My day starts at 5:00am and I’m riding my bike to work by 6:15am. This time of year, it’s still pretty dark at that hour. But, it has been getting lighter each day and I decided to forgo turning on my hi-tech lights that my safety-conscious husband installed for me. Not this morning. Lovely dusky light. Street lights dimming, sun-rising – the market lights are more than enough to guide my way.
Until I round the corner onto an unlit street. My quiet mood spikes to high alert when I find myself heading straight toward a large sleeping dog. I swerve at the very last moment and thankfully miss him. Damn dog! Sound asleep in the middle of road. Doesn’t move a muscle. We know the ol’ adage. “Let sleeping dogs lie.” Emergency averted.
Soi dogs. Street dogs. Here in Thailand they are everywhere. I’ve spent some time watching them since we moved here 8 months ago. I have a low grade fear of dogs based on my encounter at age 7 with Sweet Pea, the German Shepard owned by Mrs. Spudoni, my piano teacher. Needless to say, my love for strange dogs and piano for that matter, never really developed.
Congregating around sources of food, (the markets, near scooter taxi shacks, around gates with guards, outside the 7-11) Soi dogs’ personalities run the gamut: depressed, angry, impulsive, apathetic, bold, passive. They are more often than not, mangy and flee-bitten and very skinny. I’ve noticed that some are loners while some run in packs. The loners are very different from the dogs that have companions. The loner dogs rarely bark. Often, you can walk within inches of these dogs and they don’t move or even appear to notice you. They will sometimes look up – but, with the tired, worn face of resignation. These are the ones lying in the middle of the road, or trotting in front of cars. I’ve actually only felt threatened by Soi dogs twice since I’ve been here. Both times, the dogs appeared to be “guarding” a territory. Perhaps it was because these dogs had some sort of connection with another dog or a human. I am struck with the commonality between people and dogs. Disconnected: homeless, alone, sick, apathetic. Connected: energetic, assertive, loyal, purposeful.
It’s not pretty and it’s not what I think is right. But, I admire these dogs. Resilient. Scrappy as hell. They have figured out a way. They know who is a friend and who is a foe in the first seconds of an encounter. They are cautious: watching and waiting patiently. And, when you are deemed a friend – a connection – they may offer a quirky dog “smile” accompanied by soft eyes. These dogs know.
So tomorrow, I’m slowing down and turning on my headlight. It’s the least I can do.