13 years ago it was common to stumble upon an injured, sick or hungry dog on the streets of the island of Phuket, Thailand’s biggest island.
An island of 222 square miles, with its main industry as tourism it wasn’t long before 2 visitors with huge hearts decided enough was enough, and the concept of the Soi dog foundation, which means Side-Street dog, was born.
I was pleased to meet Soi Dog founders Gill and John Dalley during my trip to the foundations Phuket shelter, where rehoming, administration, medical care and regular sterilisation of Phuket’s dogs, and more recently cats too, continues endlessly day after day.
The Soi Dog Foundation streilises over 10’000 animals each year at both the shelter in Phuket, its 2nd clinic in Bangkok and at mobile clinics around the island. Many locals arrive at the mobile clinics with both pets and street dogs they feed, but don’t necessarily house, with eager anticipation at the free service being provided.
Rachel Bean Rvn, my good friend and travel buddy for the trip did a sterling job of assisting with the sterilisation of up to 15 cats per morning and up to 20 dogs in the afternoon. We were both amazed at the dedication and efficiency of the Soi Dog vets who work with basic equipment and struggle to find qualified vet nurses with the capabilities Rachel was able to offer them.
As well as treating and sterilising Phuket’s dogs and cats, the foundation is actively working and campaigning to end the corrupt and quite disgusting trade in street dogs as meat. Thailand’s neighbouring countries Vietnam and Korea unfortunately value dogs within their cuisine and as a result many street dogs and even the Thai peoples stolen pets, are transported in horrible conditions across the borders of Thailand. Although the trade is illegal, it still continues. With growing pressure from within Thailand, including the work of Soi Dog, Border patrols are seizing more and more dogs, thousands in recent years. Soi Dog provide food, shelter and care for these dogs at their base in northern Thailand, caring for them until they are ready to be rehomed.
At any time around 1000 dogs are being cared for at the base with the most emotionally ready for adopting and rehoming travelling down to the Phuket shelter to await their new forever home. Around 400 dogs await their forever home at the Phuket shelter, with an average of 50 a month happily finding them. Mostly from dog loving people in the USA and Europe.
True to its roots the foundation also monitors and aims to keep track of the dogs that live in and around Phuket island itself. Regular trips are taken to record the dogs that live in certain areas, noting the medical status and which dogs are being fed by the locals. Using a brilliant app that records a dog’s location, gender and either adult or puppy age the foundation is able to get to know the dogs on the island and provide dedicated care for them.
It was amazing to see how well the dogs knew the Soi Dog vans! They would react in a much more excited way, follow the vans and gleefully crowd round the staff. The dogs are very rarely fed at these visits, as almost all do have local ‘feeders’ so it seems they really do as a species recognise the goodness and genuine love for them that staff have. Trusting and somehow simply knowing that they are to collaborate with Soi Dog, for the highest good of all. A wonderful thing to have seen and experienced
My part to play at the shelter it seemed was also recognised and prearranged by the universe – no surprise there! I headed over to Thailand thinking I would be assisting with shy or under confident dogs, perhaps helping to socialise them and also exercise or walk them as most other volunteers do. However during the initial tour, on our first trip to the shelter, manager Reggie mentioned she hoped to provide many of the dogs treated for limb injuries at the shelter with appropriate physio care to assist them in getting back on their feet again, and walk in a balanced way.
Amazed, I immediately mentioned that, that is exactly what I could do for them.
Utilising my knowledge of energy work, compassionate handling techniques for nervous, in pain animals and a good dose of the Tellington TTouch method I was able to create a kind, effective physio treatment plan that individualised the dogs and blended traditional Passive Range of Motion exercises with more gentle energy work, TTouch body work and basic ground work which we labelled Stepping Exercises.
I then spent time demonstrating the techniques and teaching the staff how to implement the therapy plans for the animals.
Amazingly the language barriers did not stop the staff learning, I would discuss and write down in English, a lovely Thai lady would interpret and repeat in Thai and my main student, Burmese vet nurse trainee Khun So, would then make notes on the instructions in Burmese!
Khun So turned out to be a natural, as the photos show.
Volunteer co-ordinator Diana and the full time dog walker volunteers were also keen to see what the fuss was about. Many popped into our treatment room throughout the 2 weeks to watch myself and Khun So working with our canine patients and find out how they could use the work too. The shelters head of training and behaviour was also keen to find out more and how to include it in an understanding of the behaviour of the dogs at the shelter.
Given more time and perhaps on another visit, it will be fantastic to work with the behaviour side of things further.
What a wonderful 2 and half weeks I have had. I look forward to sharing further blogs including What the Soi Dogs eat very soon too!