Author Archives: Bill KING

A New Home for Mr. Stumpy

PART THREE (Please also check out Part one and two)

Mr Stumpy

November 2006

I’m back in Australia but keeping in frequent contact with goings on at the Soi Dog Foundation via their website and emails. While Mr Stumpy doesn’t have a home in a house yet, he does have a new and better home at the refurbished Livestock Department dog pound near Thalang. In return for an investment of 3,000,000 Baht in construction work and the provision of a full-time vet, the Soi Dog Foundation has been able to move its dogs into decent sized purpose built pens. Plus there is a run for them to exercise in.


July 2007

Tiger and Brutus are both adopted. Mr Stumpy hasn’t found a home yet but my sister is sponsoring him and he has a place at the shelter for just as long as it takes.

November 2007

The Livestock Department has informed the Soi Dog Foundation that it now has an adequate budget for it s operations and requires the extra space. In return for its 3,000,000 Baht investment and months of hard work, the Soi Dog Foundation is asked to vacate the premises and find somewhere else for its dogs.


March 2008

After a marathon effort, the Soi Dog Foundation moves its dogs into a new shelter, just west of Phuket Airport. This is home number four for Mr Stumpy, who probably hasn’t turned three yet. I don’t know what would have happened if the Foundation couldn’t get the money together to build a new shelter. But they did.

The week before the move, 12 temple dogs come in to the Livestock Department pound from one of several Wats around Phuket that are known for poisoning their dogs. Apparently, the way these ones cower at the back of their pens suggests they haven’t been treated much better than the ones that were poisoned. Fortunately, the Livestock Department agrees to hand them over to the Soi Dog Foundation.

Mr Stumpy’s adoption day

July 2008

Lynne from the Soi Dog Foundation emails me to tell me Spartacus has just died, after having lived several years longer than anyone expected. She asks if there is another dog on their sponsorship list I would like to replace him with. His replacement, Walker, also lives at Wat Srisoonthorn.

An hour later I get another email – a photograph of Mr Stumpy with his proud new owners, who have given him a safe home behind a fence on 3 rai of land.

Soi Dog Foundation

John Dalley and Spartacus


My fortnight carting sand and concrete is over and I hop on the bus down to Phuket. John picks me up in Thalang to take me on a Cook’s Tour of the island’s dog and cat welfare interest spots.

We drop by the Soi Dog Foundation’s centre in Phuket Town. The building was originally intended to house just a veterinary clinic. However, there was a constant stream of dogs that couldn’t go anywhere else and it gradually turned into a shelter. Now about a hundred dogs are living there. A local family, Dang, Nit, Golf and Mali do the hard day-to-day work and keep it all together, always smiling and seemingly imperturbable amid all the heat and noise and pee and crap. John shows me the wimps’ pen, where Mr Stumpy will be going once he’s been desexed and immunized. A black pup, called Brutus, totters up to John for a pat. Before Brutus and his brother, Rufus, were rescued in an undercover operation, their owner beat them daily with sticks. Rufus’ injuries were sufficiently bad for a vet to see fit to put him down. Brutus won’t be getting over his injuries well enough to ever walk steadily but he’s still a happy dog. In other words, he’s probably much better off than his former tormentor.

The farang community in Phuket has its fair share of unhappy people. Tropical paradises are like that. Just like everywhere, some of these people take things out on their pets. However, with Thailand’s mai bpen rai ethos, they can probably get away with cruelty to animals more often and for longer here than back home. Hence the need for the occasional bit of decisive action by nameless heroes, who must feel quietly satisfied with what they did for Brutus and Rufus.

After, visiting the Centre, we go to some of Phuket’s many Buddhist temples (or Wats) to check on their dog and cat food supplies and see whether any animals need treatment. Wats have long been the Thai equivalent of the dog and cat shelter. If you don’t want your dog or cat anymore and you are halfway responsible about it, you take it to the local Wat and ask the monks to look after it. If the monks are true to Buddhist precepts, they will gladly do so.

Wat Srisoonthorn

At the rather grand Wat Srisoonthorn, I get to meet the grandly named Spartacus, who I sponsor. I chose Spartacus because he was the oldest and shabbiest looking dog on the website’s list of dogs needing sponsors. He doesn’t get handled too much and doesn’t have much time for strangers but he knows John well and always enjoys receiving a pat from him.

We go past another very grand looking Wat where we don’t stop. The abbott of this Wat saw fit to poison most of his temple dogs a while back. He later announced that he only put the poison in the meat, it was up to the dogs whether they ate it or not. Unfortunately, there is not only one Wat on Phuket where these things happen.

In a mainly Muslim neighborhood on the east side of the Island, we visit Wat Ku Ku, the least grand Wat I have ever seen. The wiharn looks a bit like a toilet block from the outside. But that’s not really important. Wat Ku Ku has just a few monks but quite a lot of dogs. Because few Buddhists live in the neighborhood, it isn’t exactly overwhelmed with tham bun offerings each morning. The regular supply of dog food that the Soi Dog Foundation now donates has been a godsend for Wat Ku Ku.

There is another Wat in eastern Phuket, Wat Para, that John says is his favourite Wat anywhere. He only discovered it a few months back after being told about a tiny temple tucked away down a laneway that had just one monk but about thirty dogs and really needed a hand to look after them. While Wat Para’s dogs are well loved by its monk, some of the neighbors are not so kind and have poisoned many of them, perhaps in the mistaken belief that Islam condones cruelty to dogs.

Mr Stumpy

The next morning Ina and I pick up Mr Stumpy from the vet in Thalang and take him to the shelter in Phuket City. When we get out at the shelter and Mr Stumpy hears the sound of a hundred barking dogs, his half a tail becomes firmly stuck between his legs. Rather than throw him straight in the deep end, we tie him up in the car park with Tiger, another resident of the wimpy dogs’ pen. Tiger was recently rescued from Wat Para, covered in wounds and mange. John had to blow dart Tiger to catch him and bring him to the shelter. While he is now a picture of good health, Tiger doesn’t trust anyone he doesn’t know so one of my challenges for the afternoon is to get him to accept a pat from me.

I park a chair in the shade and spend the afternoon watching the world go by with Mr Stumpy and Tiger. Mr Stumpy sticks close to me but Tiger gets just as far away from me as his chain will allow. The clouds build up and the air grows unbearably heavy but no storm breaks. Nit and Mali wash and groom dogs. A flock of geese wander by along the footpath. The passing traffic slows down to take in the scene. It provides me with just as much entertainment. I constantly marvel at just how many people or how much stuff can be carried on one motorbike and how seldom Thai people lose their cool when there are close shaves.

Mid afternoon, a shiny new pick-up rolls into the car park. There’s a huge “US Marine Corps” sticker across the rear window. In the back of the truck there’s a magnificent looking Akita. Which is a worry. Akitas were traditionally fighting dogs and unfortunately that’s what draws a lot of people to them now.

Nit and Mali

The truck pulls to a stop and a young Thai guy jumps out. The hired help perhaps. An enormously tall and gaunt farang guy follows ever so slowly. He’s 70ish and dressed just right for a cattle ranch in Texas, right down to the Stetson hat and carved riding boots. He looks like a fish out of water here in Phuket City. No prizes for guessing he’s one of those guys who had his life shattered in Viet Nam but needs to stay close. Ina strolls over to him to say hello and see why he’s bringing the dog in. No time later she comes back and says he refused to talk to her and doesn’t think my luck would be any better. Just let him hand over the dog and go. The Akita is letting everyone who gets too close know with gnashing teeth and flying spit it’s every bit the fighting dog. Not much point trying to be friendly with him either.

I get that sinking feeling again. Fortunately, however, a new home has been pre-arranged for the Akita. He is going straight to a friend of Daeng’s who wants a guard dog for some reason or other. If the dog’s new owner provides food and shelter for it and doesn’t try to make it any more vicious than it is already, that’s probably the best result that could reasonably be hoped for.

Marine Corps guy tosses his cigarette in the dirt and shoehorns himself back into the truck. The Akita is now muzzled and tied up short in the back of Daeng’s pick-up, looking half ferocious, half piteous.

We aren’t going to know whether Marine Corps guy was sorry to get rid of the Akita or just glad to see the back of him. However, other times you can know for sure that finding a dog a new home isn’t just about doing something for the dog. Next day, Ina and I are having lunch in the street café next door to the shelter when two women from Patong come by. Their next door neighbor is dying of lung cancer. He’s terribly worried about what’s going to happen to his dog, which is all the family he’s got. They’re looking for somewhere to take the dog so they can reassure their neighbor it will be OK. But they also don’t want him parted from his dog a day too early if that can be avoided. Ina says there’s no problem. Whenever it’s time, there will be a place here for the dog for sure.

I’m off to Chiang Mai tomorrow. As the centre is closing up for the day, I make my final visit to the wimps’ enclosure. Mr Stumpy comes straight over for a pat. We’re friends for life, us two. Tiger hangs back and refuses my entreaties to come over have a pat. However, as I’m heading out the door, he darts forward and nips me just hard enough to let me know I haven’t won him over.

Click here to read part one. The final part will be posted soon.

Mr Stumpy goes to Phuket

Mr. Stumpy

Part One – July/ August 2006

Thursday is pool competition night for the Khao Lak tsunami volunteers. It’s the start of my second stint helping out with reconstruction along the 50km strip of towns and villages that were hardest hit by the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. Tonight, I’m getting to meet all of the hundred or so volunteers currently in town, who are variously labouring on building sites, making furniture and toys, planting trees and teaching English in schools. I’m also getting to meet all the local street dogs. They join in most social gatherings around here but are guaranteed to make an appearance when food is involved.

They seem a well-fed and happy lot. All except for one. There’s a very ribby adolescent dog with half his tail missing wandering among the crowd. Someone gives him an inadvertent kick while trying to get to the bar and he whimpers. Next thing he blunders into another dog, which promptly nips him. I wince in sympathy. Another dog person, Claire, sees my responses and fills me in: “That’s Gecko or Stumpy. He breaks my heart. We think he got run over a while back and that’s why half his tail is missing. He’s probably got brain damage too. He won’t eat properly. I don’t know what to do. Some vets were supposed to come up from Phang Nga to get the dogs sorted but they never showed.”

That’s a pity for Stumpy, who really is a bit of a sad case. It’s also a pity for Stumpy’s mama, Mama. She is heavy with another impending litter of pups and she looks like she’s had a few already.

However, the wheel of fortune also turns for dogs. After I finish my stint here, I’m scheduled to spend some time with the Soi Dog Foundation down in Phuket. When I ring them next day to see if they can help, John Dalley, from the Foundation, says if I can get the dog down there, he’ll organize a vet to treat him and they will work out a long-term plan for him after that. The Soi Dog Foundation sterilizes and immunizes all the street dogs it treats, and then usually returns them to wherever they came from. For those dogs that can’t be returned to the streets or left at a temple, they have a small shelter in Phuket City. Needless to say, it’s bursting at the seams, with both former street dogs and surrendered pets. However, they can usually find room for just one more.

(left) Mr Stumpy in the TVC Office (right): Mr Stumpy has his 1st taste of truckin’

John adds that if I can’t get a truck organized, dogs are permitted on the Surat Thani – Phuket bus. I resolve that, one way or another, I am going to get Mr Stumpy down to Phuket, even if it means making a whole busload of people squirm at the sight of an obviously heat-addled farang with a not very wholesome looking dog in tow.

The authorities probably didn’t have dogs like Mr Stumpy in mind when they decided pets were permitted on buses. The feeling that an alternative form of transport would be preferable is reinforced next morning, when I’m sitting on the footpath drinking an iced coffee and tickling Mr Stumpy’s belly. The Surat Thani – Phuket bus pulls up right next to us. A couple of dozen softly smiling faces look down on us. The kind of soft, slightly nervous smiles that tell me they’re probably worrying about what I’m about to catch. I’m sure they wouldn’t complain about sharing a bus with with Mr Stumpy and me, because Thai people never seem to complain about anything much. However, I’m also sure they wouldn’t be thrilled about it either.

All this planning assumes Mr Stumpy is going to last until I’ve got the free time to get down to Phuket. On Friday night, after a beer or two, I’m meandering through town when I see a dog lying on the median divide in the middle of the highway. At first glance I think it’s a stiff and gird myself for the task of scooping up the remains. Then I see that it’s alive and just lying down. Of course, it’s Mr Stumpy. So pick him up and carry him to the side of the road. A couple of waiters are standing out the front of their empty restaurant and watching our unsteady progress. One comes over shaking his head sadly: “He do that all the time.” Most Thais love animals but part company with we farang with their greater willingness to let things take their course. Deciding you are going to do what it takes to save one unlucky dog among millions probably seems just a little irrational to them.

Thanks to some friends from up the hill in Khao Sok, we have a truck on Monday to take Mr Stumpy to the vet in Phuket. That’s at least one thing that has gone better than expected. However, things don’t go so well when I grab Mr Stumpy out from under the computers in the Tsunami Volunteer Centre office and put a collar on him. It’s a bit too much of a new experience for a dog that has never been owned by anyone. He scuttles off like a crab, trying to get loose of the collar. I get that sinking feeling as I trot down the road in hot pursuit and wonder if it would be better to do things Thai-style and leave him to take his chances here with the local pack and the highway traffic. Maybe he will go berserk in the truck and wind up in a bigger mess than he is already.

Instead, he takes to riding in the truck like a duck to water.

(left): Tiger (right): The Shelter, Phuket Town

At Dr John’s veterinary surgery in Thalang we get to see how good things are for Khao Lak’s street dogs. Out the front, Ina from the Soi Dog Foundation is plucking maggots from a dog they have just named Lucky. He is almost entirely bald with mange. Lucky was unlucky enough to live in the middle of an expensive condominium complex, where ex-pats must have been coolly regarding him over their gin and tonics for a couple of months and muttering: “What a revolting dog! Someone really should do something about it.”

Ina gathers quite an audience from passers by and people coming into the surgery. Several people comment that Mr Stumpy doesn’t look too bad compared to Lucky and one or two other dogs that have come in today. One adds that if he’s the worst case in Khao Lak, it must be a pretty good place.

Back in Khao Lak that evening, Anne-Marie, a Swedish ex-pat who lives in Thailand half the year, enlightens me about how Mr Stumpy actually lost his tail. “No he wasn’t hit by a car. He was set upon right outside my house by all the other dogs at 3 in the morning. It sounded like they were going to kill him. They’re all nice during the day but after midnight they turn into wolves. Please, can you have that dog put down? He’s going to be bottom of the pile wherever he goes. Can you guarantee him a safe home behind a fence?” I wish I could. There’s absolutely no chance of being able to take him home to Australia with me so from now on it’s in other people’s hands whether he has a safe home or not.

When I raise the possibility of putting Mr Stumpy down with Gill Dalley, from Soi-Dog Foundation, she says it’s simply not an option. “This is Thailand. We usually can’t get vets to put down desperately ill dogs, there’s no way we could find one to put down a healthy dog.” Plus, the shelter has a special wimps enclosure. Even if the shelter becomes Mr Stumpy’s permanent home, Gill assures me he will be have a decent life. Besides, Dr John, the vet who is treating Mr Stumpy, says that apart from a minor toe infection, there’s not a thing wrong with him.

Khao Sok Extremely!

I was standing in a queue to board a plane from Phuket to Bangkok recently and got chatting to the guy next to me, a fellow Australian. He told me he’d just had a fantastic fortnight in Patong, drinking beer in the same bar all day, every day. The words that came into my head were: “What a waste of a holiday!” and “You could have stayed home and done that” What I actually said was a more diplomatic: “Mmmm.” I’m aware that not everyone shares my “gotta see everything!” tourism ethic. Plus, I have to admit to spending a whole day lounging around a bar while I was staying in Khao Sok, in Surat Thani Province just a couple of weeks before that conversation. Mind you, Khao Sok is a place where quite a lot can happen while you are doing nothing.

I managed to pretty much wipe myself out before breakfast on my second day there, after badly misjudging the distance to the local Wat the night before while riding around the neighborhood on the back of a motorbike. I know Thais aren’t much into walking when it’s not strictly necessary but I understand Buddhists see merit in effort. Merit must have been written all over my face.

Anyway, lounging around for a while seemed thoroughly excusable after that. I was waiting for my friend Pit to get back from Surat Thani. We had rough plans to go exploring in the jungle that afternoon. So I made my way down to Sao’s bar, the social hub of Khao Sok village.

It was all happening at Sao’s. Two monkeys had just raided the kitchen and made off with a dozen eggs. Both managed to fit one in each cheek, two tucked under their chins and one in each hand, before scarpering. All the trees around were laden with fruit but monkeys probably like variety in their diet. Actually, they mustn’t get bored with eggs too easily.

I was a bit disappointed at having just missed what would probably be the most exciting event of the day. However, in the time it took to have a cup of coffee, more local wildlife was on the scene. A luminous green snake was winding its way up the side wall. In the possibly mistaken belief it wouldn’t be poisonous, I got up way closer than I ever would with any wild snake in Australia. Not that it seemed bothered by my presence. Even Thai snakes have that happy go lucky way about them.

Thai cats are pretty happy go lucky too. Sao’s cat (whose name I’ve forgotten) was feeding her blended family of kittens through all this. The two ginger ones in the photo aren’t hers. They had just appeared out of nowhere a couple of weeks earlier and started suckling.

Then the power went. That had two consequences: the television went off (good) and the fan went off (bad). From the hammock though, I had a very good view of the clouds building and the rain showers rolling in. That kept me entertained for a while, before lulling me into a pre-lunch siesta, if that’s the right word.

Around midday another tourist, Carolle, dragged me out of the hammock to go down to the river and see the monkeys. Unfortunately they weren’t in their usual spot but there was a very nice hammock tied between two trees over the water. It seemed like the perfect spot to wait for the monkeys to reappear, dangling alternate feet in the current. A group of tubers went by – riding in huge truck tyre inner tubes, which describe slow clockwise circles as the current carries them along. I made a mental note to go and do that some time. Then lunchtime came around and the monkeys still hadn’t shown but you get that.

After lunch Sao hopped on her motorbike and left me in charge of the bar for a while, confident there would be no customers. Some people came and began harvesting rambutans across the road; several squirrels frolicked around the nearby trees; new arrivals lugging huge packs asked for directions to this or that bungalow; and two truckloads of happy tubers headed back up river.

Around afternoon-tea time things gathered pace when the monkeys (long-tailed macaques to be precise) came back for whatever they thought they had missed out on at breakfast. Luckily, Sao was back. She knew how to speak their language. An appropriately delivered “BAI!”, with accompanying threatening gestures, deterred any that looked like actually making it into the kitchen. Eventually they admitted defeat and wandered off.

Or so I thought. It was now officially siesta time and the power was back on so I arranged some cushions in front of the fan and nodded off. I was awoken by “BILL!” being shouted with enough urgency to make me think I’d better come to my senses quickly. A rather big male monkey (the alpha male I’d wager, assuming macaques have them in their troops, which I’m sure they would) was sitting a few metres away baring his teeth at me. Just why they were there I don’t know but a large hand of bananas had appeared on the coffee table next to me while I was dozing. The Australian banana crop had recently been decimated by a cyclone and I made a quick calculation that this monkey was about to make off with $20AUD (520B) of bananas (assuming current Australian prices applied in Khao Sok, which they didn’t but I’d just woken up). I snatched the bananas to my chest and sneered “mine” at the monkey. That probably wasn’t such a good idea, because next thing he was sitting on the coffee table and there I was, lying on the floor looking up at a wild monkey so much more closely than I ever wished to happen, thinking “this is going to hurt a lot.” Just a few hours earlier, I had been disappointed at not seeing monkeys. Then Sao came running in, shouted “BAI!” and possibly tossed something and the monkey scarpered and I was miraculously unbitten.

Although it was a bit early to start drinking, I thought I’d have a beer.

In the evening one of the tourist guides, Moon, came in for a drink. He shook his head sadly at the sight of me sprawling in the hammock with beer in hand: “Bill! We hear you lie in that hammock all day! And only get up to fight monkey! Why you want to fight monkey?”

“Maybe we can have show for tourist,” he mused. “Come see farang fight with monkey.” I don’t know, though. If sitting around here watching the world go by isn’t entertaining enough, you probably get bored too easily.