I love dogs. My father is an avid lover of animals and I consider the care and concern over animal welfare to be an ethic instilled in me and my siblings as a primary part of our upbringing. The four years I was in college were the only time in my life that I haven’t lived with an animal in the house and I considered that time difficult – it’s weird not to have animals around. When Kevin and I moved to Thailand we intended to have our cattle dog, Zoa, sent out after us once we found a place where we could live with her. But it’s actually quite difficult to find a place to live that allows dogs so we abandoned that plan and left Zoa to be cared by my very loving father back home in Colorado; and, indeed, when we adopted Jaidee here in Pattaya a few years later we had to basically bend and then break the rules at our apartment building. We truly lucked out that there was a change of ownership right when we took him in, so he was more or less “grandfathered” in with the new owners, while the previous owners didn’t really care because they were selling the building. Once we took Jaidee in and had a dog living with us, after 2.5 years in Thailand with no pets at all, my life in Thailand changed. It changed in obvious ways, like having to care for an animal whereas we’d had much greater freedom of movement before – this meant having to rent a car to get to fights, finding a hotel that will allow dogs every time I fight, as he goes everywhere with us. It also meant being homebodies for the first year or so – not that we are super social – as he has separation anxiety to some degree. But it changed in invisible ways as well. Jaidee has filled our home in a way that only a dog can do. He’s been a running buddy (not often, he’s a little draggy on the leash) and a napping buddy (way more often) for me and he’s brought a great deal of joy to me and Kevin, and we wouldn’t have him any other way. Something really deepened when I took him in, our lives here became more real, more focused and grounded.
You know those people who write Christmas letters in the voice of their cat? I never want to be that person. But I’ve taken a step toward it by setting up an Instagram account for my dog, Jaidee. I do, however, draw the line at speaking as Jaidee on the account. However, the point of creating the Instagram for him is that the life of dogs in Thailand is something special to me. They’re not called “soi dogs” in Thai, but the Soi Dog Foundation has used that term to refer to “street dogs” or stray dogs, of which there are a great many all over Thailand. To some degree these dogs are cared for by the community. You’ll see dogs that hang out around street vendors to get scraps and locals will seek out areas where there are lots of dogs to drop piles of food. Every 7-11 has a dog lounging in front of the automated doors to bask in the air-con when the doors open and some dogs become like the mascots of particular streets or stores. To another degree, however, the life of a street dog is very hard and very dangerous. There is a lot of risk from the traffic, as well as illness and mange. I wrote a little about this in The Hard Life of Dogs in Thailand. It’s heartbreaking and it’s everywhere.
Part of setting up the account for Jaidee is to bring a small lens to the lives of soi dogs. Lots of it is showing Jaidee’s life, which involves a lot of sleeping and being zipped around the country for my fights, but he comes in contact with a social network of dogs on our street on a regular basis and the Instagram is meant to tell their stories as well. Snowflake is the dog chained pretty much 24/7 across the street, who we walk with twice per day just to give him a bigger world. Lupo (“one week, two week”) is Jaidee’s half-sister, who lives in the parking area of our apartment building and runs the block. There’s a husky just up the road who howls from the skeletal structure of an unfinished (perhaps never-to-be-finished) building, and beyond him is the ancient dog who just lounges on a shaded table and has a rooster as his best friend. There’s “Racoon Dog” and “the Whites” who are farther up the road – they’re very territorial. And there are Dam, Patongo, and Tank Dog who Jaidee plays with at the beach. A beach dog and a soi dog are similar, but not the same.
Jaidee was adopted out of a garbage pile, he is in his origins a soi dog. With his Instagram we are at once showing his life, because there are dog-lovers out there who are fans of Jaidee as a Muay Thai dog (he’s “seen” literally 100s and 100s of fights), and I want to share photos of him without clogging up my own page with dog photos like a crazy person. So it’s a way to post more photos of Jaidee without being that woman who posts every little thing her dog does that’s sooo cute and nobody else wants to see. But it’s also a way to introduce folks who do love dogs, who might love Jaidee, to the world of soi dogs in Thailand. I love these dogs and they are part of my everyday life, so we’d like to share their lives as well.
You can follow the Adventures of Jaidee on Instagram here
You can support the lives of Soi Dogs through the Soi Dog Foundation here
Now, Jaidee himself is a very awkward dog. Things I love about him are that he doesn’t understand the social cues of other dogs, especially their aggression, thinking every strange dog might like to play. He’s finicky, and derpy. He gets very nervous in the car on our long drives, ever since we had a pretty bad accident on the road, often trembling for hours no matter how much love we give him. But he lives for riding on the motorbike, sandwiched between Kevin and me. He is a power sleeper. He loves to run on open ground in a very spazzy way, and is incredibly fast. He’s not the smartest dog in the world, but is super sensitive. He hates flies – Kevin says he was traumatized by them in the garbage pile, half joking – he really, really loves running up to the waterfall on Doi Suthep when I fight in Chiang Mai, one of the few places he can really open up. He likes fishing rocks out of ponds. Some Thais seem to find him really beautiful, and ask what kind of dog he is, thinking he’s an exotic – because who would bring a soi dog everywhere?, like keeping a pet rat. He likes to ignore his food after I put it down. He’s just all kinds of crazy, in a neurotic way, but he was in a garbage pile and now he’s not. Thanks to everyone who has sent good wishes toward him over the last few years, and even those that sent financial support for when he was some medical distress (long story). This Instagram, which is both incredibly trite and hopefully also thoughtful, wishfully will open up a small window into the life of dogs, and my life here too.