Sunday, 7 August 2016

Elephant Nature Park Dog Project | ADOPT DONT SHOP

Last week I was lucky enough to volunteer at Elephant Nature Park at the Dog Project. It was my second time volunteering at ENP, almost a year later. I decided I'd like to volunteer with the dogs this time, because they need the help, and I love dogs! I knew it would be an emotional experience, but it was definitely one of the best things I've ever done, and I will do it again at some point!

The project resulted from the Bangkok floods towards the end of 2011, they rescued 2,000 dogs, and 155 were were bought to Elephant Nature Park, where they built large runs for the dogs with lots of things for them to play in, climb on and swim in. They also constructed a hospital for the animals, and employed a full time vet and manager. Since then it has grown, now home to over 400 dogs, rescued from all kinds of backgrounds, malnutrition, disease, abuse and even the illegeal dog meat trade in Laos and Vietnam.

The dogs are very well looked after, with weekly volunteers flying in from all over the world throughout the year to give a helping hand, and world vets visiting and staying for months at a time to give professional help and advice. Some volunteers extend their stay and end up staying for a month. The workload is quite intense if you're not used to physical work, early starts and lots of dog walking (sounds more like a dream to me). The main area of work is the clinic, where dogs go if they are ill or have injuries, not forgetting the cats! There will be one person assigned to the cats, which is just cleaning out their cages, feeding them and keeping their water topped up, with lots of cuddles included. The same with the dogs, cleaning out their cages, feeding them, water, and of course walking them. There will be a team of people doing the main area, depending on how many volunteers there are it may take longer.

At 11:30 its lunch time, where the queue can be quite long if there's lots of day visitors! But the food is of course amazing, 99% vegan, 100% vegetarian (some things have egg in) and at 12:30 its time to walk the dogs again. Once the clinic dogs have been walked, other dogs can be walked that are in the clinic runs, or steel runs. These are smaller runs, with few dogs in, so its nice to walk them from time to time, as this isn't a regular occurance, it only happens if there's enough help and time. Often the elephant volunteers will finish early and have free time to come and help walk the dogs, which is great! Its also important to spend time with dogs in different runs, as they may not have as much human contact as other dogs. My favourite thing to do was walk into a run, sit down and be swarmed by dog kisses!

There are two incredible women that work at ENP Dogs. Sabrina, who comes all the way from Austria, visited ENP in 2014 and decided to stay. She now manages the clinic and deals with all the adoptions, there are dogs that have been flown all over the globe thanks to her amazing work. She really cares about the dogs, and thanks to her, so many have found new forever homes.

And of course, Carolina. She is the volunteer co-ordinator at ENP, she comes all the way from Colombia, and she also visited as a volunteer and ended up staying. She's been there for 2 years now and she has the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met. She looks after the volunteers as well as the dogs, she loves them, and its so clear to see. Whilst I was there, she had adopted some baby rats, she accidentally killed their mother living in a filing cabinet and decided she couldn't abandon these babies, so she took them in and made them a little home in the office, she wouldn't even hurt a fly. She has a heart of gold, and she is vegan too!

Being around true animal lovers is such an amazing thing. Its wonderful to see people that care so much about animals and will do all they can to help them have the best life. There are so many people out there that want to harm them, so I personally am grateful that there are people like Carolina and Sabrina in the world, not forgetting Lek, founder of ENP and her husband Darrick. Darrick actually saw me wearing my vegan t-shirt at ENP and said "I love vegans" - which really made my day! (slightly off topic, but it was a big deal to me)

I really recommend volunteering at ENP dogs: It costs £109 for the week, food and accomodation included, as well as a transfer from Chiang Mai city (ENP office) to the park. The most expensive thing you'll pay for is the flight to Thailand, which is so worth it, especially since you get a free 30 day visa on arrival so can even extend your stay at ENP if there's room!

Now, with all of these dogs in just one sanctuary, can you imagine how many homeless animals there are including all the Thai street dogs, and strays all over the world? Thousands, millions even. In 2014 it was estimated that there were 300,000 street dogs in Bangkok alone. So many homeless animals, but yet, people continue to breed them.

I've heard every excuse there is to buy an animal from a breeder or a pet shop, and none of them are legit, valid excuses. The only excuses there are, are selfish, ignorant and vain. Its all to do with the type of breed, or tempermant, and some people genuinely just "can't be bothered" with the adoption process. I can shatter some myths I've heard, after having spent a week with dogs who have come from abusive backgrounds, have been known to be "aggressive" or even have PTSD.

Sometimes people think that certain breeds are aggressive, now I am no professional, but from my experience, this is false. Dogs are only aggressive if they feel threatened, a tiny chihuahua can be more aggressive than a rottweiler in certain circumstances, and vice versa. Of course there's different things that can make a dog feel threatened, you just have to be careful, like you have to be careful with anything, its almost like holding a sleeping baby, you will be as careful and gentle as possible not to wake him. Its the same with dogs, I never just briskly approach dogs I don't know, I'll always make them aware of me and let them approach me and sniff me before I pat them, and if they aren't interested, I'll leave them alone. Obviously some people don't do this, and they can startle the dog causing the dog to become frightened, resulting in an attack or a bite, which could easily be avoided.

You shouldn't be scared of dogs because they've had a bad past, dogs are friendly loving animals that love human interaction. Spending a little time with a dog in a shelter can change not only his or her world, but yours too. I am unable to adopt any dogs right now, sadly. Though if I could, I know I would have taken at least 1 dog from ENP home with me. I know there are those of you out there that feel the same, and those of you that CAN adopt, and if you CAN, and you really want a friendly, furry companion, then you really should consider adopting from a shelter. The price you pay is beneficial to you and the dog.

Often shelters charge a fee which covers spaying/neuturing and vaccinations, which could end up costing more if you did it through a vet. The vaccinations will protect your furry friend from disease, and spaying/neuturing helps to prevent even more homeless animals. When people pay £1,000 or more for "purebred" dogs, they often aren't vaccinated or spayed/neutured. Not to mention, a lot of these dogs have been inbred for centuries to make them look a certain way, pugs for example, have serious health conditions, as a result of the excessive breeding to get them to look that way. Owners often spend thousands on vet bills every year to help care for them.

The same goes with cats. There are so many that need homes, and they are just as loving as dogs, regardless of what people think, cats know when you've rescued them, just like dogs do, I get woken up by my rescue, Beau, every day for morning cuddles when I'm at home! We domesticated these animals, the least we can do is provide them loving homes.



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