It's a dog's life, which in Thailand means rough

It's a dog's life, which in Thailand means rough

Today is Christmas Eve and next Monday we will be counting down to the New Year.

In the past, what I would always wait for during the festive season wasn't a present from Santa Claus, but a greeting card from His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The New Year cards for 2006-14 portrayed King Bhumibol with his pet dog Khun Tongdaeng and other royal pooches. I actually have some printed versions as well as copies of them in my phone.

The 2007 New Year card, for instance, shows King Bhumibol with Khun Tongdaeng and nine of her descendants, one pup on the king's lap.

Khun Tongdaeng with her mother Khun Nai Daeng and her nanny Khun Mali respectively appear beside the king in the 2009 and 2013 cards.

All through the years, these pet dogs of King Bhumibol served as more than just man's best friend. They helped raise awareness and spread the message with regard to the issue of stray animals in the country and how important it is to adopt them so that they could have better lives.

Khun Nai Daeng was previously a stray dog too, and in November 1998 gave birth to a litter of puppies at the Medical Development Clinic on Praditmanutham Road.

A copper-coloured puppy stood out with a white semi-circle marking on her neck, white fur resembling a sock on each of her feet, a white dot at the end of her curling tail and a white marking on her nose.

At five weeks old, the puppy, named Tongdaeng, was adopted by King Bhumibol and raised by nanny dog Khun Mali at Chitralada Royal Villa.

From books on dog breeds and other research by the king, his favourite pet shared a similarity with Basenji, an ancient hunting hound originating in central Africa.

Nevertheless, Khun Tongdaeng was considered a prototype of authentic Thai dogs that deserve a home as much as foreign breeds preferred by pet owners.

Khun Tongdaeng as well as her mum demonstrated how street dogs can make great and loyal pets. They are as intelligent, and some of them as attractive, as the foreign breeds.

King Bhumibol advocated homing stray dogs, yet there are still countless canines out there on the streets of Thailand, waiting for a new lease of life.

Without anyone caring for them, the strays pose a social problem and are subject to abuse by humans when life is already hard for the mongrels to survive in their circumstances.

Last week, a video clip showed a horrific incident in Chanthaburi. A man gunned down a stray dog after it had bitten his wife. The merciless man actually fired four bullets to ensure the poor dog was dead.

Many other cases of cruelty on canines, such as stabbing and poisoning, have made the news while many others go unreported.

Often, dogs are not born strays and are dumped by irresponsible owners, which is another big problem of its own in changing attitudes and educating the public.

The abandoned dogs even include pedigree breeds, whose owners get bored of them or cannot afford to keep them for various reasons.

In Thailand, the preference for foreign breeds drives a thriving pet industry, but forced breeding in terrible conditions is also cruel and inhumane.

Earlier this month, dozens of sick and mistreated pooches were rescued from a breeding farm in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district. The dogs were mostly Chihuahuas, golden retrievers, Pekinese and Siberian huskies, and suffered, for instance, from infections, pneumonia and blindness.

Rescued by the Save Elephant Foundation and Facebook-based SOS Animal Thailand, the dogs are being nursed back to health at the Elephant Nature Park compound in Chiang Mai's Mae Taeng district. Hopefully, the foundation will find all of them a forever home.

Both within this month, these two cases give examples of the plight of strays and dogs used for forced breeding that challenge the enforcement of the Cruelty Prevention and Welfare of Animal Act 2014.

Looking back at the New Year greetings cards from King Bhumibol, we are somehow reminded that adopting rather than bullying a dog can help lessen both the problem of street dogs and the commercialisation of canines, and also that Thai-breed dogs deserve as much attention as foreign ones.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram

Feature writer

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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