"Thailand's stray dogs become Internet darlings"

"Thailand's stray dogs become Internet darlings"
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

Thailand has grown into a nation of pedigree dog lovers over the years and indeed who wouldn't fall for a fluffy and friendly Golden Retriever, cheeky Beagle or charismatic Siberian Husky?

While these three breeds remain firmly at the top of the list when people are looking for a pet, some of us simply can't help but fall for the charm of a pup whose parentage is anyone's guess.

Mixed breed Thai dogs come in many shapes, colour and sizes and all too often are left to die on the streets. Yet sometimes that special someone comes along and before you can blink an eye, both man and animal are hooked.

Take Sorasart "Yorch" Wisetsin and Kittipong "Goh M Buddha Bless'" Khamsat. Both confessed dog lovers, they dreamt of owning an exotic Siberian Husky, Shiba Inu or Rottweiler yet couldn't be prouder of their mixed breeds

A freelance TV commercial producer with Film Factory Production, Yorch met Gluta while he was working towards his multimedia degree at Rajamangala University . He'd been feeding the strays outside his dormitory for a while and decided to adopt her after saving her from being taken away.

Gluta's time on the streets had left her in poor health and Yorch sought help for his pals on the social networks to raise funds for the vet, who successfully treated the mongrel for cervical cancer, pyometra (uterine infection) and skin diseases.

A dog with an expressive face, Gluta quickly became a darling of the Internet with photos and film of her smiling face becoming the symbol of a stray making good.

Gluta was soon joined by Gollum, a mongrel with a broken leg who Yorch rescued both from the street and from a vet determined to amputate her limb, and before long the two girls were delighting cybernauts everywhere with their broad grins.

Yorch has turned his collection of shots into two photobooks of Gluta and Gollum and the response has been so positive that they are now being translated into other languages.

Goh M, a member of the rap outfit Buddha Bless, also started out by feeding strays in his neighbourhood. His compassion didn't end with kibble, though, and he also took the sick and injured animals to the vet and paid for them to be neutered before looking for good homes.

He quickly become known to his fellow netizens and before long praise for his generosity was pouring in.

That led to the launch of a TV programme - "Marhgarb Marhjorn" - which now airs weekly on True Block 7, though it doesn't, Goh M laments, draw in the sponsorship cash.

"I guess I've spent more than Bt1 million helping animals," he says, "When I was doing it quietly without any of these publicity, it felt good and I really didn't want the public attention. Then I thought it would help them even more if other people knew about their plight and wanted to help too," he says.

So far, Goh M has been instrumental in finding new homes for more than 100 stray dogs and today shares his home with 13 dogs, cats, turtle, rabbits and a chicken and his office with four dogs and five cats.

Taking care of Gluta and Gollum gave Yorch the idea to raise better awareness of mixed breed dogs and his "Thousand Ways Dog" Facebook page has become a community for owners of mongrels.

The name refers to the vast number of ancestors a mixed breed can lay claim to and Yorch is quick to point out that stray mongrels are as much a symbol of Thailand as its problem.

The page now has almost 6,000 members, most of them owners of adopted mongrels who have become part of the family.

Unlike Goh M who goes out to rescue strays dog, Yorch says he's more like an advertising agency for mixed breeds.

He's aiming to promote the pooches and help them gain more acceptance and recently launched a campaign to buy a studio lighting set for the Soi Dog and The Voice Foundations so they can take beautiful pictures of rescued dogs that will help them find a new home.

His work has paid off handsomely with his Gluta page raising sufficient money for two lighting sets.

He put his theory to the test by photographing six of the strays rescued by Goh M and posting them online. Four of them found homes in a week and Goh M was amazed. "I'd been trying to get them adopted for months," he laughs.

"I like Yorch's photography style and his work with Gluta and Gollum is amazing," he adds.

The two lighting sets are now set up at the foundations and everyone is hoping that the project will be a success.

Yorch dreams of one day seeing a pet expo devoted to mixed breeds.

While Goh M agrees with the idea, he says his experience with a home-finding fair for abandoned dogs and cats clearly demonstrated a need for money, the right location and serious sponsorship, none of which is easy to find.

He adds that finding time to do the show is becoming increasingly hard and he'd like to give it up because it's both exhausting and unprofitable.

"I really wish it could be aired on a free TV channel so it would earn enough sponsorship to cover my expenses and the bills for the rescued animals," he sighs.

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