Nine dogs. That’s how many we’ve been looking after today, in one form or another.
In April we had one.
How has it come to this?
Six of the nine have been a bunch of smashing little puppies. They started life underneath our house, born to an enterprising mother who rightly realised they had a better chance of life being born here, rather than in the village. Birth control isn’t always a priority here and young pups can often have short lives if no-one is prepared to look after them. All across Thailand the fortunate ones are dropped at the temple and there they hope to find enough food to sustain them, often with fierce competition.
We knew the mother was a local dog and she’d been a regular follower of our own dog. He’s a handsome boy and attracts the attention of quite a few local females, and this dog had been hanging round for a while. We’d chased her away many times, but what we didn’t know was she was digging a space under our bedroom balcony and making a safe place to give birth.
Our dog Dudley, who himself was lucky to be looked after by a neighbour - and relative - for his first months before pestering us enough to give him food, was joined by the mother as a One Tree Farm resident. She joined Teng, Dudley’s brother, as a fixture around the house.
Teng is a bit of a nomad. In his early life he was also fed by our next door relative, but more recently sleeps and gets food from the next farm down. The owner has a restaurant and Teng is fed on left over food, but the owner spends time at another of his businesses in Bangkok, and Teng appears at our place more regularly.
So there we have it. We’re up to three adults, and the six pups take us up to nine.
My whole life I’ve been cautious of dogs, and generally avoided getting close to them. They always sensed my hesitation and I was pretty scared of them when I was younger. How have I ended up with nine?
The six pups slept under our balcony for the first 5 or 6 weeks, but the last two weeks have been much more adventurous. They explore everything and they have been slowly expanding their wandering zone with every day.
They look, they sniff, they bite - and their tiny little teeth are getting sharper by the day. I’ve had five chewing on me at feeding time. It was like being eaten alive by mini-zombies. Relentless.
We are now beginning to see their personalities develop and it’s been a curious observation. We pretty much have three sets of twins - each different ‘breeds’ and behaviours. From watching the each pup refine its own strategy of getting closest to the food - preferably being in it - to seeing them get more confident when dealing with the big dogs, it’s really been one of the funniest, most rewarding, and happiest things.
The pups are coming to the end of their time with us so what kind of dogs are the new owners getting?
Rotti and Naan
Two boys. Two playful, naughty boys who like starting fights and pushing the boundaries. They’ve been the most confident of the two and their sense of adventure made them the first to take on the big dogs. In the first few weeks Dudley didn’t have much time for these little dogs, and there was a tinge of jealousy too, but in recent weeks he’s been more playful and Rotti and Naan were the first to break him down.
Rotti on the left - with more white on his nose, and Naan
Despite sounding like an Indian bread Rotti is actually named after Pavarotti. In the first few weeks he made a lot of noise and sang with his neck stretched, exposing his white chest bordered by his black jacket. It may not have been much like Nessun Dorma but the image stuck in my head.
Naan was named by default on the mistaken understanding that … well, that should be obvious.
Khao Tom and Oi Ing
Although not done on purpose, these twins have Thai names. Khao Tom stood out from the start as he’s the only light coloured dog. One night, as dinner was being prepared, I heard the mention of Khao Tom and thought this pup was being talked about. It wasn’t the case but Khao Tom - or boiled rice/rice soup - stuck as a name.
Oi Ing and Khao Tom (now Bobby) having their nightly squeal
Oi Ing is the runt of the litter but if you hear her she’s the most aggressive. Throughout the day what sounds like the gentle revving of a small-engined motorbike can be heard and this is the sound of Oi Ing as she starts taunting her bigger brothers and sisters, pulling on their heard or biting their tail. For the first few weeks Oi Ing - which means hesitant, dithering (like a girl not knowing which outfit to choose when going out, says the wife) - well, she was slower than everyone, always the last to appear, and often just sleeping. At about 4-5 weeks she changed, likely because Rotti and Naan were picking on her so much. And she became a fearless monster. No longer content to be beaten up and miss out on food, she muscled, or rather growled, her way to the front of the bowl and started to eat. As I’ve also found out, she has the sharpest teeth and the strongest grip.
Every night Khao Tom and Oi Ing can be found growling and squealing at each other non-stop for 30-40 minutes. They are often sitting apart, but their audio only fight sounds vicious. It’s only now that they’ve gone do we realise how noisy they were.
These two are the most likely to be Dudley’s offspring, but my bet is that they are Teng’s.
Coco and Charcoal
Imagine pretty girls, day dreamers without a care in the world. Wearing their coat of fur at any time of the day, and more likely as not they’ll have it covered in mud and dirt at the first opportunity. They have a lovely soft bed to sleep in, but prefer to dig their own sleeping quarters in the sandy soil under the house.
This is Coco (above) and Charcoal (below).
From the start they’ve been the biggest eaters and look double the size of the other two pairs. For these two fighting with their siblings is easy; they just run straight into them, knock them over, then plant their weight on them. They are also the first to be bored, and sleek off for a quick nap while the others play.
Coco has charmed most people round here and is a firm favourite so from early on it looked like she’d be staying with us. Whether they knew or not we’ll never know, but Dudley and Coco have been inseparable for weeks. Asking where Coco is has become pointless - she’s usually somewhere close to him.
Charcoal looked like she was ready to go to a new home, but promises to take puppies are often broken. It’s better that the new owner thought this through before taking her, so for the moment she stays with us. I can’t say we are disappointed.
Throughout this whole experience our first dog has been a star. Perhaps a little jealous at first and lacking attention, he’s realised it’s best to join in. He spends mornings and early evenings as a climbing frame for the pups, and does a good job cleaning their fur while they nip and bite him all over his body. He runs around and plays with them, and now they are beginning to go on short walks he joins too. It looks a bit rough at times but the pups seem to enjoy it.
After 8 weeks all of the pups now have new homes, assuming Coco and Charcoal stay with us.
Rotti went to a friend’s little boy and he looks happy. Naan looked happy too, in his first photos of his new home but we’re not quite sure where to find him. Khao Tom is now called Bobby, and at a good home not far from us. As is Oi Ing - both Khao Tom and Oi Ing are within 30 mins drive from us.
Coco and Charcoal are still with us.
The next issue is Barbie, the mother, and how we move her out. That could take some time and even if she goes, I’m sure she’ll be a regular visitor.
But we’re down to three dogs and we’re pleased the pups have all found people that will look after them. The obvious risks we now have is by having two young girls, we invite the chance to repeat our puppy episode. We never asked for this one and I’d be pleased if we don’t have another!
Run, run, run, sleep.
Pups quickly learn where food comes from
Spot the puppy
Our number one boy