Journal: GOD=DOG backwards?
Neighbors ask my deceased dog's grave for money

My adopted wild/stray dog Mike, now deceased, was buried in the front yard of the house of my in-laws (my first wife) in an adjacent province.

Suddenly, several months after Mike had passed away, neighbors started coming to the grave and talking to Mike, sometimes saying things like "Would you like some chicken?" and other offerings. Quite perplexed, and afraid people would start dropping off food and things at the grave, I asked my mother-in-law what was going on...

She told me that she had decided one day to buy a lottery ticket. Before she went, she stopped at Mike's grave and spoke with him a little, and asked him for good luck. After that, she bought the lottery ticket, and it won her 3000 baht.

She told the neighbors, and suddenly Mike became popular and famous post-mortem.

Lucky Dog

One day in 1997, I was walking along the road in my Bangkapi neighborhood, Mu Ban Sammakorn. I noticed that a stray dog was following me a ways back, with almost no fur left. When I stopped, he stopped, kneeling like a polite beg. When I walked, he walked, and he was obviously following me. I guessed he was street smart enough to know a soft heart when he sees one. I spoke with him, and he was nicely responsive for a hairless stray.

So I bought some grilled pork from the next streetside vendor and walked back to give it to him.

He followed me home, and the next morning he was asleep under a car in front of my house.

As he was very gentle and polite, I fed him again. And again. Tuna with oil for his skin, and cooked carrots mixed in.

Eventually, I took him into the yard and gave him a good bath with the antibiotic dog shampoo I bought. He was terrified of the bath but gave in subserviantly with rigid muscles. Within a few weeks, he had a full coat and was quite a handsome dog, in stark contrast to the stray I first saw.

My 2 year old daughter referred to him as "Ma Mike" (dog Mike), so his name became Mike. I have no idea where she came up with the name Mike, as my daughter knew practically no English names, so maybe it was a child-speak derivative of "ma mai" (dog new). The fact that I had an expat friend and business associate by the same name was something I was afraid could cause some misunderstandings later.

Due to a couple of huge pet dogs who terrorized the neighborhood, and the fact there wasn't always a car parked out front, Mike eventually became a yard dog. He turned out to be a good guard dog.

I had thought Mike was a late puppy, but upon further inspection of his teeth, he turned out to be a fully grown dog, maybe 5 years old. Even with an exceptionally good diet, he grew nothing more than a thick and healthy brown coat. He was an ordinary wild Thai dog, of the brown variety.

Thailand has two kinds of wild Thai dog: light brown, and black and white. Both are short haired and medium sized. You see them all over Thailand. However, in Bangkok and occasionally elsewhere, you will see strays of imported breeds, and derivative mutts. As few Thais have ever used a leash and free ranging dogs are normal here, imported breeds, usually over the last few decades, have mated with strays and often been abandoned themselves. In any case, Mike appeared to be a purely wild brown, and on second analysis of normal size for a grown dog of his breed.

A year or so later, we moved to the province. Mike didn't make it onto the moving truck, and I was working, so I had a sleepless night worrying about Mike who had become homeless again. Sure, he was lucky to have gotten a break for awhile, and I considered leaving it at that, but there was a mutual love and trust there which I couldn't abandon. Mike had done nothing wrong and everything right.

So I drove back to Bangkok and gave Mike his first car ride (which he very much did not enjoy, but it went ok enough until he needed to relieve his excretory needs while on the expressway, maybe scared of the speed).

In the province, Mike wasn't accepted into the pack right away, much like a kid new to an elementary school, but over time Mike worked his way into being accepted by the pack and accepted his rank. However, there were some lower ranking dogs which just kept on ganging up on Mike, and there were some serious injuries.

One of the new neighbors had a lot of chickens, and a dog had killed and eaten a chicken, so one day the neighbor heartlessly put out poisoned meat for the gang. Every dog died, except Mike who just got very sick for a few days. Mike was always suspicious and picky about what other people fed him. I fed him well, and he preferred my food. Having been well fed may have saved him.

Being sick didn't stop Mike from tearing into one of the dying dogs mercilessly, sitting there paralyzed and yelping like begging for mercy, one of the dogs who had repeatedly ganged up on Mike and seriously injured him. The animosity and vengefulness really struck me, and I was dismayed at what a vicious streak Mike had in him. Two wrongs don't make a right, but try telling that to a dog! (Or a human with a primitive mentality.) Mike ripped open the other dog's flesh, and the loss of blood may have hurried along a mercy killing of what was otherwise a painful poisoning death.

Then Mike turned around and like a switch he was so loving to me ... and slowly and sickly crawled back into his corner. He was clearly very sick, but not too sick to severely tear into a rival down on his luck. I've seen people like that in Hollywood movies, and this made me think maybe it's real, this sort of need for revenge. Maybe Mike let out his pent-up frustrations about other neighborhood dogs back in Sammakorn on this one poor unfortunate dog who decided to die near Mike's yard. Displaced aggression.

It was a very sad day in the neighborhood about the dogs, on the ground dying all around, with everybody sad and angry at the killer, some people in shock about how any human being could go out and have such disregard for other life. The village was not endeared with the new neighbor. However, I guess someone must slaughter the chickens, pigs, and cows for the rest of us to eat meat, so slaughtering dogs must have been a small extra step in their livelihood.

Mike recovered within about a week, and was the only dog standing on the road, King of the Roadway. However, within subsequent weeks and months, some pioneering dogs joined Mike Country, and Mike was the big guy in a new pack, and top dog, like an inherited dynasty. It was a more peaceful pack, to my surprise. Apparently, Mike's was able to hire and manage well.

Mike had many female dogs come visit him, and then he had a "wife", one particular dog who basically lived with him for a few years. They were always together. Approximately the same age. I sometimes wonder if he was copying me and my wife.

I had moved back to Bangkok, and it was good to see Mike have other company. The family fed him well with lots of scraps, but he would follow me everywhere when I came there, even walking out to the market until he encroached upon another pack's territory in which case he would run as fast as he could back home.

In 2004, he really slowed down. Obviously very old. He insisted on sleeping in the center of an intersection in our village. In Thai villages, the top dog's throne is in the center of the intersection. Unfortunately, we noticed he had gotten a bit slow to wake up to vehicles, and some had to toot to wake him up. Eventually, he died after being hit by a motorcycle.

We buried him in the front yard and planted flowers on top of his grave.

He'd had a good life.

I still think about Ma Mike occasionally, some kind of love. He goes down in history here, a virtual dog memorial.

Tips on Wild and Stray Dogs

There are many dog lovers in Thailand like myself, and I really like Thai dogs because they run free and are not neurotic like foreign housedogs and pent-up yard dogs.

The DNA strain of wild dogs will naturally weed out bad social and psychological traits, unlike domesticated dogs which are often bred for looks or and other human pressured and commercial traits.

Of course, dogs in general evolved with humans up until relatively recent times (on a genome scale). Thais are socially closer to the canine species, and it can be said that wild Thai dogs are still close to humans. There are personality traits you can come to appreciate in Thai wild dogs, but don't expect them to be like western dogs or domesticated ones. I see westerners whistle and do other things which are alien gestures to wild dogs, and which Thais don't do. The dogs may think you are crazy. Just watch for awhile and put yourself into their paws and dog head.

However, feeding the wild dogs must be done carefully or else you may have problems.

At first, when I fed dogs in the neighborhood, I did so directly. Big mistake. You must leave food discreetly. After making my mistake, when I drove in, I had a pack of dogs running after my car, all the way to my house, a cavalry of about a dozen.

The best thing to do is drop food discreetly in places where they will eventually find it, and not let them know who is feeding them.

Also, you can't throw food into a pack of street dogs or else they may fight over it. If you're going to feed a lot of dogs at the same time, chop up the food and throw it in a scattering way so they don't fight over any one piece but disperse.

Stray dogs can make good guard dogs, especially around the office. Once they feel loyal to a place, they will protect it. They will also alert (or wake up) the local security guards. That is one reason the security guards in and around neighborhoods and buildings take care of the dogs. The dogs are often napping around the security guards ... and the security guards napping around the dogs!

The stray dogs are one thing which make Thailand unique in its character. Wish I could take some Thai dogs with me to any other country I go to, where they could set a good example for other dogs on how to be leashless yet well behaved and not become street pizza.

A problem everywhere, however, is birth control.

One dog chose my yard to have 11 puppies. A few weeks later, they became poopies. I found homes for a few of them but had to ditch the rest at the temple.

The Thai government has a program with some neighborhoods, working with neighborhood dog lovers and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), to drive a dog hospital in a sort of large van to the neighborhood. The day before, they drop off kennels. The local dog lovers corral selected dogs into the kennels and meet the van arrives at the park in the morning. They sedate and neuter them. The van leaves with dogs laid out on sheets side by side, and the people guard the dogs against other dogs until the sedation wears off.

The Bangkok city government also funded a program to clip a microchip onto the ear of the dogs to make sure their history is recorded, including neutered status, rabies vaccination, any anything else important.

Population control is vital to keeping man's best friend manageable and on good terms with the human population. Wish humans would do the same. Tell the pope that the world has changed in 2000 years and if the wise old ones were here today, they'd probably say it's time for a change in dogma about multiplying.

What's the old joke? "Sorry if my karma ran over your dogma." Something like that ... and do dogs have a soul ... how does a dog get to heaven, etc. ... and if reincarnation is 1:1, well, there are 6 billion people today but only millions in the past, so I guess maybe we were dogs or bacteria spirits in the past? Maybe something to meditate about at a dog temple, another place to meet the Holy Spirit, among all the others present who may or may not ...

I love animals. I can eat meat at the market but I couldn't raise and kill it myself, and especially couldn't hunt. But I think we evolved eating animal protein and need it for full health. I may be wrong, but my experience is that if I don't some meat, I don't feel as good and am not as productive. Most of my meat is fish.

A friend of mine who had recently left a bad relationship with a woman wistfully said he keenly missed her dog ... but didn't miss his ex-girlfriend at all!




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