An unfortunate result of poverty and poor education is the inability to limit the amount of mouths that need feeding every day. Families with small incomes do their best to feed themselves and cope with often more children than they planned, for but animals that have no sale value they fall into a category that gets no priority at all. The best example of this is dogs, and every Thai village appears to have an abundance of unwanted, roaming dogs that foul the streets and howl away every night.
Khun Dam and his wife, who live down the road from my banana grove, found themselves with a dog problem that soon grew out of manageable proportions. I didn’t know about the existence of the first dog, I never saw her as a roaming pregnant female or with the small pups. My first encounter with the pups was on a sunny, winter’s day when I was fishing in the irrigation canal. Along came a couple of young female dogs that yapped at me for a while but gradually came closer to see if I had something they could eat. I have often lost a slice of bread being used as fish bait to a hungry mutt but on this day the bait was worms, not too attractive to a hungry pup. After 30 minutes they had both come close enough for me to stroke and finally one settled down at my side and curled up to sleep using me as protector. By late afternoon it was apparent the litter consisted of four pups, all sandy brown, with one larger ridge-backed male, the two original females and the runt, a small nervous female that was scared to come too close. They were all thin, especially the nervous female, and being a sucker for hungry animals of any type I was soon taking a few handfuls of dry cat food with me when I left for the garden knowing they would be hanging about the gate. In one instance the male I called Dingo was very sick and got awfully thin so I gave him worm tablets and fed him up a bit. He responded by being very friendly and following me around as I cycled about the village.
During the next few months the dogs made themselves unpopular by doing the things hungry dogs do. They chewed shoes, chased chickens and scattered rubbish from bins in the search for food. Whilst cutting grass in the house next door to Dam’s I found plastic sandals, t-shirts, paint brushes, milk cartons and other assorted items the dogs had brought over when they came to lie on the empty house porch. I knew from experience the locals wouldn’t condone this for long and soon there was only two dogs surviving, the others probably having been poisoned. Unfortunately the two survivors were both females who became pregnant and there was soon five yapping, tail wagging pups following the two females around looking for scraps to eat and things to chew.
The Blacks cannot afford and do not need seven dogs. Sadly they couldn’t afford the vets bills for ensuring there would be no offspring or for keeping them worm free and they certainly couldn’t afford food for the seven hungry mouths. Being Buddhist the Thais don’t believe in drowning pups or cats at birth despite being unable to feed and care for them properly. Depositing unwanted animals at the monastery is a way in which many Thais deal with this problem but monks are now requesting villagers stop doing this.
A proper solution is badly needed but as yet unforeseeable. The Blacks must have found their own answer but I’m scared to ask what they did, or who helped. Recently cutting grass at their neighbour’s house I saw no sign of a dog, no chewed rubbish, and no dead chicken carcasses and I heard not a single yap. I am left wondering if they solved the problem, or maybe just moved it to a new setting. Who knows, but the dogs are gone.