The affection and gratitude a dog shows you if you pay attention to him is one of the greatest feelings which I’ve ever experienced. In September 2017 I fulfilled two of my wishes: a journey to warm and exotic Thailand and working with dogs for two entire months. Since 2005 the Thai island Koh Lanta – which is located in the south-west – is where NATUCATE’s partner organisation and its dogs and cats project operate.
The director founded the shelter to save stray dogs and cats from a life on the street. The animals are not only fed and nursed – sterilising, worming and vaccinating them are supposed to reduce the problem of rising dog and cat populations on the island. The project founded a gigantic building for cats and dogs along with an animal clinic (the only one in the region) to provide special treatments for the animals. It was built mainly by donations; the existence of the shelter is dependent on tourism and the help of volunteers and this makes working there even more exciting. The greatest aim everyone is working towards is to help the animals find a “forever home” somewhere in the world.
You get used to the climate after the first few days, a simple accommodation and many tasks which need to be done for and with the animals. Even if you don’t know with whom you will be sharing rooms, you, together with all volunteers and employees on site, aim at providing a better life for the animals in the shelter. You quickly find new friends due to team work 24/7. While having dinner together in the Lanta Sure (cheap and very delicious Thai food), during trips on the island or while clubbing in Fusion Bar you become a family.
Depending on whether you would like to work with cats or dogs, or the animals in the quarantine station, you get in touch which all animals. You shouldn’t underestimate the work! Physical exhaustion is standard, but you can also cuddle cats and dogs while socialising them. Taking the dogs out for a walk is part of the work as well. The focus is on the well-being of the animals all the time. A very big contribution comes from the dog whisperer of the project: if she does her job, all grumpy dogs transform into tame puppies. She is very happy to help with questions and advice. She does everything to make you feel comfortable and happy while working with the animals. The night shift is exhausting but it provides time to cuddle. While doing so, you sleep in the kitchen close to the dogs’ bed for the night to make sure that they remain calm in the night and in the morning at 5 AM during the Muslim morning prayers or to take emergency dogs. A bonus is taking a dog into your bed as a “night dog”.
Even if work was exhausting and energy-sapping sometimes, I am very happy about my decision to volunteer in this project. The Thai culture is charming, the island relaxes you, you meet people from around the globe and work with the greatest animals on earth. If I felt a little down, I visited the dogs, played and cuddled with them. So I killed two birds with one stone: cuddling time for the dog and for me. On my last day I was moved to tears after I said goodbye to the dogs and my friends. I check Facebook every day to see how all the dogs found a new home and really miss that heart-warming feeling which the dogs’ joy gave me.