A Dog is for Life

by Toy Tuanphimai, Dec 12, 2006 | Destinations: Thailand / Nakhon Ratchasima / Phimai

I have returned to Phimai where I spent Christmas on the farm although this time I am staying in the town hotel rather than on the farm. This is partly (mostly) for comfort and partly so that I am closer to an Internet cafe so that I can use some of my time to learn C++. I am also attempting to learn Thai and have progressed to being able to order food and get what I wanted. This is no mean feat, as when I first arrived the waitress would just look at me as if I was an idiot and then ask Toy what I had said.

As a result of my studies (I make sure that I always arrive with books on show), when we visit the farm I am not required to toil in the rice fields, herd cows or collect eggs. My attempts at maintenance around the holding have been subject to derision rather than admiration therefore I am not asked to participate in these activities either. However when visiting a farm it is not possible to coast completely so on the regular occasions when we do visit from town I am engaged in babysitting the farm's three toddlers (1,2 and 3 years) so that their mothers can put in time in the fields. I sit in the shade and try to learn Thai with my headphones on listening to my linguaphone CD which of course means that I cannot hear the babies when they cry. This has convinced me that most children cry for effect as now the children realise that the nasty white man will not come running when they bawl their eyes out they do not seem to wail that much at all, unless their mothers are around, they sleep quietly in their hammocks for a couple of hours until it is time to feed and then play amongst themselves.

Last week during one of my babysitting stints a van drew up on the road outside the farm, in the rear of the vehicle was a large cage containing 4 or 5 dogs of various sizes and ages. The arrival of visitors and visitors with dogs at that set the three dogs that live on the farm off barking which in turn woke up the babies who started to cry. My heart sank.

The babies were easy to deal with, I just gave them their feeds and they quietened down quickly, but the visitor I felt would not be so easy. In rural Thailand salesmen visit farms on a regular basis with an assortment of wares, some useful some not so useful. These vendors tend to park outside the property, come in, sit down, have a cigarette and pass the time of day with the occupants. Later everyone goes out to look at the van and see if there is anything that they want, but the vendors never appear to leave without a sale it is as though a small purchase must be made before they will leave. I was the only adult in the vicinity, my Thai is not up to small talk yet I did not want to be rude, as that would reflect badly on Toy's family, but there was no way that I could buy a dog from this man just to be polite after all the farm already had three dogs one of whom was vicious and would not take kindly to another on it's territory. I could just imagine the reaction that I would get if everyone came home to discover me smiling like a fool with an addition to the menagerie.

The vendor came in, sat down; rolled and smoked a cigarette then started the small talk. I inwardly groaned and struggled to understand what he was saying until I realised that he was not talking to me but to one of the dogs, the unpleasant one. He got up lifting the dog by it's forelegs then walked it to the van and with the assistance of his passenger threw the dog in, and drove off. All this whilst I was struggling to get out of my hammock and ask what was going on.

The next couple of hours were spent worrying about how I was going to tell Toy that I had allowed her dog to be kidnapped while I lay trapped in my hammock. When she returned her mood was not fair as one of the fields had been infested with snakes and had to be cleared so I further shrank from my news. I was seriously considering using the "Dog? What Dog?" defence. I decided that honesty would be the best policy and confessed (although I did admit to being in the toilet when it happened).

"Dog taken to make soup" was the response that my news elicited.
"Arai Na!?" (What!?) Was my only my gobsmacked reply.
"Man take dog to Laos for soup, He get good money"

The dog had bitten one of the babies the week before whilst the child was pulling it's tail and hitting it with a stick. As nothing had happened for a week or so I had assumed that everyone agreed with me that the child should not hit the dog with a stick or pull its tail. Not so apparently, arrangements were made for the dog catcher to come and destroy the hound in much the same way as it would in England. The only difference being that the method of despatching in Laos would be the addition of a good stock and some vegetables rather than administering a lethal dose of sedative.

At first I was appalled but then thought that maybe whenever I have seen dogs pictured in the markets of South East Asia the dogs were vicious and needed to be put down. In a poor environment where meat is sought after if an animal is killed it may as well be eaten.

After all A dog is for soup not just at Christmas.

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