Photo a Day: Soi Dog No. 1

A Photo a Day Paen to Thailand’s Soi Dogs

A soi dog outside a Starbucks on Beach Road in Pattaya, Thailand

If you’ve ever been to Southeast Asia in general and Thailand in particular, you’ll notice a lot of stray dogs and cats, particularly pooches. In discussing this with indigenous friends, it seems this is in part due to Buddhist philosophy and very old animist beliefs, part ignorance and part plain apathy. Bear in mind I’m not criticizing, just noting the reality and what I’ve found; if you disagree by all means please chime in.

Unlike some guide books I’ve read, and complaints I’ve seen and heard tourists make, for me personally this has never proved an issue. In my three years of living here — here being Thailand and Viet Nam, with the odd trip to Cambodia or Laos — I’ve only ever had one issue with a stray dog — or soi dog, if you will (soi being a Thai word for side street). And this was because some local ne’er do wells had been provoking a group of dogs, and they were kind of worked up, and one started to come after me as I happened to walk past.

I’m not sure whether it was my father’s country-boy teaching or what, but from somewhere in the depths of my prior learning and experience, I remembered to keep my wits and not run away, but rather took a step towards the dog, threw up my hands and hollered — loudly. The poor dear immediately backed away with her tail between her legs.

Nevertheless, out of all the inoculations I’ve had for traveling abroad, for one brief moment I wished I had gotten the rabies one. But I wasn’t angry at the dog, but rather at the drunken butt wipes teasing them.

Also bear in mind, I walk past soi dogs, most of whom belong to no one and have no one taking care of them except in the most marginal of capacities — if they are lucky, they reside near a temple — virtually every day. If you leave your abode, and you live in a community of any size here, odds are you walk past a stray mutt. Go to a 7-11/Family Mart (or a Circle K in Viet Nam) and you almost certainly will encounter a soi dog or two.

So I’ve probably walked by stray dogs more than 1,000 times over the past three years; probably at least 1,500 times. And out of all those dogs, there only been a problem with one. Others’ experiences may differ, and I know a frequent visitor here who has been bitten by a soi dog — but this is mine. Actually some of them are quite sweet; all of them will seemingly leave you alone if you leave them alone.

I actually walk past the aforementioned pooch who came after me quite frequently; as I say, if some local hoodlums hadn’t been messing with her and her pack mates, it wouldn’t have happened.

Interesting Subjects

For some time I’ve had this idea of starting a Tumblr or even a specific site devoted to photographs of Thailand’s soi dogs; there are some interesting mutts out there, living by there wits alone in the naked city. Maybe I can help drive some traffic and attention to the non-profits out there devoted to helping them, too.

Maybe the sweety pictured above will be my first one. She is usually out front a Starbucks most mornings. There’s another male dog hanging around, too, but I didn’t see him today. I was waiting for a songthaew this morning and spied her under the chair, snoozing, and busted out my phone.