Michaela picks me up at 08.00 in the morning, I jump behind her on the bike and few minutes later we are already forcing our way through the city of Lamai. Miška has been living on the Koh Samui island for the past 4 years and she has assisted the Slovaks who came for vacation with almost everything. Did a dog bite you? Call Miška. Did you hit a local with your mo-bike? Call Miška. Do you want to construct houses here? Do you need a surgery? Dentist, one day trip, strong fever? Miška is aware about everything, handles everything and knows everyone. It was her who recommended for my Thai running charity project a local dog rescue center in the jungle called Pharia Dog Koh Samui, ran by a Swiss guy Stefan Koenig. After a 10-minutes ride through the morning heat we leave the main street and stop in the jungle, where Stefan is waiting in his big truck. We jump in and after a short drive through the real jungle we stop just in the middle of it. We are there, we arrived at the rescue station.
In the entire Southeast Asia there are hundreds of thousands wild dogs on the streets, Thailand and Koh Samui are not an exception. In the Buddhist countries the dogs are peacefully living close to their surroundings, you will meet them pretty much everywhere. Too much of them, sick, crippled, hungry. In most of the cases they are not dangerous, only sometimes they can become your nightmare (when riding a bike which they are not used to so much or if there is a group of them). They change their behaviour after the sunset.
Back at home in Switzerland Stefan was working for IBM as a project manager. The destiny, but more the wish to change something with help to the others brought him to Koh Samui where he first started in a different shelter. His own rescue station he has built on a „greenfield“, in the jungle. He doesn’t consider it as a shelter, he wants to be more. Thanks to tourism, dogs are not having a bad time at Samui and this is the reason Stefan wants to help only those, who are not able to be integrated into the normal life anymore. Most of his dogs arrived as puppies and they don’t know the world outside – they would not leave even if all the gates would be widely open. When they see us coming, they start barking like crazy. They are happy to see a human face, Stefan explains.
Stefan is living in the house above the station, but he cannot be present all the time. The daily agenda depends a lot from the volunteers from all over the world, without them Stefan’s place wouldn‘t be working at all. At the time of my visit there are two ladies helping, Mara from the UK and Alina from Switzerland. Every morning from Monday to Friday, they are helping for free. Mara herself has two dogs at home, whom she brings with her all the time. She interrupted the volunteering and found a regular job, that didn’t last too long. She loves the dogs, they are nicer than people, she says.
The morning routine starts around nine, the dogs are being fed and inspected, the area is cleaned, the water is refilled, and the emergency cases are being taken care of. Now there are 130 dogs in Stefan’s station and even the smallest wound can have a devastating consequence in these tropical conditions. If the time allows, they play with the dogs too. Stefan’s dogs need interaction, contact with people, they are still wild animals and without people their instincts wake up. After two – three days they would start building their own rules which happens when there is not enough volunteers. It never happened though, that one of the dogs would attack a human. When there is a fight between them, it is usually the group attacking a poor one (it does sound familiar, doesn’t it?). Stefan is the leader, he is very good in getting the dogs from each-other, which happened during our interview several times. Stefan’s dogs cannot complain about the lack of motion, they are divided into few areas, whereas the largest has almost five thousand square meters and the smallest one four hundred. 90% of the dogs are recorded in a special book and have names. The most important dog is a white mix of a medium body (all the dogs are small or medium), the boss among the dogs and Stefan’s right hand.
The station is currently without a vet, who would be executing the operations, amputations etc. The main vet in the past (and also the co-founder) was Stefan’s ex-girlfriend, who decided to leave. Other vets have been coming from the volunteering field too, for ex. from UK or Hong Kong. A simple bone operation costs in a private Thai clinic around 40.000 Baht (1.000 EUR / 27.000 CZK). Stefan also cooperates with the large state organization Soi Dog, based in Phuket. This one helps from time to time with volunteers and vets, when needed. When there is no other choice, Stefan loads the dog on the truck, the truck on the ferry and travels for the operation to Phuket. Such journey costs easily 6.000 Baht (160 EUR / 4.100 CZK), some complicated and high-risk cases must be treated from the financial management aspect, which means amputation. The station is not ready to treat the „disabled” on a long term, unfortunately.
The first stone of the station has been built 2 years ago (2016), from April 2017 there is a clinic with two rooms: one for operations, the other one for examinations. There is also 10 special „rooms“, where the dogs are treated who have to be separated from the others at the moment. The most important next step for Stefan is to become „official“, since all the current activities are not official. The transformation into a foundation would cost around 2 million Bhat (53.000 EUR / 1.375.000 CZK), and even if the money would be there, the process is rather long and very complicated. In a country, where the state bureaucracy is booming. The process usually takes 3-4 years, however on a different island and in case of a different shelter it’s been taking seven. Having said this, a better option is to transform the rescue station into a private clinic, and the money which the clinic would gain from the private sector Stefan could easily spend into his „babies“. It would present an unique concept, as far as he knows there is no such clinic in the entire Thailand. The medicaments would be cheaper too, today Stefan has no guarantee that he can obtain them in future through his private channels and he is paying sometimes even 6 times more than they really cost.
While we continue with our interview, from the tree next to us a coconut falls, that was something! Never stay under a coconut; have you heard about the theory that a coconut kills yearly 10-times more (mostly stupid) people than a shark? Even if it would be the same, have you heard the media writing about the blood-thirsty coconuts? And about sharks?
Except his own money, Stefan gains financial support mostly through donations from Facebook. Sometimes he organizes events too. A dog can be sponsored remotely as well, the monthly sponsorship costs around 25 EUR (650 CZK). Local adoption is for free, the dog is sterilized/castrated, full vaccinated, dewormed and treated against ticks/flies. International adoption happens from time to time too, the costs for the new owner are approx. 500 – 800 EUR, depending on the destination, size of the dog and airline costs. The new owner must wait for a volunteer who would be willing to transport the dog to the destination country, after all the papers are handled. One future „Canadian“ is waiting since few months. Not so many travellers to Samui from Kanada. Since Stefan operates independently, there is not much support from the government. He is seen as crazy – he doesn’t gain any profit. On the other side, he is moving the problem from the streets, which the government likes. By guess, there is approximately 15-20 thousand wild dogs living in Samui. When the number becomes too high, Soid Dog arrives and does mass sterilizations. During the last action they spent 8 months on the island and sterilized around 8.500 dogs. The number of puppies decreased. The local Thai people are using the wild dogs to watch over their property – they feed them, and the dogs protect them in parallel. These poor people cannot effort to own the dogs officially and pay for their sterilization, vaccination etc. A bigger problem are the long-term tourists, who are spending months and sometimes even years on the island. After they arrive, they start feeding the dogs but don’t pay for the sterilization, which costs approx. 3.000 Bhat (80 EUR / 2.000 CZK). When leaving, they leave the dog behind with the house/property. The dog gets used to the environment, which the new owner or the resort manager don’t like. They are trying to chase the dog away and if this one comes back, they would poison him with the rat poison hidden in the meat (which happened to one of the volunteers‘ dog after my visit). According to Stefan, Samui is not a poor island and a wild dog would find here in the trash all he needs for his life. It is not necessary to feed them, if this money would be used for vaccination (one dose costs around 110 Bhat, which is not more than 3 EUR / 75 CZK), the problem would be smaller.
HOW YOU CAN HELP and how will your money be used
There are two ways how to help. The first one is a donation, which will be used for the daily regime of the station (food, treatment, vaccination etc). There is also the option to support a concrete dog, in that case the money goes to his monthly care.
The most optimal way is to donate via the Facebook page of the station:
Click on „Donate“, then „Continue“, add amount. Note, this is a payment via PayPal, you must have a valid PayPal account in order to donate. If you don’t, the station has a valid Swiss bank account which can be shared or contact me for other options, we will for sure find a way.
Monthly remote adoption of a concrete dog, more info on the station’s web:
The second option is a personal visit. If you plan to travel to Samui to enjoy the sun and sea, you can spend few hours with the dogs, to play with them, or to help with the daily regime too. For more info about this option please contact directly Pariah Dog Koh Samui on their Facebook page.
Last but not least, you will also help with a simple SHARE of this blog to your network (Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and other social networks). TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
PLEASE NOTE: Please let me know once you decide to contribute financially. I would mention you into the section “Contributors” (possible to be mentioned also anonymously).
Lately, there were several unauthorized attempts to access the station. It does only confirm that also malicious and mean people live on Samui too. Stefan’s rescue station is an oasis for 130 dogs, who were very lucky. Luck is changeful; what would happen to them if the station wouldn’t be able to continue I don’t want to imagine. Let’s try to show, that WE do care about the destiny of these poor animals. Let’s also show respect and support to a man, who sacrificed a lot: his corporate career, money, time, but is still giving love and his heart. He keeps repeating: he made a promise and he cannot break that one.
These days there are still people, for whom the promise is a holy word. How blessed this sounds to someone, who comes from Slovakia…
UPDATE 04 October 2018: Final amount of kilometers I ran in Thailand in two weeks was 89, I also added more on bike and while swimming in the sea. The final amount of all kilometers stopped at 160, 49 and this was the amount I donated in USD to Pariah Dog Koh Samui.