For anyone who read our our newsletter last week this might come as not-so-new-news, but for those who didn’t; we spent last week taking our first step into volunteering at the Care For Dogs shelter in Northern Thailand.

One of the dogs at Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai, Thailand - Our First Step Into Volunteering

Why Volunteer?

Just over a month ago Franca found herself directed via Twitter to watching a hugely heart-wrenching short film which documented the illegal dog meat trade in Asia. Using undercover footage, the video was made by the travelling & animal loving couple of Cody & Giselle, who also write the travel blog Mindful Wanderlust.

Hard Watching

On watching the film, Franca was quite upset and passed the laptop over to me to watch to understand the reason behind why. It was a hard & upsetting watch, but necessary to understand & uncover a subject that some may not be entirely aware of.

After watching the film, we both sat on our bed and talked about how we felt about it, how prepared we were to enter countries in the coming months that treat dogs in the manner which we’ve since come to read about, and also leave the dogs in the conditions highlighted in the above video.

We both realised that no matter how much we despised the people who treat any animal in this way – outside of our own country where the way of live & the law of the land is different to our own – we’re in no right to protest in the streets about how we feel. After all, we’re guests in these countries. We can do everything in our power to not assist people in this disgusting trade, but we can’t stampede every market stall selling it. People have to make these changes by themselves because they understand them, otherwise they’ll just resent them & do it anyway, illegally & with complete disregard for rules or regulations.

WARNING. Contains distressing footage captured in the attempt to uncover the dog meat trade in Asia

So What Can We Do?

In short, volunteer.

We realised that whilst can’t play the role’s of superheroes as we’d like to speedily end cruelty to animals at any level, what we can do is help offset the balance by doing our part to help animals who haven’t had the best starts in life.

So we got talking with Cody & Giselle. With over eight months of volunteer experience during the past 11 months of non-stop travel, there was no better place to turn & ask for a guiding light and a push in the right direction. Over the course of the next few days we got to understand a little more about the experience they’ve had & the places they’ve had them, and by the end of the week we had a list of five or six places who might be able to take us in.

We sent out emails, did some research of our own and started to get some plans together.

We’d only about ten days left on our Thai visa so we were unable to commit to any helpful length of time, so, we decided we’d go into Laos to see the country from where we were in the Chiang Rai (which is relatively close to the Laos border), keep corresponding with the shelters & get something set up for when we came back to Thailand.

Then the bad news came.

The Shelters Closed

By this point we’d settled on going to Chiang Mai to visit the Care For Dogs shelter who operate a volunteer program between Wednesday & Saturday which leaves the shelter to do some necessary work over the three remaining days, however, whilst we were waiting for the Thai embassy to re-open on Monday to collect our new visas, we received an email from the shelter informing us that they’d shut for a quarantine period of one week due to a small outbreak of distemper between the dogs (note – distemper).

Care For Dogs would be closed for the week, they’d re-access the situation over the weekend & they’d let us know. Bummer.

We figured; “look, let’s get our visas as planned, and head into Thailand. Maybe we can see some friends, investigate some more in Bangkok & just wait and see what happens.“. So that’s what we’d do.

Dale's passport and visa application - Our First Step Into Volunteering

Re-Entering Thailand

After we’d picked up our new Thai visas from Laos capital, Vientiane, we travelled south to Bangkok for a few days of rest and a chance to meet up with Cody for the first time. Whilst we shared falafel & hummus between us and Tony & Steph from 20 Years Hence – who were also in town. We also heard some more interesting stories about some of Cody’s experiences & that got us excited even further.

Come Saturday and the day we’d be hearing back from Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai. We were equal parts excited & nervous and beyond hopeful that everything was going to work out.

With four days of volunteering we could see how much we can help, but also see how we felt about volunteering; is it something we’d like to do more of in the future?

Dale with some of the dogs at Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai, Thailand - Our First Step Into Volunteering

We Got In

Needless to say, the shelter was back open for business. And so were we.

Having just completed our four days at the shelter we’re both incredibly excited to share with you our experiences & thoughts about how we’re feeling now, but more importantly we’d like to share the stories of a couple of furry four-pawed friends we’ve been making. But where to begin?

Later this week we’ll be discussing all about our poo-scooping experiences, how we’re feeling and where we’ll go from here, and more importantly, pictures, stories & pictures again.

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