use in the Vietnamese dog meat trade. Heartbreakingly, some of the dogs are much-loved family pets that have been stolen. The dogs in this area were the most silent of all those we saw and were laying contentedly on the concrete pipes in their cages. It might be a romantic notion of mine but the thought occurred to me that it was almost as if they were aware of the fate they’d been saved from and were simply grateful to lie there with their companions.
In all of the compounds there were volunteers stroking, cuddling, and reassuring the dogs. We learned that the centre’s permanent residents, such as the blind, very old or terminally ill dogs tend to have the same carers because of the comforting bond that develops between them. Luckily there are plenty of local and long term volunteers for this purpose but volunteers come from all parts of the world and can stay for days, weeks or months depending on personal circumstances and visa requirements. We visited the hospital, the behavioural unit, the old-age facility and, right next to it, the ‘mum and puppies’ unit which delighted the little boy in our group. The puppies are usually adopted by families fairly quickly but with so much work being done to make them suitable for re-homing, more and more of the older dogs are being successfully adopted too.
There is far too much being done and going on at the foundation to explain it all in detail in this post but the main aims of the centre are:
- To reduce the stray population through sterilisation
- To treat sick and injured animals
- To shelter victims of cruelty who can no longer live on the streets
- To re-home suitable animals
- To feed animals who would otherwise go hungry
- To educate local communities about animal welfare
- To stop the barbaric and illegal dog meat trade and support those rescued from it
When the tour ended I went off to the merchandise area with others who wanted to buy things, while Paul waited at the information tent and left a very generous donation in their box. I left full of admiration for the workers and volunteers. It’s heartening to know so much is being done to help vulnerable animals. More pics of the visit below with a link in case anyone wants to know more about the organisation.
Link for organisation here