A Dilemma of Dog Sized Proportions

This one is a dog story with a difference and concerns my forthcoming trip to Thailand which is less than three weeks away. When I get there I’m facing a dilemma of dog sized proportions.

Tong is Wonderful Wi’s older brother and he lives in a village just outside Udon Thani city with his wife Maew (Cat) and their two boys Fook and Tee. Tong is a carpenter and a very good one as well. Tong’s work is of a high quality, he takes great pride in his finished work. Unfortunately Tong’s work pace is painstakingly slow. If he had won the contract to have built Noah’s Ark then we’d all be vegetarians now.

Wilai’s brother fitted all the wood furnishings in our village house, from the simplest of things to smart kitchen units, wardrobes and a showcase which now holds many different bottles of alcoholic drinks. That’s my favourite chunk of wood and nails. The photo below shows the standard of some of his work.

I’ve visited Tong’s family home on many occasions and the thing which always amazes me about their house is the general condition of it considering the master’s craftsmanship. Doors kind of close and the wooden window shutters creak shut and have to be forcibly opened. The carpenter’s home has made me wonder at times if there is a fishing trawler somewhere fighting high seas and heavy gales, with a captain on board who can’t swim a yard.

Wilai has four dogs and when Tong and his family visit our village home one dog in particular always gets special attention from Tong. Wilai’s brother took a fond liking to Gaan, who you can see pictured below eyeing up our pet rabbit who died under mysterious circumstances last year. The mystery was that the last time he was seen alive he was being chased hell for leather around our garden in a game of chase by Gaan and another of our dogs Cola. Gaan always took the ‘game’ a little too serious for my liking. Anyway minutes later Wilai discovered the rabbit dead at the back of the house, and the two dogs had disappeared into hiding. Some mystery.

Last week I telephoned Wi and had the following conversation.

“Hus…band I go look your diary (blog) and click click everything. Soon money come bank you.”

Sorry I think I may have pasted the wrong bit in there. Let’s try again.

“Wilai how is Gaan”
“Gaan not stay how (house) any more. I give Gaan to brudder (brother)”
“What do you mean you give Gaan to your brother”
“Brudder want Gaan and mama want me give. What can I do. When husband come you can speak Gaan come home .”

So Gaan has gone to stay in Udon and I know Wilai is very upset about it. She wasn’t pressured into giving giving Gaan away but her mama and brother’s wishes won the day. I really am struggling to understand the make up of it all, and it appears it’s now down to me to order Gaan comes back home. That has given me a dilemma of dog sized proportions awaiting me on arrival in Thailand later this month.

I only total about 30 days in our village each year but I do enjoy spending time with our dogs when I am there. I want Gaan to return home because he’s a great dog and also because I know he won’t receive the same standard of care where he is now. I’ve no doubt he’ll get plenty of love and exercise but if he ever needs to see a vet the money won’t be there. I also have to weigh up the Thai cultural side of it all.

To just go in and take Gaan back may send out the wrong kind of message to Tong and his family. The rich Westerner gets what he wants kind of thing. Tong is a nice man who I get along with really well and I don’t want to go about this in a tactless way. I think I just may be treading on areas of Thai life which read respect, family and face.

My gut feeling says Gaan has to return to Wilai, I know she wants that to happen. Its just the way I need to go about it which concerns me most. Maybe I can offer to buy Tong a puppy dog to replace young Gaan.

I don’t want to make a dogs dinner of this one and so any advice you can offer I’ll welcome on board. Thanks.

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I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

17 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Martyn your post certainly made me smile but as for practical advice, well I am stuck.

    The only thing that springs to mind is that you could get the bucket man to dognap Gaan and return him to WW. Who in turn could change his appearance and rename him Ting she could then tell Tong she has a new dog.

    There’s a joke in there somewhere if you understand Thai. A word which might well be used to describe a Westerner who actually wants to look after a dog in Thailand.

  2. Malcolm says:

    Martyn, Gaan looks like a cute and sweet dog , (a beanie weenie) and Wi loves him and sounds like you do too. My suggestion is to get another dog before you go to see Tong , and have Wi tell him the Dog is your favorite and you miss him a lot , please you take new dog and give me the old one please . I’m sure he will go for it especially if you put a 100 baht note on a string around the new dogs neck . Malcolm

  3. Hoo Don says:

    Mike the bucket truck man hits home my concerns about Gaan. I have no worries about Tong giving the dog away but it’s if Gaan gets ill that worries me. Wilai whips our dogs off to the vet if they come down with anything too bad. As you know that doesn’t happen with y0ur average Thai family.

    I like your Ting theory and yes I have been called ting tong a number of times over the years.

    Talking about changing Gaan’s appearance. Last month Wi dyed her mama’s hair and the leftovers she applied to Pepsi our second youngest dog (It Started With a Kiss). Frightening.

  4. Hoo Don says:

    Malcolm, Gaan is a lovely dog even if he is a bit of a loner at times. I may follow your idea to the letter and buy a dog for Tong before we go and pick up Gaan. I think he’ll go for a nice black one of some sort.

    Wilai misses Gaan one hell of a lot but as you know Thais carry their worries around with a big big smile.

    Glad to see you’re up and running again and back to good health.

    Keep knocking those songs out.

  5. Lawrence says:

    Martyn, I think Malcolm’s suggestion is a good one, though if you delayed offering the new dog to Tong, maybe Wilai would have got to love the new one. Looks like there is another Gaan-like dog in your picture.
    But what do I know? I’m really allergic to dogs, though I like them well enough.

  6. Talen says:

    Martyn, it would be a very easy decision for me…no matter how bad it pissed off brudder or ma…the dog has to come home…Maybe you can trade mama for the dog, might work out better all the way around.

    I’ve been dealing with some family face issues as well this week and it’s looking like there will be some changes in my life very soon.

  7. Hoo Don says:

    Lawrence I think I may take up Malcolm’s idea. The other dog in the photo is Cola who is a smashing dog, he’s a lot more homely than Gaan and likes lots of affection. He’s a real jealous type.

    I may be allergic to buying someone a dog when they have already got one of mine. Then again if it keeps Wilai happy it’ll be worth 1,000 baht.

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Talen I really would like to trade mama for Gaan, Wilai would be happy with that exchange. Her brother wouldn’t be though. I’m starting to learn mama’s bark is worse than her bite (pun intended) and she’s really a harmless sort of soul.

    Good luck with your changes and I’ll look forward to your next post.

  9. Paul says:

    Hi Martyn, you have a bit of a dilemma there all right. One of the huge problems we have when going away for a holiday back to my home country is who will take care of our dog. She is a Shih Tzu and has eye problems. She needs regular eye drops but it is hard to get somebody dependable enough to give them as required. Last year we came back from holiday to find our dog’s eyes had not been cared for properly; even though I paid money for somebody to do this. I love my dog but when she dies I won’t be replacing her; it is just such a big responsibility.

  10. Catherine says:

    Martyn, Like Talen, I’m stubborn. What’s mine is mine. Finish.

    I’ve never lived in a Thai village, so I have no real experience with keeping the peace. The advice I do hear is that you need to say no now, or prepare to lose more of your stuff in the future.

    And from your post, it sounds like Wilai is home waiting for you to do just that. No trade. Just no.

    I’m not Thai and I never will be. And the Thais around me already know that, so there is no deep mystery to be solved. Should there be?

    I’m not socially unaware, so I do find it easy to understand what not to do in Thailand: not taking their Buddha in vain and not pointing my feet wrong and all that and more.

    But when it comes to my stuff, what’s mine is mine.

    So if I lived in a Thai village, that’d be just one of the compromises between this expat and the Thais in my life. I’ll behave if you do as well.

    You mentioned the bucket truck man. Just this morning while reading the noticeably stouter book of general ignorance, I came across an interesting fact.

    Did you know that the Swiss eat dogs as well as cats?

    Quoting from the book: Their defence: it’s a reasonable way to recycle a much-loved pet and it’s good for you. After eating the tastiest parts of the dog, the rest is made into lard and used to cure coughs.

    So there you go… one more useless bit of knowledge to file away.

  11. Hoo Don says:

    Paul – One of our dogs is a Shih Tzu and a while back I read a book about the breed. There’s a great background history to them. Health wise they do tend to suffer with a lot of eye problems and regular eye cleansing was one of the things recommended. You’ve obviously done your homework too.

    I think owning dogs in a Thai village is quite a worry because you never know what is lurking about in the long grass and our canine friends are very inquisitive souls.

  12. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine you’ve convinced me Gaan must come home and believe me he will when I get to Udon Thani at the end of this month. I will telephone Wilai later today and give her the news.

    The problem with Thai villages is the vegetables in your garden will be regularly picked by your partner’s Aunt and so will the papayas from your tree. A book could be written on the fridge. I gave up a long time back on trying to stamp my Western code of conduct on our village house with the exception of my beer. As you put it, what’s mine is mine and the beer is mine.

    I didn’t know Swiss people were into eating chocolate coloured dogs, or any colour at all. Your quote on their defence for eating cats and dogs reads absolutely terrible. I’ve now gone off Roger Federer for good.

    Hardly a useless fact, it could come in handy for the England football fans when they play Switzerland next year. They enjoy shouting the odd bit of abuse.

  13. Catherine says:

    [laughing] I can just see you yelling from the stands, ‘YOU DOG EATERS!!!’ and the Swiss smiling proudly back.

  14. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine I think the Swiss might find bars of chocolate raining down on them if they smiled too widely.

  15. Siam.Rick says:

    You know, I was thinking of some options: driving home from the brudder’s and reporting how “surprised” you were when finding Gaan hiding under the rear seat. Or feigning concern with Gaan’s health and needing to take him home for some close attention — and never returning him to the brudder’s.

    But Cat and Talen have cut to the bone: the dog is yours and Wi’s. “Give it back!” That’s, as Cat says, to indicate the farang won’t be pushed around. I’d say, in fact, gather up Gaan as you’re leaving and simply walk to the truck and go home. (I don’t even know if you have a truck . . . but if you do or don’t, follow the advice.)

    Less than three weeks, eh? Me too. Woohoo!

  16. Hoo Don says:

    Rick we don’t have a truck but we do rent a car and he’ll fit perfectly into the back. I’ve since spoken to Wi about Gaan and she wants him back but said if he seems fit, healthy and happy she’d rather he stayed with her brudder. I know she’s praying Gaan will wet the floor with excitement when he sees her. I think he will. Then the mutt comes back with us.

    Your woohoo is going to get louder and louder.

  17. Hi Martyn, just go straight in there and tell them how you feel. Buy him a beer, have a smile, don’t be too serious.. but remember that staying with Wi is probably in the dog’s best interest. I am probably a little bit OTT, but with my experience of brother in laws and dogs, he won’t last too long otherwise…

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