Bangkok Street Dogs

A place to learn about the lives of street dogs in Bangkok, Thailand, with emphasis on the individual characters of the Bangkok street dog community and their stories of hardship and humor.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Introducing Jim the Canine Saint

(Many thanks to William McLay for use of this photo)

Life for a street dog in Bangkok is no picnic. Nor is it a walk in the park. In fact, you can pretty much plug in any cliche for something enjoyable, and a Bangkok street dog's life will not resemble it.

Although there are some kind human souls in the city who regularly give stray dogs water and leftover scraps of food, and allow stray dogs to hang out in front of their homes, the canine competition for limited resources is quite fierce. As a result, Bangkok street dogs have to look out for themselves, because for the most part, they face the world alone.

However, there are some selfless (and clever) canines who have taken it upon themselves to do whatever they can to help their street dog brethren. Jim, an extremely intelligent, crafty 5 year old street dog of Alsatian ancestry, is one of these special souls. He is seen here using his talents to collect spare change from pedestrians on an elevated walkway near Bangkok's Victory Monument.

Jim was once one of Thailand’s most sought after canine actors, and appeared in dozens of television commercials, for products such as dog food, pet shampoo, and allergy medicine. However, around the time of his third birthday, Jim began to take a long, hard look at his life and decided he was not doing enough to help others. So, Jim decided to leave his family home and set out to raise money to help the cause of his fellow Bangkok canines.

Jim’s most effective fund-raising method is to dress up in ragged clothing and gaze up with mournful puppy dog eyes at pedestrians on elevated walkways and sidewalks all over Bangkok. Few passersby can resist dropping a few coins in his collection bowl. At the end of each day, Jim donates the money he has collected to organizations that help street dogs in Thailand, such as Soi Dog Rescue, Dogchance, Hua Hin Dog Rescue Center, Soi Dog Foundation, and others.

Jim is an inspirational example of a dog who changed the path of his very comfortable life specifically so that he could use his abilities as an actor to help others. “Although the financial rewards from my acting career were great, the rewards I have gained from helping other dogs are far greater,” says Jim.

The world could use more souls like him.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Francine the Stress Relaxation Expert

The street level sounds of Bangkok have to be heard to be believed. The traffic (when it’s actually moving) generates quite a din, with vehicles of all shapes and sizes -- motorcycles, tuk-tuks, pickup trucks, 18-wheelers -- all competing for space in a vicious motorized ballet staged daily on the narrow city streets. Making matters worse is the constant noise of construction taking place all over the Thai capital -- jackhammers, welders, cranes, cement mixers, etc. -- that combines with the traffic sounds in a continuous assault on the eardrums of man and beast.

If you're a Bangkok street dog who spends his or her days awash in this cacophonous chaos, oftentimes all you want to do is curl up in a ball, shut your eyes, and try to just keep the noise from intruding on the inner areas of your psyche. In this photo, Francine -- a four year old brown mutt who lives in the Saphan Kwai section of the city -- appears to be doing just that by having a nap. But actually, Francine is not sleeping at all – she’s meditating.

You see, Francine is a experienced practitioner of Zen meditation, which she uses to achieve a deep state of relaxation that enables her to block out the noises of her street environment. In this photo, Francine is in a deep meditative state despite being curled up in the middle of a busy sidewalk brimming with pedestrians, fruit sellers, and other dogs. Her breathing, pulse, circulation, and metabolism have all slowed dramatically, and her mind is completely at rest. She may appear to be asleep, but in fact she could not be more awake.

Meditation has enabled Francine to maintain a calm and positive outlook on life as a Bangkok street dog, and she has recently been talking about opening a meditation school to share her knowledge and technique with other homeless hounds. I’m thinking about trying it, as my nerves have been kind of frazzled lately by the tuk-tuk army that goes whizzing by my area every night. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Story of How Joe Found a Home

Joe, a three year brown mutt with distant German Shepherd ancestry, isn't really a street dog per se. Although he used to roam the area around Sukhumvit Soi 81, Joe was actually 'adopted' by a family about six months ago, and now spends much of his time living within the walls of their comfortable, happy home. He's pictured here getting a vigorous (and much-needed) scrubdown from his owner, Pi Dang.

Joe's story is one of a down-and-out street dog who had the very good fortune to be in the right place at the right time. Joe used to be a real nuisance in the Soi 81 neighborhood, and used to hang out with some pretty rough dogs who would often engage in vicious street brawls late at night. The resulting noise -- a horrific cacophony of snarling and shrieking -- would often wake up residents of the otherwise quiet neighborhood.

One night, after Pi Dang's wife and three daughters were woken up at 4:30 a.m. by a particularly nasty dogfight just outside their doorstep, an enraged Pi Dang came down with a cannister of pepper spray to dispense some vigilante justice to the still-battling hounds. But just as he was about to mace the dogs, Pi Dang's daughter, watching from an upstairs window, cried out "Wait, Dad, that dog right there (pointing at Joe) -- he's cute! Can we keep him?"

Pi Dang looked at Joe, looked back at his daughter, sighed, and took his finger off the trigger. The street dogs all ran away, except for Joe, who came trotting slowly over to Pi Dang, with a friendly, sheepish posture, as if to say "Sorry for all the noise, man."

The rest, as they say, is history. Joe is now a much loved member of Pi Dang's family, and although he has to endure the occasional bath, he tells me that its well worth it to be off the streets and in a real home. Although Joe's story is unusual, it does give the rest of us Bangkok street dogs hope that somewhere out there, in the endless eternal city, there's a family for us.