You know that feeling you get in your stomach when you’ve just done something amazing? I’ve been back for over a week and I still feel it. “What was so amazing about it?” my friends ask me. “Everything!!” is always my first answer.
A bit about me…
I’m Sarah and although I work within the animal health industry, I am not a vet or a vet nurse and have no training in animal care other than that which I gained with my own pets. I have an unconditional love for all dogs, so I also volunteer at my local shelter, cleaning kennels and dog walking. In the last year, my desire to help animals in need has grown exponentially and so has my passion for travel. I was very lucky then that I could combine the two in my “mission” to Chiang Mai as a WVS Care for Dogs volunteer.
As a non-vet/vet nurse, I was helping out on the shelter side. My duties included walking dogs, socialising and grooming, so basically they were a lot of fun.
So, what was so amazing about it?
Firstly, the dogs!
All had their own personality and although I had my favourites, needless to say I fell in love with all of them. Despite having a tough start, sometimes having lived in the shelter for the best part of their life, they give back as much as they receive. And they receive a lot of love! Just by spending time in a grooming or walking session, you could tell how loving and happy they are.
Secondly, the learning!
Ian, the shelter manager, has such great knowledge of dog behaviour and despite being super busy, he was always happy to stop and share some of it. One of my most vivid memories is watching the behaviour of the 28 dogs in the main yard during dinner time and the sequence of events from when the first dog “steals” another’s dinner. Emotions over food can run high.
I also had opportunities to explore other aspects of WVS Care for Dogs’ amazing work during a short trip to Pai for an outreach sterilisation drive. I followed the whole process from the dog catching, to the operations in the mobile clinic, to the recovery process. I feel privileged both for the learning and the reward of being part of such a great initiative.
Last but not least, the people!
Jamie and Ian have gathered a great resident team of vets, vet nurses, dog catchers, caretakers, administrators and they are supported by amazing volunteers from all four corners of the world, united by an infinite love for dogs. Not only have I felt supported in my experience but I have also made some great friends and I am already looking forward to seeing some of them when I go back next year (oh yeah! I am so going back!)
All this in a beautiful country, with amazing weather, people and food… you can’t really go wrong.
Before I went, I was a bit apprehensive at how emotionally difficult the whole experience would be, but after seeing how loved and happy the dogs are, it all subsided very quickly – although I did cry like a little girl on my last day when I said goodbye to them all.
After this trip, I am even more driven to help animals in need around the world and I can’t wait for my next experience.
As a parting thought, here are a few things I learnt in Thailand:
- The attitude of people towards dogs is very different to the one in the UK and rehoming is not as easy. Basically, we love our pets!
- Dogs are intrinsically good.
- Passion and dedication to the cause lead to success. The work that Jamie, Ian and their teams have put in is already showing and will realise the long term vision.
- No matter how much insect repellent you think you need, apply more! Pesky mosquitoes!
- Spicy means really, really, really spicy and mild means spicy!
Are you interested in volunteering at the dog shelter, to find out more about volunteering at the shelter or to find our more about this project, please visit our dog shelter page.