Stories of Animal Rescue From Thailand
Jungo Gives a Paws Up For Good Service
Jungo it should be noted is NOT MY DOG. I am pretty careful about not feeding pets in the neighborhood that already have a home, because I can’t take on more than I have. Jungo is, however, our dog Daisy’s mother. I remember when my daughter and her friend found the newborn puppies under a house four doors down on a connecting sideroad on April 10, 2021. My then eight year-old wanted a puppy, of course, and my husband talked to the family. They handed us a black puppy four weeks later with little explanation, whom my daughter named Daisy. That dog has the same birthday as Eliza’s father Oh.
Because this is an open area and very few houses have any fencing Jungo wanders over to our bungalow sometimes. Our two dogs Daisy and Cooper consider her as part of their pack. In the summer of 2021 Jungo had a big problem.
The big brown Thai mutt clearly had a respiratory infection of some sort as she had whitish yellow discharge coming from her snout and eyes. Instead of going back to her house she began laying next door in an unoccupied yard. She became very thin in a few short days and flies always seemed to be buzzing around her. Feeling sorry for the dog I began leaving out food for her. She graciously took it. Then I noticed that she had an unsteady gait and was favoring one front paw over the other.
I asked a friend Nathan what was going on with the sick dog. “Her family they try to throw Jungo. They worry she have Covid.” I nodded my head Thailand was going through a Covid led shutdown at that time. Many people were hysterical and there were fears that animals including cats and dogs could catch and also spread Covid back to humans. Jungo clearly had a bad respiratory infection, but our dogs hadn’t become sick in hanging around with her. Nathan sighed. “Now they see Jungo this morning. They are afraid maybe she has rabies. They want to kill her, but nobody has the heart to do it.”
I didn’t think that Jungo had rabies and I wasn’t terribly concerned about catching Covid from the dog either. Many years before I had volunteered at Dog Rescue Koh Samui for a few months. I became a dog catcher with a Thai man named Kuhn San, who felt that the street dogs were more likely to trust me as a Westerner. We were catching mutts so they could be fixed and given a rabies shot at the rescue center. Sometimes the dogs also needed treatment for mange or other things. Usually afterwards they were released back into their area, unless they were injured or especially adoptable.
As a volunteer I was not required to proactively get a rabies shot myself but did extensive research into the signs of rabies in dogs. The odds of getting bitten by a scared, possibly unfriendly dog being put in a cage were high. Occasionally the dogs were in packs which was even more dangerous. I did not want a dog to be automatically euthanized were I to be bitten. I also didn’t want to automatically undergo an expensive and likely unnecessary series of rabies shots unless the odds were higher than usual that the dog had it. I was lucky in that I never was bitten by a dog I was catching, though Kuhn San had one that snapped at him without breaking skin while he was removing the noose and putting it in a cage. Many were quite easy to catch by simply putting food in the cage and snapping it shut after they went inside. I got accosted a few times by ultra-cute litters of mongrel puppies with wagging tails. Dogs seem to like me.
I pondered Jungo’s situation that afternoon after Nathan left. Snot in her nose and eyes had absolutely nothing to do with rabies. The dog was walking unsteadily and her front paw was swelling up, but it struck me as an injury rather than a neurological problem. I put out food which she ate ravenously and water which she lapped up gratefully. She was not hydrophobic and seemed as kind as ever. The family that kept her had two young children and Jungo had been raised to be exceptionally gentle around people. She was a big dog but not a mean dog in the least way.
The dog rescues were all closed due to the Covid stuff. In times prior they had gone into poor Thai neighborhoods such as this one and had neutered/spayed animals and given them rabies vaccines for free. That wasn’t happening anymore. I could assume that Jungo, being unspayed, had also never been vaccinated for rabies. Phuket had been declared the first canine rabies free location in Thailand some years before, but it could have made a comeback with the Covid suspensions. Some private vets might treat this dog, but I had no money to pay and didn’t know who or where they were. They might have been closed down over Covid too. I suspected Jungo would be proactively euthanized if I just dumped her in front of a rescue center as an emergency case. If the dog’s family was already contemplating who was going to have to kill their beloved pet, then I was running out of time.
I went to a local shop that carried simple antibiotics, bought some 500 mg tablets of amoxicillin, and calculated out the dosage for a 40-pound dog. It worked out to close to half a pill and I decided to front load the first dose as 250 mg. I bought some fried chicken, stuffed the ground up pill into a meaty piece and put it in the bowl for Jungo. She devoured it in one whole bite.
By the next morning I was already seeing results. The dog did not have any snot in her nose and her eyes were clearing from the whitish discharge too. Her front paw was still swollen and she didn’t walk on it at all. But what was causing the problem there? I had thought it might be an infection after an injury, but she was using it less, not more. She still smelled terrible and had flies and mosquitos buzzing around her.
I got my clue later that afternoon when I found a large maggot, close to ½ inch long, on the ground in an area the dog had just laid down in. I researched this and got to learn about screwflies, which are a big problem in hot humid climates. These large nasty flies like laying their eggs on dogs, horses and mules. The maggots burrow into the skin and start eating though the flesh as they grow. Normally dogs are able to lick them off but the flies favor areas like the ears and the back of the head and also opportunistically attack already sick or injured creatures. Online I found a blog from a veterinarian in India who recounted a grisly experience picking screwfly maggots out of a dog’s brain. Although they dropped out once the became pupal, the smell caused new flies to lay their eggs in the same spot, in a cycle that could repeat until the animal was dead.
I waited a few days until I was positive that Jungo did not have rabies, then I started inspecting the dog’s injured paw. Her respiratory infection had completely cleared with the antibiotics. I was able to quickly see screwfly maggots had eaten into the flesh on the inside of her front paw. There were dozens of them writhing around on the bone.
I did not know where to get the medicine that the Indian vet mentioned in treating and killing screwfly maggots, but he had a suggestion regarding clove oil and hydrogen peroxide. I also had no way of giving the dog an anesthetic to knock her out. Jungo winced when I poured hydrogen peroxide into her open wound, but she did not lash out. A few of the maggots tried to crawl out then. I used tweezers to pick them out as they did so. Jungo looked up at me gratefully. She was practically my dog now, and clearly knew that I was trying to help her.
It's needless to say risky to pull screwfly maggots out of an open wound with tweezers on an awake dog the size of a Pitbull, but me and Jungo developed a bond. Over the course of three days I was able to get 30 or so of these nasty maggots out of the wound by hand. Jungo never bit me, though she sometimes winced. I suspect the dog was in excruciating pain already to even allow me to do it. But the clove oil seemed to keep new flies away and the wound began closing up. Jungo now walks on her paw as though nothing ever happened. She lives back with her family again and recently had puppies, though now animal rescues are beginning to make the rounds again so I suspect it will be her last litter. The dog is a neighborhood favorite as she is so friendly and gentle. Occasionally she drops in with a wagging tail. I am sure I saved Jungo’s life.
Occasionally I have to be reminded of the starfish story. Most of you have probably heard it, but here it is:
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)