Saturday, December 31, 2011

Introducing Mee the "stray" dog

Mee is Thai for “bear” and he is one of the most pleasant dogs I have ever met.

The fact that he has a name suggests that he is a pet but to a casual observer his lifestyle would probably indicate otherwise. He spends all of his time on the street outside our house in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. The family opposite us look after him, providing some food, company and shelter from rain in a covered area at the front of their home, and if he has owners it is these neighbours of ours. We also give him and his companion some leftovers occasionally and enjoy his calm, genial greeting whenever we go out.  

I have no idea whether his genes contain any ‘breeds’ and I just describe him as a distinctive mongrel. Some might argue that he has something of the look, if not the typical coloring, of a “Bang Khaew” from northern Thailand, and they may well be right.

There are a few other dogs sharing his lifestyle in our area and also several dogs that are more obviously pets that are allowed to wander around the street occasionally. They all know each other and socialize whenever they get the chance, with tensions and rare fights only occurring when dogs from other areas get too close.

The only time I ever see Mee barking is when unfamiliar dogs wander along. I have never seen him bark at a person (although, he might be doing it at night as far as I know) and I have never seen him show any aggressive intentions towards people. He ignores the chickens that wander around the roadside and is happy to play with the local kids. He also enjoys the chance to explore our garden if we leave the gate open.

The pet dogs that are allowed to wander the street part of the time (and I’m sure Mee counts amongst his closest friends) are behaviorally quite different. Even on our first meeting Mee was relaxed and friendly but the pets at first approached me quite aggressively. It took several encounters before they started to ignore me and we are still not on particularly friendly terms. I have also seen them challenge other people quite nastily. To me it is a little sad that a stranger who gets confronted by these pets on the loose would call them strays and lump Mee into the same category even though at the time of the encounter Mee was probably just sitting there watching.

Then there are the half a dozen dogs just down the road, which all look like they came from the same litter, that are never allowed out onto the street. They are real pets that live day and night in their owner’s garden. Even over two years after first barking at me they still do whenever I (or anybody else) walks passed their gate. Six dogs barking like this ensures the owner is safe from burglars but as you can imagine the noise pollution is significant. Again, Mee just sits there watching these neurotic dogs in their barking frenzy and probably wonders what on earth is wrong with them.

In spite of his close connections to people Mee is undoubtedly a street dog who decides his own movements and activities, and I’m sure many people would call him a stray rather than a pet. But this tag has negative connotations and he seems so suited to his lifestyle that I cannot think from what he has supposedly “strayed”. I prefer to just call him a dog being a dog.

Mee is not a problem to anybody, in any way. The local pet dogs, on the other hand, are. 

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