As we’re approaching one whole year in Thailand, I thought it might be nice to check in with the dogs and see how they’ve found the whole experience. How have they survived the rainy season? Have they made any new friends? Do they miss the rolling green fields of Northamptonshire?
Charles the laziest dog in the world…
Let’s start with Charles. Now he is the older and larger of the two, and definitely, the dominant one, which quite frankly is a good thing as goodness knows what would happen if Siale had to take the lead!
Charles is more greyhound than any other type of sighthound. He looks very athletic, he’s very agile – able to jump very high and very precisely from a standing start.
He’s a complex character, sometimes behaving aggressively towards other dogs (which actually works pretty well to keep the soi dogs at bay) but also loves nothing more than being spooned on the sofa. He is obsessed with cats but is constantly battling his urge to chase them with being truly terrified of them.
The main problem with Charles is that he is the laziest dog in the world, and living Thailand has done nothing to improve the situation. Other than when we take him for a walk, Charles barely engages in any voluntary physical activity. When I open the back door, he will run to the gate to see what’s there, but then he will just stand there staring at the world outside. He might join Siale in the initial chase after a squirrel, but he will quickly find his central position and let Siale do the legwork. And if you can get him to engage in a game of fetch, he will lose interest if you throw the toy more than a metre from him and then just wander off. And the Bangkok heat has only added to Charles reluctance to move.
So the result of this is that Charles has started to gain a little weight – I think at worst he was probably 1.5kg heavier than he really should be. A lot of people move to Thailand and put on weight because they want to try all the delicious food – this hasn’t been a problem for Charles as he just gets kibble and a few dentistix. No, Charles’ problem is that he lies down for around 22 hours a day.
So poor Charles has been on a little diet – this always feels like quite a mean thing to do to a dog as they just don’t understand. I do keep trying to explain to Charles that if he ran around a bit more he’d be allowed to eat a bit more, but it doesn’t seem to be getting through.
So other than being a bit hungry, Charles is pretty content with life. The sights, scents and general hubbub of Bangkok seems to stimulate him sufficiently and he’s pretty happy that Rena (dog nanny/maid) strokes him and plays with him for most of the day.
Siale, the puppy who wouldn’t grow up…
They say opposites attract and the best couples are often those that balance each other out in terms of strengths and weaknesses. If Charles is the laziest dog in the world then Siale is happiest, bounciest and generally craziest dog in the world. Siale typically seems to find himself behind the curve and is always rushing to catch up so seems to run everywhere. Rena describes as always being ‘busy’, running to see what Charles is sniffing or fetching his favourite toy from the box.
He is also incredibly inefficient with his style of walking and running, putting an unnecessary gap between his feet and the ground that means he resembles a horse doing dressage. One man in a pub once made the infamous comment ‘that dog thinks he’s a horse!’ which in my memory was in the voice of a Victorian-era street urchin, prefixed with a ‘cor blimey guv’nor’.
And it seems that Siale uses up even more energy in Thailand so has lost weight – he’s now on a weight gain programme although giving him more food just seems to be making him run around even more.
Siale is also the friendliest dog in the world – he wants to be friends with every person, every dog and probably every cat. If we see another dog on our morning walk, he will strain to get closer, simply fascinated by the existence of another canine.
For some reason, motorcycle taxi drivers, security guards and ‘men with whistles’ have taken quite a shine to Siale. Some Thai people are quite scared of dogs but I normally have to stop several times to allow people to stroke and fuss Siale. They don’t seem quite as interested in Charles and he’s definitely not interested in them.
I think I wrote in my very first blog post that the biggest factor in our decision to move to Bangkok and also our house-hunting criteria was whether we could make it work with the dogs. At the time, there was quite a lot of negative things written about the impossibility of owning a dog in Bangkok, even now I read horror stories of people with dogs finding it very difficult to look after them in Bangkok and sometimes being met with hostile neighbours who really object to dog ownership.
But the truth is that I just haven’t experienced anything negative in terms of the dogs being here. You can walk them along the streets – yes you might have to manoeuvre around street food vendors and motorcycles but it can be done! And the streets are not filthy as some people say – they are constantly being swept and hosed down so I really don’t worry about anything nasty getting on their paws.
Dogs are not allowed in most Bangkok parks but there are places you can take them; like Nong Bon Lake which is absolute paradise in terms of space, peace, and scenery.
Contrary to popular belief, there are not packs of aggressive, territorial soi dogs on every street corner. There are plenty of dogs around but generally keeping your distance and walking by purposefully means that they won’t bother you. Actually, I’ve found that they’re normally more intimidated by Charles and scuttle away. But we have at times amended our walking routes if we know we’re venturing too close to another dog’s territory – it’s just a case of being sensible.
Many of our neighbours have dogs and, other than the fact that they are just allowed to roam the streets, they seem pretty well looked after. I think Thai people do like dogs really!
Maybe we’ve been lucky, at the very least we made a great choice in terms of house and area, but Bangkok is as dog-friendly as any other major city.