Tag Archives: vet

Bon Ton Animal Shelter

The Bon Ton animal shelter, located on the Duty-free island of Langkawi originally started in Kuala Lumpur over 20 years ago.  There, a restaurant/hotel owner and animal lover began a shelter and several years later moved the operation to Langkawi.  The shelter consists of several parts.  One is the retirement ward where over 60 dogs spend the remainder of their lives in spacious yards or in the owners home and are tended to carefully and lovingly by full-time staff members.  The second part is located at a different location near the base of the mountains of Langkawi where over 70 dogs are looked after by full-time staff.  The last is also located at the Bon Ton Resort and they are the “regular” shelter dogs.  Over 50 young to middle-aged (or even old dogs who think they are still young such as 16-year old Nemo) dogs call the shelter home and are walked daily by volunteers and have play-time or social time in the afternoons.

The volunteer program is organized by another avid animal lover volunteer of over 10 years, Dorothy, who is a resident of Langkawi and joins in on the morning walks daily.  There are of course other staff members who assist in the cleaning and general caring of the shelter dogs and over 100 cats there as well.  For with so many animals, it would be impossible not to have staff on board!!  While volunteers help with walking dogs, feeding, general cleaning when needed and play time in the afternoons, the staff concentrate on deep cleaning the dog and cat shelters daily and assist in the clinic when a vet is present.

Though I’d only really had one other experience volunteering at an animal shelter, I will say that volunteering at the Bon Ton animal shelter, well it was like the gold standard or 5 star of shelters!  Why do I say this?  Simply because of the standards of care given by the staff to the animals and the way that volunteers are treated.  Accommodations are provided for, daily meals are taken care of, and even one meal weekly from the restaurant is provided!  And let me tell you, the Bon Ton restaurant food is absolutely delicious!!!  To this day I’m still missing their steaks with mashed potatoes in balsamic gravy!!  Accommodations included a bed, private bath with HOT water (almost fainted hearing this), TV (what???) with a DVD player (pinch me now!!).

But of course all this came with actual work.  Six days a week, from 9:45am (sometimes 9am depending on need) until 6pm (lunch break of course provided) we worked with the dogs and cats.  Feeding, walking, cleaning, playing, bathing, constructing new shelter bits, raking yards, putting up new fencing, etc, etc.  The work in my opinion wasn’t difficult, and because I was there for the animals, it didn’t really matter to me how long the work days were.  In fact, there were several times that I or other volunteers worked well past the 6pm mark, but it was all for the animals.  And as animal lovers know, animals know no time!  They are 24/7 responsibilities who in return offer the most amazing and purest of love.

I ended up staying at the Bon Ton Animal Shelter for about 2 months in total.  During my time there I also learned about a horse stable on the island that also allowed volunteers to come help, so I ended up moving there for a couple of weeks, then returned to Bon Ton for the last few days I was on the island.  Then sadly had to say my goodbyes for good and had to head to Kuala Lumpur, then out of the country as my 3 month visa was coming close to expiring.

Volunteering at the Bon Ton animal shelter was an amazing experience.  The loving care provided to the animals by staff and volunteers made the experience so very rich.  I look forward to returning there when time permits and miss the animals (and people of course who I think of as family) daily!!

On to Reunited with Horses

Back to Malaysia

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Unexpected Company

I left Sangkhla with a vet volunteer who popped in the sanctuary during the last few weeks I was there.  Bettina, from Denmark is seriously a star vet and reminded me quite a bit of Nyzil, the vet who worked at the sanctuary when I first arrived.  She was amazing with the animals, the other volunteers and had a ridiculous amount of knowledge in her craft.  Her calming aura during times of stress was unbelievable and inspirational!

I recall one particular time when we insisted she take the day off (she had been working without rest for quite some time and needed it).  Only a few hours after she left to enjoy her day, a cat was brought in that had been bitten by a dog.  At first glance I couldn’t see any immediate damage.  But when I lifted the cat out of its carrier and a line of blood spurt out from its side, I knew this was more serious than it looked like.  Now I’m not queasy about blood or guts or animal bodily functions, and I tend to stay calm where others panic… But when I saw that, I got a little panicked.  It was evident that poor Bettina’s day off would be cut short.

I hopped on the motorbike and started into town in search of her, luckily finding her only about 10 minutes later.  As I pulled up, I could feel my sense of urgency creeping up.  I almost ran her over with the bike trying to get to her and immediately started rattling away that there was a cat bitten by a dog, blood spurting, will need stitches, fluid building up in the belly, yada, yada.  Her reaction?  “Ok, not a problem.  Let me just pay for this real quick and we will get going.”  Her confidence immediately soothed me.  Snapped me back into a state of calm that I had let go of before.  We headed back, she took care of business and the cat is doing very well.

In any event, Bettina had planned to go to a horse facility in Nepal and had plans to do so around the time I was planning to leave.  Since our plans coincided nicely, we thought it would be great to leave together and spend a couple of days in Kanchanaburi before parting ways.  Those few days spent with her were among some of the most relaxing I’d had in a long while.  We walked to the Death Railway at night, which is beautifully lit up by changing colored lights (though unfortunately my camera takes crap photos at night!!), visited probably every coffee shop in town and dined on delicious food.  Oddly, time seemed to just absolutely dissipate anytime we started talking.  We would arrive at a coffee shop at 10am and the next thing we knew it was 3pm!  We stayed up until 2am one night just talking, sharing experiences, things we want for ourselves, discussing politics and ideas, etc.  I think in the 48 hours that we spent in Kanchanaburi, probably about 36 of them were spent talking, lol!! (555!!)

Funnily enough, the last night we were there, two volunteers from the sanctuary surprised us while we were hanging out for some dinner.  They had two dogs that required more medical attention than they were able to give at the sanctuary (X-ray and major surgery for a dog hit by a car) so they brought them down to the vet in Kanchanaburi.  Needless to say that night turned into a late one, at least for me!  Bettina sadly was still feeling under the weather so didn’t join in drinks till 5, but as I thought it would be the last time seeing the other two volunteers (Jo & Oli) I couldn’t resist a few drinks.

The next day Bettina and I said our goodbyes and as she headed out I opted to stay in Kanchanaburi a couple more days so I could actually plan where and how I Was getting to my next destination.  It was about a couple of days later that I got an email from Jo (who at this point was back in Sangkhla) saying she too was leaving the sanctuary and wondered if we could travel together for a couple weeks.  Though I have traveled a lot, I’ve never really traveled with people.  I’ve met people along the way and we’ve kept each others company for several days or just shy of a week, but I’ve never really traveled with people.  I’ve always enjoyed traveling alone because of the fact that I never have to answer to anyone else: what do you want to do?  I don’t know, what do you want to do??… I hate those conversations!!  But seeing as she and I got along well at the sanctuary, I thought why not?  It would be nice to have some company for a couple of weeks.  So a few days later we met at the bus station in Kanchanaburi and headed South to Hua Hin on the Thai bay coast.

Oh and I should probably state, the images in this section are kinda random- just several I found that I’ve taken from the Sangkhla area and didn’t fit in other posts:)

On to Arriving in Hua Hin

Back to Thailand

Leaving Sangkhla

The time had finally come to say goodbye to Sangkhlaburi and the animal shelter.  I say ‘had’ because I’ve now been away from there for the past 10 days (how time flies!!).  The hardest part was leaving all the animals behind.  Worrying whether the disabled dogs were getting their night-time blankets, whether dogs were getting their proper daily meds, whether laundry had been done and dogs had been walked occupied my mind for several days after having left.  But as we all know, the world doesn’t stop turning because one has moved on to something else.  Volunteers will always be there to care for the dogs.

I left for a couple of reasons, the first being that I had been in Thailand at that point for almost four months and yet still had only seen a tiny fraction of the Country.  Second, as it was early on during my time at the sanctuary, personality clashes arose again.  High School cliques started forming again creating a huge divide between people who cared for the sanctuary dogs and those who cared for the clinic dogs.  Personally I think that the two would go hand in hand, but alas it wasn’t the reality.

Thankfully though my last two weeks there, just as the first week or so of first arriving, were my absolute favorite.  Not because it was the beginning and end of my stay, but again because of the organic nature and vibe of the workers during those times.  That ridiculous line between shelter and clinic was erased.  No cliques, no favoritism, no inclusion of only certain people and not others.  No more bull essentially.  Just everyone working together, learning and aiding where needed.  It’s amazing how some people can naturally lead others in working together as a team while others create divides so they can pump up their egos where necessary.

I still think of the faces of each animal daily.  I will never forget them and though I wish I could take each one with me, I know the chilling reality is that there are animals all over the world that need equal love, care and shelter.  For now I’m simply traveling and just as I organically happened to find the sanctuary in Sangkhlaburi, I’m keeping my ears and eyes peeled for the next opportunity.  But until then, I’ve headed South to check out the mystery and beauty of the Thai Islands.

On to Unexpected Company

Back to Thailand

Spay Camp and Elephants

Part of what the Animal Shelter does here, aside from the everyday free care and treatment of animals, is to go to neighboring villages and monasteries to spay and neuter dogs and cats of the area.  These spay camps (as we call them) are great opportunities not only to get a day out and away from the everyday tasks of running a shelter, but also to better the community so animal populations don’t run amok and also provides a way for surrounding villages to get to know who we (the animal shelter) are so they can feel more confident about coming to us if ever needed.

Dr. Mays set up several camps for us, two running on consecutive days and then two more for the following week.  Though I have had experience in basic horse care/vet skills, dogs and cats are a different beast.  I had no experience in giving shots, IVs, prepping animals for surgery, etc.  The spay camp I attended quickly changed all that very quickly for me however 🙂

We set off around 10 to a nearby monastery about 30 or so kilometers away (myself, Jo, Nyzil and J. (the vets)) and arrived about a half hour later to an absolutely serene and beautifully peaceful monastery nestled off the road among gentle slopes and lush vegetation.  We were greeted by residents of the monastery and were shown to a large covered car port where we began to set up two tables for surgery.  Since this was my first go round with spays, I was mainly just taking instruction on how to set up the table and basically aped Jo (who is well seasoned with spay camps) asking about a trillion questions along the way.

I was paired with J., the newest vet on the team, and Jo was with Nyzil.  I will admit I was at first a bit reluctant about how J. and I would work as a team because we had several miscommunications that led to many frustrations in times before.  I don’t know what it was exactly that happened however in the first few minutes of setting up the camp.  To this day I still can’t pin it exactly.  But what I do know is that as the table was set and the first two cats were starting to doze into a deep sleep in preparation for the surgery, something just clicked with J. and I.  It wasn’t spoken, it just happened and suddenly I began to understand how she thought and worked.

She taught me how to shave the cats, how to give injections, tricks on how to tell whether the animal was starting to come out of their slumber, how to check the heart rate and much more.  We worked fabulously together and by the end of the day, after a lovely lunch provided to us by the monastery residents, we had banged out 8 cat spays.  Well, in all honesty one of the cats whom we tagged as being female turned out to be male after failing to find the uterus!  Hey now, we all make mistakes!  No judging!! 😉

We finished about 3pm, packed up and headed out.  Since it was still relatively early and we had not received any news from the shelter about needing to return immediately, we decided to check out the Khao Laem National Park, just a few kilometers down the road.  The park boasts a nature trail several kilometers long with 9 different waterfalls and a rather impressively large tree.  We all set off for the hike and crossed the river about 250 meters in to see the tree, but when we crossed back over, Jo broke one of her flip-flops making it basically impossible for us to hike any further.  We instead opted to swim in the river for a bit then made our way back to the car.  The day was still young however so we decided to head off to a village Nyzil knew about that had elephants!

The turning for the village was only about 10km from Sangkhlaburi, but getting to the village required quite a bit of off-roading and a few minutes of scary grounds to drive across.  The dirt road kept splitting and though Nyzil was navigating, every now and again he’d say out loud “I’m not sure this is the right way because we are supposed to be heading toward the mountains”, lol!!

Luckily he did get us to the right place and my oh my, what a beautiful little village it was!!  Nestled at the base of a mountain, across the river on a rather shady yet sturdy bamboo bridge lay a magnificent quiet little community full of life of all kinds.  Nyzil had been there before on a previous spay camp and even recognized several of the dogs he’d operated on by the little notches left in their ears.  No one in the village spoke even a word of english and of course none of us knew the word for elephant in Thai, so we were left to a game of charades.  Correction: we actually left the game of charades to Nyzil who proceeded to try to act out what an elephant looked like to the locals all while repeating the word “elephant?”.  It was seriously quite amusing to watch and I’m sure the villagers were probably playing dumb for a bit just to keep watching him make impressions, lol!!

We finally found one villager who acquiesced to knowing what we were trying to get to and he led us the way.  We walked through a rubber plantation…  Here I have to stop because I had no idea that rubber is made from tree sap!!!  There were hundreds of trees lined and tapped with a little collection basket for the sap and when I was told it was a rubber plantation, I just kept repeating “rubber???  As in rubber tires??” because I’d just no idea that’s where rubber came from.  I just assumed it was all a petrochemical production!  Just goes to show you learn something new every day:)

Moving on, we walked past the rubber plantation following the sound of a distant bell along a wee path.  Our guide then started off the path through the field to which Jo wasn’t able to walk on (no shoes) so she headed on the path just to explore while myself, Nyzil and J. followed our guide.

The sound of the bell grew louder and louder and a few minutes later, up ahead in the bushes enjoying a meal of various natural vegetation stood Moosa!!  What an absolutely BEAUTIFUL creature!!!  She wasn’t scared of humans as she worked in the village but when not working she had the run of the land, going where she pleased and had only a rope with a bell around he neck so she could be found when needed.

I had never touched an elephant before.  Had only fed them cucumbers and other veggies when in Ayutthaya.  This was how I’d wanted to experience them though.  In the wild, free from cages and tourists, no forced tricks or contraptions on her back to give tourists rides, no sticks with sharp hooks at the end to make her go one way or another, simply living free.  I couldn’t stop petting her and telling her how beautiful she was!!  We spent probably a good half hour with her as she continued to nibble then said our goodbyes and headed back to the path.  Interestingly enough our timing was just right as Jo was also returning from her walk along the path and she too had spotted the other elephant of the village down the way.

The sun was starting to set at this point and we were all getting hungry, so we set off for another spot along the way back to Sangkhlaburi for some dinner.  The Nature Club, a hotel and activities center only about 5km from the town was where we chose to stop.  It too is set in a beautiful location surrounded by mountains and a rather large lake.  We had a few drinks and food, then headed home.  The days activities and bonding that occurred throughout the day between the four of us was unexpected but absolutely amazing.  That day is now one of my fondest memories of Thailand.  It was truely a day I think we all came away feeling absolutely blessed and thankful.

On to The “Bum Gun”

Back to Thailand

Crazy Kanchanaburi Nights

From my other posts about Sangkhlaburi, it’s probably easy to tell that it is a teeny little place and while it has a lot of the necessities, it lacks quite a bit as well.  We have no proper grocery store here.  The market is where you go for meat, veggies and fruit (which personally I prefer anyway) but for other necessities that are generally found in a grocery store, well, we have a place called CJ’s that has the basics and believe it or not, if it’s not in CJ’s, the other “grocery store” in town is 7 Eleven… Yes, 7 Eleven!

Kanchanaburi in contrast has proper grocery stores and even stores comparable to Sam’s Club or Costco.  They also have proper pet and vet stores where supplies are easily found for the shelter.  As some items were starting to run out at the shelter, it was time for a run to Kanchanaburi to stock up.  I went along with 2 other girls from the shelter for a weekend getaway.  We drove there in a truck lent to us by another gem of Sangkhlaburi, Dr. Mays, a dentist in town and avid animal lover and made the 212km trek to Kanchanaburi mid-day a week ago on Saturday.

J, one of the three on the trip, drove.  She is from the UK so was used to driving on the left and had amazingly picked up the Thai driving style as I had several mini heart attacks along the way dodging in and out of traffic along the road.  Due to traffic we arrived later than anticipated and missed the vet supply office hours.  So we simply headed to our hotel, took showers in warm water (there is no warm water in Sangkhlaburi for showers unless you shower in the middle of the day when the water has been heated up by the sun), put makeup on for the first time in a month and a half and headed into town.

I will say since being in Sangkhlaburi, I don’t think I’ve seen myself in a mirror except maybe two or three times.  So needless to say, once in a bathroom with a mirror in it, it was almost surprising and shocking to see myself, lol!!

We headed out and first had a drink and shared a pizza at Bell’s, then went to the Lady Boy bar for some more drinks.  Surprisingly the other volunteer (K) who tagged along for the weekend getaway after only 4 beers was already quite drunk!  Normally she can hold her own, but for some reason not on this night.  In any event, since there was more drinking to be done for myself and J, we continued on to the Monkey Bar for another drink.  Then…. Well… though I had stayed away from the “get drunk for 10 baht” bars during my last time in Kanchanaburi, we ended up stumbling into there as well…

In all fairness really it wasn’t myself or J stumbling, it was only K.  Jo and I had a delightful time taking shots and sipping on buckets of booze while K kept excusing herself to the bathroom to vomit… Joy!!  Since J and K had been to Kanchanaburi several times before for these types of excursions, they inevitably made friends with some of the locals, including a tattoo artist with a shop in front of the Sugar Member bar, just across from the 10 baht bar.  The night continued with lots of drinks, conversation, and many bathroom breaks for K.  She ended up going back to the hotel early and passed out outside the room on the lounge chair (since she didn’t have the key) while J and I continued to party until 4am.

Amazingly I woke the next day feeling great!  K and J, not so much…  We had to move rooms around noon (they put us in the wrong room the first night) so everyone was up in semi-good spirits around 11.  We jointly decided the best remedy for our hangovers was to have a yummy pizza yet again, though this time we were each getting our own to soak up the liquor, lol!!  We checked out Bell’s again (they seriously have a really good pizza!!) all craving the deliciousness we had the night before but to our dismay learned it didn’t open until 5pm!!

The idea was in our heads already however, and there was nothing to change it.  We were bound and determined to starve ourselves all day until Bell’s opened again!!  It seriously turned into a bit of a torture game and that day was the longest day I can ever recall!!  One would ask “what time is it” and learn it was 12:15… Then what seemed like forever later another would ask again the time only to learn it was 12:22 😦  The day went on like this with time slowing down just to mock us and as we didn’t have anything else to eat, the hangover symptoms started to even creep up on me!

What does one do to stave off a hangover??  You got it!  Drink more!  I caved around 3:30 and went to the bar at the hotel with K and proceeded to drink three White Russians.  Yum!!  It was definitely just what I needed to tide me over until Bell’s opened!  5pm FINALLY rolled around and we went for our indulgent meal of pizza with mushrooms and ham.  After dinner, K said she wanted to get a tattoo.  I, the night before, after meeting Joe the tattoo artist said I wanted to have him draw out a tattoo for me that I’d been thinking about for 7 years now.  So I tagged along…  J (the smart one) went back to the hotel for an easy night…

Well, of course since the tattoo shop was in front of a bar, we just had to get a bucket of booze to share!  I chatted with Joe about what I wanted, describing the design that I saw in my head and he set off to work as K and I got progressively more inebriated I kept checking back in with Joe every half hour or so to see how the design was coming along, giving input where needed.  About 2 hours later the design was done!  I really was thinking to just pay for the design and get the tattoo later, but then I started thinking “why not get it done now??”… Or maybe it was just the booze talking, lol!!  In any event, I bit the bullet and got it done!

It’s still a work in progress as I want some shading done on the moon and a Japanese word written in the space between the moon and cherry willow tree, but nothing another trip to Kanchanaburi can’t fix 😉  I will say I was quite impressed with Joe as when I said I wanted a Japanese word written in he said “I don’t speak Japanese” (he’s Thai) to which I replied “Google translate!” to which he replied “are you sure??”.  He got me to thinking and I’ve decided that until I find someone who speaks fluent Japanese, and someone who is trustworthy, I won’t do the lettering.  I’m not going to lie, the tattoo was quite unpleasant to get!  I thought the booze would numb me up a bit, but no luck there:(

In any event, after I got my tattoo done, K got one as well even though Joe strongly advised against it since he deemed her too drunk to get one.  Eventually he relented and gave her the tattoo and after a bit of drama over her paying him for his services (she only had a quarter of the money it cost and instead of going to get more money from the ATM in front of 7 Eleven, she wandered INTO 7 Eleven and proceeded to read the wording on every package of items sold in an attempt to avoid (?) having to pay… Once that was sorted out and she finally paid Joe, we wandered back toward the hotel and passed out around 4am… again… lol!!

The next day we rose (K with a hangover) and finally got the vet supplies bought.  We stopped at a REAL grocery store to stock up on goodies not found in Sangkhlaburi (coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and tabasco sauce for me) then headed home.

In all honesty, I was a bit worried that when I woke that morning I would be a bit regretful about getting the tattoo.  But when I thought about it, I had no regrets.  No butterflies or tight feeling in the stomach when one thinks of something they wish they hadn’t done.  It’s still a work in progress of course and it still has to fully heal (the wrinkles will dissipate) but I’m happy I’ve got it:)

On to Spay Camp and Elephants

Back to Thailand

Gone to the Dogs

After ferociously posting, catching up on all my travels, once again the silence (i.e. lack of posting) has begun… I figured I should tell you all why exactly.  See, I’ve literally gone to the dogs!

I’m in Sangkhlaburi, Thailand near the border with Burma (Myanmar) volunteering at the Baan Unrak Animal Sanctuary.  I may have mentioned before that my ultimate goal in life is to start an animal sanctuary of my own, and well, in order to get there I first have to actually see what its really like…

Most days are good, just the basics: feed, water, play, change blankets/mats, laundry, give meds, play more, walk the dogs with paralyzed back legs in the doggie “wheel chair”, more play, night feed, rest.  There are approximately 40 plus dogs and puppies, most are regular dogs, several are 3-legged and 3 other precious dogs are only able to use their front legs.  Well, Gizmo technically CAN use his back legs, he just chooses not to:)

Dogs rule the streets here (which I adore) but on occasion or rather more than ever necessary that means hit and runs.  While many people love their animals and actually take care of their dogs and other pets, far many more don’t.  Animals are purposely poisoned, cuts and gashes are ignored leading to very serious maggot infestations (we had to put one down because it was literally infested with THOUSANDS of maggots from his mouth to his tail, which was acutally missing, nothing more than a hole filled with squirming maggots) while others are simply abandoned or starved.  Vet care is free (donations are welcome) yet some people simply prefer to choose a grisly life for them instead of seeking help.

But, while there is that heartbreaking side to volunteering here, there are so many joys to it too.  They bring such an unconditional and pure love to my heart that is hard to match.  Unfortunately, the nature of caring for any life (human or animal) includes having to deal with every aspect of it, the good and the bad.  We help where we can, do what we can, but of course not all can be saved. Just the nature of the beast.

So you see, it’s not just for any random reason I’ve been M.I.A. on my blog, I’ve just been busy loving and caring for dogs:)  I do of course plan to catch up on about 5 other posts I have in mind, but the other excuse I have for not posting is I’ve been dealing with a super crazy virus on my tablet that kept rerouting me to a website called adfoc.us (do NOT click that!!) and some other thing called mobo market kept trying to download on my computer.  But after 4 factory resets, I think it’s finally gone:)

On to The Death Railway

Back to Thailand