I really wanted to volunteer at some point during our travels and my first chance was at the amazing Care For Dogs shelter.
I have always wanted a pet dog and they seem to like me a lot, so I looked into volunteering at a dog rescue center. Care for Dogs is a small charity organization a half hour drive out of Chiang Mai. The center cares for abandoned/street dogs in and around the area, currently there are around 150 dogs here despite the size of the sanctuary, sometimes there’s no room for them, but the center adjusts around this. Most of the animals are badly injured, or have been through some kind of trauma.
All types of dogs pass through some end up staying for years, some stay their whole lives. They all start off the same way, timid animals with no idea what’s going on around them, whether these new people are the same as the ones they’ve met before who kick them, stab at them, or cage them for life to be transported into the dog meat trade in surrounding countries, some are quick to forgive and forget, others aren’t. Its a sad life to have had, but these guys really have turned their lives around.
When my induction started I was at a loss to what I was seeing. Naturally I thought this was going to be fun, but reality struck when the first dog I met, Ven, greeted me at the gate. He was a great little guy, tail wagging eager to meet new people, but their was an obvious problem with him. He wandered around in circles around my legs, neck stiff to the side, it was quite a shock for my first dog meet and greet. This poor guy had massive head trauma as a result of playing chicken with cars. His neck was stiff due to the fusing of his bones in his vertebra, and he wanders in circles due to the residual damage done to his brain. But nether the less he was still up for petting and treats. This was just one of the many stories I would soon be told about the animals here.
Some new volunteers and I were shown around the sanctuary and were told about the dogs and their situations, we were told to make at least a 4 day commitment; no problem for me, as we would spend the next 5 weeks here. We were then led to the many parts of the center and shown what things we could be doing whilst volunteering here, like washing/bathing, ear cleaning, nail clipping, tick removal, brushing, playing, walking and of course poop pick up. Then left to our own devices, at first I was unsure of this, but eventually got into the swing of things. Its not structured at all, you can do what you what when you want, but I’m not paying for this experience, and I wouldn’t just so they could employ someone to tell us what to do.
This is a free volunteer opportunity, one that you can donate as much time as you like to, where you buy the treats, toys, collars and leads yourself, and pay for that token T-shirt that’ll get ripped to shreds regardless of what you do. And that suits me perfectly.
You realize one thing from volunteering here, if you want to help these animals, you have to put the effort in. And that’s the kind of people who volunteer here, the kind that think, I love these animals, I want to help them and make them happy (and clean!).
I spend a lot of my time in the shy dog pen, with some of my favorites, I probably shouldn’t have favorites, but I do, and I’ll adopt them some day… I wish. Bella and Bo came to the center after their adoptive parents abandoned them. After calling Bella, Bella, I found out she’s actually called Bola, but Bella is so much cuter and suits her, she’s almost painfully shy, but after a week or two of getting to know her she practically sits on my lap now, plus she’s got the biggest cutest eyes you’ve ever seen. Her brother Bo, is quiet and shy, but nuzzles under my arms when I sit on their perch.
In the open enclosure, I have one favourite, Kara, she’s a bright, bold, beautiful girl, boisterous and as strong as an ox (walking her is crazy hard!) but I’m pretty much in love with her. She’s got the most amazing fox like ears! And I’m pretty sure she’s never been trained or had an owner, but there’s something about her that makes her special. Maybe its the fact she’s constantly jumping up to lick my face when she sees me? Who knows!? If this was an advert for adopting I hope you’re all sold on them!
Care for Dogs is the most heart wrenching place I’ve been to so far on our trip, but honestly, it was the best place I’ve ever visited and worked at, and if you ever come this way. Volunteer here. Its an amazing place.