BANGKOK: Pan’s little face was pressed against the sliding glass door. He was balancing on his three legs, seemingly oblivious to the missing one the vet had taken away to save his life.
Six months old, fluffy and mostly white, Pan was looking with his curious puppy eyes at visitors arriving at the cafe, where he and 15 other rescue dogs were chancing their luck at finding a forever home.
Located at UnionSpace in central Bangkok, the Adoptable Puppy Cafe has welcomed many families and pet lovers since its opening in December 2019. Its founders are avid animal rescuers who wish to change how the general public views street dogs in Thailand while helping to minimise their population.
“People have that misconception that street dogs aren’t smart and when they come here, I think that changes,” said one of the co-founders Iza Mirzakhanian.
"Thai dogs can be just as wonderful, perfect, trainable, smart as any other dogs that people buy."
In just over a year, the Adoptable Puppy Cafe has helped at least 150 dogs find a new life and a loving family.
Twice a month, visitors can spend time with rescue dogs at the cafe free of charge. It operates for four hours every other Saturday. Visitors have no obligation to adopt, although many have done so after getting to know the pups.
Most of them were rescued from the streets and temples around Thailand. Some were ill or injured and left to die. A few of them were dumped by their previous owners whose love for them had run out.
To ensure these rescue dogs would never have to be neglected or abused again, potential adopters are required to complete a questionnaire to find out if they are suitable and ready for a new furry family member.
The questions range from the type of their accommodation to their occupation. They have to clarify whether the dog will have to be alone during the day, how often they travel for work or holidays, where the dog will stay during that time, and what will happen to the pet if they need to relocate from Thailand.
“People say it’s like a police report,” Mirzakhanian said, laughing. “We need to know all these things to be able to tell them, ‘This dog is not for you.’”
THAILAND HAS MORE THAN 2 MILLION STRAY DOGS
Despite its name, the Adoptable Puppy Cafe is not exclusive to puppies. Sometimes, older dogs would join the young crew at adoption events.
According to co-founder Kirsty Smith, many people prefer fluffy dogs, and the small, young ones are likely to get adopted faster than their bigger and older friends.
“We have a couple of older, sort of fancy breed-type looking dogs. Someone probably got them when they were puppies, got bored of them and put them on the streets,” she said, pointing at a white fluffy dog in the cafe that resembles a big terrier.
“They wouldn’t have looked like that when they were picked up but would have been all matted and disgusting, full of blood parasites.”
Stray dogs are no strangers in Thailand. The Animal Welfare and Veterinary Service Division of the Livestock Department reported there were more than 2 million stray dogs nationwide in 2019, and the existing shelters are not able to accommodate them all.
Without proper birth control, the population of stray dogs could increase significantly each year. According to Mirzakhanian, who also works with volunteers to trap, neuter and release street dogs, mass sterilisation is the best solution to the problem.
“We do a lot of spaying,” she said. “But every time, these projects would leave them with some dogs, like those with cancer that need chemotherapy, or a mother dog that has just given birth, has a disease and needs treatment. So, they have to keep them for treatment and also the puppies.”
“We’re only helping a small number. It’s survival of the fittest out there,” Smith added.
PAN ‘THE TRIPOD’
Since the Adoptable Puppy Cafe opened its doors, it has never lacked dogs. The space provides a platform for a community of rescuers, who save and foster vulnerable young dogs until they find a loving home.
Each month introduces new furry faces for adoption. They may turn up with different looks and personalities but many of them share the same history of neglect.
When Pan was rescued, he was about three months old and living in the coastal province of Rayong. He had been attacked by big dogs and suffered a broken back leg, damaged intestines and serious wounds.
The puppy’s owner took him to a vet but his injuries were severe with infections and required costly treatments at a pet hospital.
“They decided to take him home, saying, ‘He can just die at home,’” Jazmin French from non-profit animal welfare organisation VetVan Thailand told CNA.
“The doctor, knowing he wasn’t going to just pass quickly and would suffer a long time with horrid infections and a lot more agonising pain, contacted our team to see if we could help.”
French took Pan under her care after his owner agreed to surrender him. The puppy had his abdominal infections treated and underwent a reconstruction surgery involving plates and screws. However, his body rejected them as it fought infections and the vet had no choice but to amputate his back leg to save his life.
Once he had recovered, Pan joined other rescue dogs at the Adoptable Puppy Cafe. Despite a missing leg, he ran around and got many pats from the visitors, including Azel Telen and Edmund Lui.
“He instantly stole our hearts when he strode over to my boyfriend and me. After a lot of licking, he chilled with us for a good amount of time and we fell in love with him,” said Telen.
Our first impression of him was he was a super loveable, chill dog with an awesome personality. Our heart went out to him when we saw his missing leg.
The couple had planned to have a dog. While Telen loves Golden Retrievers, Lui is a fan of German Shepherds.
“But we ultimately thought the best thing to do was to adopt a dog as they are the ones who need a loving home the most,” Telen said.
After meeting Pan at the cafe, the couple adopted him and according to them, the tripod puppy has nicely settled in his new home. He often zooms around the house, fetching and chasing his toys.
“Honestly, we don’t even notice he has a missing leg anymore and neither does he,” Telen said. “We love him. He’s a huge part of the family now.”