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Monday, September 14, 2009


Too many strays

There must be more stray dogs in Thailand than in any other country that I have ever visited. It is an aspect of Thai Buddhism that people take care of stray dogs. If you feed a dog, that is considered to make merit (good karma) for you. I have not seen this, at least not so commonly, anywhere else.

When I was in China there were stray dogs on the campus where I was staying. I never noticed anyone feed them until some Thai students came to stay. I was having dinner with them one night and when we finished they collected all the scraps off our plates in a plastic bag. 'What's that for?' I asked. 'To feed the dogs.'

Mahasarakham University has grown since I was here in 2003. There are twice as many students. And it seems there are at least twice as many dogs on campus. They (the dogs) are not aggressive, at least not towards me, but at times they can be noisy. Often that's early in the morning when I'm trying to sleep. As I ride my bicycle around the campus I notice there is also a lot of sexual activity going on among the dogs. I decided something has to be done before they multiply more and more.

My friend and boss was recently appointed as a vice-president of the university. Prior to this, it was easy to see him. I could walk into his office for a chat just about any time. Now it seems he spends most of his life at meetings and going backwards and forwards to Bangkok. I mentioned to his secretary how hard it is to see him these days. She suggested that she would make an appointment on my behalf. By time we met the list of things I needed to discuss with him had become quite long. But right near the top was the dog population issue.

I suggested to him that it would be a good project for the veterinary science students to catch the dogs, sterilise them and release them. He was inspired and immediately picked up his phone and rang the head of the veterinary science department who was also enthusiastic about the idea. It's nice. My friend has a lot more sway as vice-president and indirectly it gives me a little more sway.

The MSU veterinary science department is quite new. They only have first-year students and they do not have the experience to be able to handle this project. But no problem. They'll borrow a few final-year students from Khon Kaen University and our students will work with them. A decision was also made that our department would chip in some money to buy some drugs to immunise the dogs against whatever canine diseases are prevalent here.

They felt sure the students would be enthusiastic about the project too. They would see it that they are improving the dogs lives and thus they too would gain merit from the exercise.

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