May 16, 2013

Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

Having finished our week long first experience of volunteering at the Care For Dogs shelter just outside of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand with many-many more furry friends than we started with; we felt bitten by the volunteering bug pretty hard.

Luckily for us, having spoken repeatedly with animal activists-in-transit Cody & Giselle of Mindful Wanderlust, we had a list of three or four other shelters we could travel on to in Thailand where we could help make a difference to a few more soi dogs (street dogs).

Chief of the pile was Elephant Nature Park Dogs.

Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park is one of the leading elephant sanctuaries in Asia, a 200-acre stretch of land an hours drive north of Chiang Mai where the priority is the rights of the elephants; where the elephants aren’t ridden, aren’t painting pictures & most definitely aren’t standing on their head between hours in a cage.

The ethos of the part is animal rights. The founders of the park are animal rights defenders and are recognised internationally for their efforts protecting and helping to save the dwindling Asian Elephant population.

The park operates with a combination of paid staff, paying elephant volunteers and also regular trips from Chiang Mai of day visitors who wish to see elephants in a more natural habitat.

An elephant at Elephant Nature Park - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

During the Bangkok floods of 2011, a distress call went out for immediate help for the huge amount of animals in the city who had been abandoned by evacuating families or were part of the hundreds of street dogs who live on the city streets or around the grounds of Buddhist temples where they’re usually fed – if not cared for entirely – by the locals & monks.

Elephant Nature Park answered that call.

In total, there were more than 300 dogs rescued by the boat paddling helpers who’d travelled down from the north to make a difference.

A dog met whilst volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

Elephant Nature Park Dogs

As a result, the park set about creating a temporary home at the park using some of the spare space not usually frequented by the elephants.

After that, the park began accepting more dogs who required the care they deserved. They rescued local village dogs in need of medical treatment, more canines from other shelters in Thailand who no longer had the capacity for all of the dogs in their care & also for dogs rescued as part of the crackdown on the illegal dog meat trade.

Some shelters - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

the open runs and homes for the dogs

<2>Experience By The Experienced

Both Cody & Giselle had spent more than six months at Elephant Nature Park – both as elephant volunteers, but mostly with the dogs – and had nothing but great things to say about the possibilities to make a difference in some grateful dogs lives whilst also getting the chance to meet some wonderful like-minded people and – oh yeah – occasionally see some elephants marching past.

Elephants at at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter
Family of elephants at at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

A Day In The Life

Less than two days after leaving the Care For Dogs shelter we were already on the road in to Elephant Nature Park where we’d be spending a minimum period of seven working days.

On arrival we were shown our free accommodation where we would be staying for the entirety of our stay, where the communal and eating areas are in the park, where the shelter clinic was situated and finally what our schedule of activities would be. The next seven days would be set out as the following:

Morning –

  • Walking the clinic dogs (approx. 20 dogs)
  • Scrubbing soiled cages, replacing the bedding & water
  • Sweeping and full sanitized mopping of the clinic floor
  • Full sanitized cleaning of TVT dogs solitary area
  • Medicated bathing schedule
  • Time in the dog runs checking for ticks, bites & wounds whilst also giving oodles of cuddles

Afternoon –

  • Walking the clinic dogs (approx. 20 dogs)
  • Scrubbing soiled cages, replacing the bedding & water
  • Sweeping and full sanitized mopping of the clinic floor
  • Scheduled vaccinations & de-sexing
  • Time in the dog runs checking for ticks, bites & wounds whilst also giving oodles of cuddles
  • Walking the clinic dogs
  • Scrubbing soiled cages, replacing the bedding & water
  • Full sanitized cleaning of TVT dogs solitary area

Baths Board - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter
Franca volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter
Dale volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

As you can probably see, cleaning can be a large part of the care for the more than 450+ dogs on site, but it’s a full necessity which should come first to ensure the full medical care and prevention of any outbreaks of diseases typical to Asia such as Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumour, Blood Parasites & occasionally Distemper.

Once that is done with though – it’s cuddles time

Franca whilst volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter
Dale with puppies volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter
Dale with a dog whilst volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter
Franca with a dog whilst volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter, Chiang Mai

Once the schedule is clear (which can be done swiftly if everyone pulls their weight) volunteers are free to spend time in either the clinic runs, the open runs, the run full of 50+ puppies waiting to be named, the incredibly cute disabled run and the scared dog run where the dogs level of awesomeness is truly beyond description.

Another dog of ENP, Chiang Mai - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

During the first week we made ourselves as useful as possible to give the full respect possible for just how much of an incredible opportunity being a dog volunteer was. We wanted to learn everything there was to learn, we wanted to be present for every situation. We helped the fantastic on-site Thai vet on the few occasions when we could and also spent as much time with the magnificent vet nurse Tegan as possible (who we now miss greatly) learning a little about the medication process and as much of the dogs personal histories as we could commit to memory.

Preparing vaccinations whilst volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter
Dale getting the vaccinations ready - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter
Dale and the vet nurse - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

Four weeks later and we were still at the park. We felt like a part of the community, part of the scenery & very much part of the lives of many of the dogs.

We had a list as long as all four of our arms of dogs we’d love to adopt and take with us home.

Franca with a ill dog - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

the magnificent Number Two

Franca with a scared dog - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

the unforgettable, Nin

There were also dogs who lived by our volunteer accommodation who (you can see a theme here) we came to love as much as pet back home, who we’d sit and pet where possible.

From the volunteers accommodation - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

the view from our accommodation

James Bond the dog - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

with a voice to rival Sinatra, my favourite house pet, James Bond

There were also a small collection of dogs who are allowed to roam the site that would come on walks with us and follow us around the park, going down to the river that runs through the park for a cooling bath under Thailand’s hot season temperatures of 40 degree heat.

A dog running free at ENP Chiang Mai, Thailand - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

one of our true stars, Buck

Here is Brom the dog - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

utter attention whore, Brom

A Future For The Dogs

Whilst we were at the park the clinic was going through a kind of transition where some of the team who’d been there since the shelters inception were moving on to new pastures.

One of the transitions that we’d both like to see is the advancement of the adoption process that is in place for the more than 450 dogs that we came to know and love.

Whilst there is an adoption process in place – we were there to see the adoption of four dogs during the four weeks – if it could be grown to it’s full potential, almost all of these very loving dogs (dogs in permanent care permitting) could be making best of friends with the many expat & local families in the Chiang Mai area.

A worker with puppies - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

puppies waiting for names & homes

Dale and the vet - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

one lucky pup being adopted was Benjo seen here with the vet, Pong, and myself

Our Recommendation

Would we recommend volunteering with the dogs at Elephant Nature Park Dogs? In a heartbeat.

If you want to make a difference in so many deserving dogs lives then this is a great place to do so. An opportunity like this comes once in a lifetime and we both feel that our four weeks volunteering has made one of the most incredible impacts on not just our travels to date, but also our lives.

A Volunteer at ENP in Chiang Mai, Thailand - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

Having discussed it together again & again – and also with our new friends Cody & Giselle (who we owe our lifelong gratitude too) – we’ve decided that this experience is just the first draft of the first chapter of our experiences of volunteering, that there’s a lot that we can do to make a difference elsewhere in Thailand, elsewhere in Asia and elsewhere around the world.

Cody and Giselle from Mindful Wanderlust Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

the inspiring Cody & Giselle

How You Can Help

If you happen to be visiting Thailand in the future be sure to consider Elephant Nature Park Dogs in your plans.

Only able to visit for the day? Great

Drop on by, walk a dog, give a bath & hand out the amount of cuddles we can guarantee you’ll be wanting to hand out on sight. You can also make a huge difference by bringing much needed medical supplies from back home where they’re most likely cheaper and easier to come by (be sure to get in contact if you’d like to know what to bring).

Able to visit for a week or longer? Fantastic

You’ll be able to get as knee-deep in the much needed care of the dogs in the clinic – keeping things super-clean & full of love – as we did.

Flying from or have a connection flight from Thailand? No Problem

If you’re flying from Thailand back home or just on a connecting flight, you can give much needed help transporting a dog internationally to it’s new owner in your country as a flight volunteer (at no extra cost to you – unless you want to contribute :))

Not doing any of the above anytime soon? Hey, No Worries

Seeing all these beautiful pups pulling on your heart strings can be painful when you’re not there, so you can by relaxing your purse strings. You can sponsor a dog, pay for some much needed supplies or just donate and leave it up to the team to disburse the cash – either way, it’ll go a long way and make a huge impact. Plus, we’ll love you long time.

Puppy - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

Getting In Touch

Elephant Nature Park Dogs are best contacted at their website where you’ll be able to fill out an application form for your own week of volunteering.

Alternatively, you can also go to their Facebook page where you can see more pictures of our new furry friends & send the guys a message of support or just a further query you might have.

Volunteer with a disabled dog - Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park Dog Shelter

Would you like to volunteer and take Steel for a walk too?

Tags:  Chiang Mai dog Elephant nature park shelter Thailand volunteering

Dale Davies
Dale is the British half of Angloitalian Follow Us - a slow vegan travel blog - and has been travelling full-time since June 2012.

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May 16, 2013

You guys have big hearts, seriously. I always knew that when I firstly read your blog, but this post just proved me right. What you did at Elephant Nature Park and Dog Shelter was just unbelievable. You don’t only travel, but you help animals and people. I see your schedule was pretty tight. I can see how happy you were. We would love to do the same in the near future. Admire you for that! Hope you are doing well back home. Sending our love from Macau :-).
Agness recently posted…Travellers vs. Non-Travellers – Will We Ever Understand Each Other?My Profile

    May 16, 2013

    Thanks for the love, Agness!

    We both think that you too would love the shelter as much as we did and would highly recommend you to pop by the next time you travel down south to Thailand.

    It really puts a smile on our faces to read what you had to say – we’re blushing :)
    Dale recently posted…Learning English Before Lunch in LaosMy Profile

May 16, 2013

Every nature lover must try this… I love the photos of the elephants… Those dogs are lucky to have been visited by you… I hope more and more people will have the heart to help and visit them!
Jemma recently posted…Camotes Island – Santiago Bay Garden & Beach ResortMy Profile

    May 16, 2013

    I hope that you get to make the journey too one day, Jemma, they’d love to have you along.

    We’ll be doing a write-up on the elephants in due course, be sure to come back to read it :)
    Dale recently posted…Five Tips & Pics from KyotoMy Profile

May 16, 2013

My second favorite thing in the world, after sunshine, are dogs! It would break my heart, but I would gladly do it! Volunteering really makes the heart smile, and doing it with animals has to be the best. I may die of hay fever, but it’s a good way to die!
Cat of Sunshine and Siestas recently posted…Montenegro! Very nice! Weather, very bad! But People, so nice!My Profile

May 16, 2013

Very cool volunteer project!
Talon recently posted…Where to eat in BangkokMy Profile

May 16, 2013

sooo inspiring!! what would the work be with the elephants?
wandering educators recently posted…Photographer of the Month: Al EbnerezaMy Profile

May 16, 2013

Your pictures are just heartwarming, and how awesome of you to volunteer your time to help all of these amazing creatures!!
Val @ThisWayToParadise recently posted…The Top 29 Things I Learned From My TravelsMy Profile

May 17, 2013

Good on you! I’m not an animal person but can admire anyone that goes out of their way to sprinkle a little good into the world. :)
Bethaney – Flashpacker Family recently posted…Four Things to Consider When Contemplating Living AbroadMy Profile

May 17, 2013

Fantastic! I didn’t know this place existed. I’d only hear of Care For Dogs which I was intending to pop on down to soon. I’m kinda gutted I missed out on a meeting with a fellow blogger now!
Chris recently posted…Your short stay Chiang Mai travel guide.My Profile

May 17, 2013

Wow, that sounds like hard work — very impressed! The dogs look very sweet though, despite what they’ve been through. Love your photos too, especially the one with the 3 elephants (one baby).
Travelogged recently posted…Storm King Art Center: Modern Sculptures in a Beautiful Hudson Valley SettingMy Profile

    May 18, 2013

    The dogs are even more amazing than you’ll ever see in any of the pictures we’ve taken. They’re really something special and taking care of them was more than just a pleasure :D
    Dale recently posted…HOF Eat & Art, BangkokMy Profile

May 18, 2013

Kudos to the Elephant Nature Park for taking in the distressed dogs — and to you and everyone who volunteers to care for them. Love the picture of the dog who looks like he (or she) is smiling.
Terry at Overnight New York recently posted…Yotel: Catch the Intrepid’s Summer MoviesMy Profile

May 19, 2013

Oh my gosh, so much cuteness. Those puppies! This shelter looks like an awesome place. And the elephants walking by certainly don’t hurt.
Jess recently posted…DC Cup-piesMy Profile

May 20, 2013

Such a lovely post! I nearly cry watching all this pupp! On my list of things to do when I visit Thailand! I will share this post among my social networks, hopefully we will get more outstanding volunteers like you!

    May 21, 2013

    Thanks so much, Noelfy! Here’s hoping we can do just that!

May 20, 2013

Thank you so much for educating your readers on Save Elephant Foundation, Elephant Nature Park and Elephant Nature Park Dogs. Your support means the world to much. And, thank you for playing such a big part in the program for a month. :) We hope you are able to make it back up here. Don’t worry — we are already working on Cody and Giselle to get back up, too!

    May 21, 2013

    It was more than a pleasure being there and we’d love to return some day. Please give our love to all the dogs!

May 21, 2013

Good on you guys! I’m sure those dogs were just loving all of the attention.
jill recently posted…El Hoyo – This Crazy Gringa Climbs A VolcanoMy Profile

    May 22, 2013

    They did, so much that they tried incredibly hard to stop us at every occasion.

May 24, 2013

Love that you guys did this and it’s so wonderful to see that not only did you have a great time, but you did so much with that time! I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: you guys totally inspire us and when we make it back to Thailand, this is definitely something we’ll be looking into doing!
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Port Barton: The Town that Tourism Left BehindMy Profile

Jun 04, 2013

Fantastic pictures and really great work. I’ll bet it was the experience of a lifetime.
northierthanthou recently posted…The Village of Wainwright, AlaskaMy Profile

Jun 20, 2013

I was really moved seeing that dog in a wheel-chair. That was a heart-warming experience you guys just have. I suppose these dogs aren’t fortunate as our dogs back home but atleast they got people to love and take care of them. They deserve that, every animals deserve that.
Clifford recently posted…Top 5 Tips For Solo CruisingMy Profile

Feb 03, 2014

[…] seemed to enjoy chasing dogs, but never strayed too far from mama, so the dogs always got away. One Anglo-Italian travel blogging couple visited the ENP and ended up staying for a month caring for…. (Having failed miserably with our own pooch (Dino), I managed to control myself when a dog parked […]

Jul 17, 2014

[…] is one of our favorite destinations because of the volunteering experience with animals we had there and how it changed us and our lives completely for the best. We also met incredibly […]

Aug 29, 2014

Great post, we too volunteered with the dogs at ENP in October last year and absolutely loved it; we have been trying to get back there ever since but our schedule hasn’t allowed us to so far – hopefully next year!
Amy recently posted…Our Adventure in Loch NessMy Profile

Jan 28, 2015

Visiting the elephant nature park was the highlight of my trip to Thailand!! Such an amazing experience :)
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