It was a scorching Sunday morning in Hua Hin Thailand when four of us XA staff members set out to Khao Takiab to volunteer with Rescue Paws, a non-profit institution that’s been fighting the good fight for street dogs in Thailand since 2013 If you’ve ever been in Thailand during the hot season you’ll know what I mean when I tell you it was utterly boiling and this particular Sunday was, the kind of day that burned you within 5 minutes, would leave you drenched in sweat, and strips you of all your energy.
We had mission though, our goal today was to volunteer at Rescue Paws, a non-profit institution that’s been fighting the good fight for street dogs in Thailand since 2013. They’re doing an amazing job providing vaccinations, surgery, adoptions, food, and affection to these beautiful creatures. Their main goal is to reduce the ever growing population in Thailand, as well as educate locals on how to adequately care for dogs in their possession or area. They are an incredible organization and having the opportunity to assist them in any way, as well as spend a day caring for and learning about the dogs in their care, is worth dealing with much more discomfort than we had to endure on that sweltering day.
Brian, Kristine, Brittany and I ventured out there on this particular day, and man did it kick off from the moment we got there. As we arrived all of the dogs came trampling towards us in a not so harmonious greeting. We were smothered with licks, rubs, barks, and yelps all at the same time, each dog demanding your undivided attention despite the fact that you’re supposed to be cleaning everything up and ensuring that the conditions are spic and span.
Sprite (formally known as Half-Pipe, who also happens to be my favourite), is outside, settled into his doggie wheelchair, barking, playing, and nestling up to me, trying to get as close as he can. Sprite’s hindquarters are paralyzed and he has been through quite the turmoil in his short time here. If you had seen this pup 6 months prior, you would not believe the change in him. At that point you could barely approach him. He was scared, over protective of everything around him, and he snatched at food like he’d quite possibly never eat again. Thanks to the breath-taking passion of the Rescue Paws staff, he’s been transformed. With his new name came a change in behavior; he’s friendly, playful, and you can feed him out of your hands without fear of losing a digit. I am in awe of the magic that happens at this place.
Soon the greetings had been done and it was time to get to work. The job for today was to ensure that all of the dogs from the kennels were given a run around. As a result of lack of funding, Rescue Paws are unable to build more spacious kennels, as well as a recovery section, which they are desperately trying to raise money for. The dogs are kept in smaller kennels, when there are enough volunteers they get to be taken to the beach. As you can imagine, they’re quite the excited bunch when they see you approaching. All dogs need exercise, and these pups love it as much as any other.
Kristine approached the kennel gate first, as she tried to open it a loud screech pierced the air and the gate fell right off its rusty hinges, clanged to the floor, and frightened everyone, humans and dogs alike. There’s barking and yelping as we desperately tried to put the gate back up and figure out whether we broke it or not. It turns out the gate had been broken a few days prior, if only these kinds of problems were avoidable huh?
Once the kennel gate scandal had passed, it was time to get the dogs out of the kennels, put collars and leads on them and start making our way through the exquisite temple grounds and down to the beach for a run, jump, swim, whatever they wish.
Forgetting the previously mentioned gate issue, we started opening kennel doors as usual so the dogs could mingle before we headed out, only this time their mingling included darting out the front gate and disappearing into the temple grounds. Take a second here to imagine the excitement of any dog you’ve had the privilege of seeing, discover that sweet taste of freedom and you get a small picture of the escapee madness we were now confronted with.
Needless to say it took us a good long while to track down the runaway pups, complete with lots of clapping, whistling, and shameless coaxing . The noise was endless, with shouts and barks being carried through the air and all of us frantically running after giddy dogs in the scorching heat. It was a sight to behold, I tell you.
Thirty minutes later, after gathered all the pups, we began our relatively paced meander towards the edge of the temple, where the ancient old steps meet the sandy beach front. The sun glistening off the water, barely a breeze in the air, and the ocean dead quiet – until we got there. We released the dogs, and they bolted down the steps, heading straight for the water, heads bobbing up and down as they bounded across the sand. You have never seen a bunch of happier dogs in your life.
We ran with them on the beach, through the water, back up the bank. We sat back and watched them play with each other in the sand, picking up fish that had washed up on the shore, teasing and goading one another before sprinting off again to devour their newfound morsel.
It was exhilarating to watch these dogs having the time of their lives, and knowing that without Rescue Paws, they may not have made it this far. They were happy, healthy, well-fed, loved, and looked after. Even if you are not an avid dog lover as I am, I promise that if you were in that moment, it would be impossible to escape the overwhelming appreciation that an organization like Rescue Paws exists.
The rest of the day ran smoothly. We ensured that all the dogs had their run on the beach, cleaned their kennels and hosed them off before putting them back in. They were utterly spent, which meant feeding time was a breeze. They quietly sat there while we gave them each their allotted amount of food, some medication disguised with a healthy portion of wet food (they were none the wiser) and made our way back to the main clinic. Here we got to play with a few puppies that were dropped off a week or so ago. Things don’t get much better than a litter of puppies swarming you as you sit near them, biting everything in sight, licking you, biting each other, barking rather pathetically, and with more energy than one could ever imagine. It was the perfect end to an incredible day.
At the end of it all, just another day at Rescue Paws. I know that some are harder than others, and some come with tears of sadness while others with tears of utter joy. Regardless of the events of the day, every volunteer walks away feeling hopeful and optimistic about the world, knowing they have made a difference in the life of at least one creature. There’s no better way to end a day than that.
Written by: Douglas Ray