Dogs are everywhere in Koh Samui. Whether driving around the island, eating at a restaurant, sitting on the beach or shopping at a market, chances are we’ll see at least a dozen dogs. They’re almost always friendly, although often a little mangy. The vast majority are strays, living in packs and begging for food. The Koh Samui Dog and Cat Rescue Center was established in 1999 to address the stray animal situation on the island. It vaccinates, sterilizes and provides free veterinary care to improve their quality of life and control the population of cats and dogs on Koh Samui.
Our first project in Thailand was helping with the new puppies coming into the center. Litters are often brought in for inoculation and adoption. Sometimes they’re dumped in front of the facility’s gate. Quite often these young pups have been living in retched conditions and suffer from worms, mange, skin fungus or other diseases.
The Rescue Center gets them back to health and keeps them until they can be adopted. In many cases tourists visiting the island for vacation wind up going home with a new dog. The Center does all of the paperwork to process adopted pets for travel back to their new owners’ home countries.
When I learned we would be helping with the puppies I figured this would be one of the easiest service projects the girls have ever done. I mean, come on. Sitting around and playing with puppies all day? As it turned out, it was actually very physical and emotional work. The puppies we took care of our first day were in very bad shape. Some had bald patches and skin lesions. Their tummies were distended from worms and malnutrition. One even had an injury that had almost severed his tail at its base. They were covered in ticks and fleas and completely lethargic. We set to work picking off ticks and giving each puppy a flea bath.
Thoughts from Emily
In the crate, these pups looked fine. All cuddling up with each other and stretching. But then, we saw them up close. I scooped up the first puppy I saw because it was lying on its stomach awkwardly, legs spread-eagled, exhausted. I was quick to realize its belly was four times the size it should have been because of worms. I cried silent tears of fury as I picked ticks out of puppy paws, legs, backs, ears and bellies. How can we do this? How can we allow innocent souls to suffer? Why wasn’t this problem solved years ago? How can I make a difference right now? What angered me more was that this pup didn’t, by motion or noise, indicate that it was in pain. It was too tired, too malnourished. I wanted to scream.
I worried how the girls would handle all of this. When we left that day I was very uncertain all the puppies would survive the night. The girls had worked so hard and spent so much time cuddling these pathetic little creatures. I could envision the traumatic scene that would unfold if when we came back only a few of them had made it.
However, we couldn’t believe the difference in them when we returned to center. These same puppies that could barely lift their heads were now jumping around, playing and yapping. As we examined them again for any ticks we’d missed, we now had squirming little balls of energy in our hands.