Weekly Local Biography

  Karin Hawelka and Corinna Gogel

By: Elle Faraday

Karin and Corinna, caring for dogs.

Regardless of whether you travel to Chiang Mai as a tourist or live here as an expat, it is not possible to avoid the street dogs. When I first arrived, I was shocked to see so many dogs, some in terrible condition and I would always find the time to befriend a couple. Now, like so many other people, I tend to look above them when I walk down the street; I have become blind to them.
Karin Hawelka and Corinna Gogel are two ladies from Germany who refuse to ignore the problem. They made a promise to themselves and to the stray dogs of Chiang Mai that they would help. They set up a shelter called Care for Dogs, hoping that they could rescue dogs in need as well as sterilising up to 20 female strays, temple and village dogs per month.
Karin first moved to Thailand 12 years ago. She was working in Human Resources in Chiang Mai and Bangkok and stayed for three years. It was on this trip that she made her first canine friend, a street dog that she named Dao. ‘I fell in love with her and decided that I was taking her back to Germany.’ Back in Germany she met her husband and by pure chance, 3ฝ years ago, he got a job with the same company that first brought Karin to Thailand all of those years ago. ‘Me and Dao were finally heading home to Thailand.’
It was not long before they were all settled in Chiang Mai and Karin was once again moved by the plight of the street dogs. She began to rescue them and take them back to her house. ‘My husband is so understanding and luckily loves dogs himself. The only request he made was that he wouldn’t like to end up with 10 dogs (at that time we had only Dao).’ Today, they have 11 living at their house and a further 65 at the dog shelter which is located next door. The shelter was set up in July this year to provide a sanctuary for street and temple dogs. There are currently 14 adult dogs for adoption, 12 adult dogs receiving medical treatment or after-care following sterilisations, and 39 puppies, including two newborn litters of 17 puppies.
Her partner at the rescue centre is Corinna Gogel, a single parent with two children and 17 dogs! She told me ‘I did have 24 dogs living with me, but this was too many. When we set up the shelter, I re-housed seven.’ She has always loved dogs, as have her children. Like Karin, she cannot simply walk past a dog in pain; she must stop and see if she can help. ‘If I do not stop, I have nightmares and cannot sleep.’
Corinna has also been living in Chiang Mai for 3ฝ years. She spent years travelling back and forth between Thailand and Germany and finally decided to take the plunge and move out here. ‘I spent one winter in Germany and that was enough to convince me,’ she said. Before establishing Care for Dogs, Corinna volunteered for another dog rescue organisation. She did not know Karin when she first came to Chiang Mai, but it was not long before they both met and realised that they shared a mutual love for dogs. Together, with the help of an American, Amandine Lecesne, they established Care for Dogs.
I arrived at the sanctuary to meet Karin and Corinna and was welcomed by them both, as well as dozens of gorgeous puppies and dogs. I was immediately made to feel welcome - by both the dogs and the volunteers! Corinna showed me around the shelter including the enclosure for the very sick dogs and the enclosure for the new dogs, where a mother lay nursing her two-day old puppies. Every dog there has a story and all of them are looking for a new home.
I was particularly moved by the plight of Hannah, a three-legged homeless dog that was rescued after being in a road accident. Her leg was amputated after Karin and Corinna found her. She’ll probably never find a home because most people want cute puppies or loyal guard dogs. The truth is that Hannah is one of the most loveable and playful dogs you could meet.
Poor Valentino is almost totally bald from the severest mange I have ever seen. Again, he is looking for a home, but it is doubtful he will find one while he is undergoing treatment. When Amandine and Corinna found him, it took her weeks to gain his trust and bring him the shelter. He was incredibly nervous of humans but today came out to say hello, tail wagging and head held up high. It is hoped that within two months he will have a full coat of fur and maybe then someone will adopt him.
Unfortunately, Care for Dogs can take only urgent cases into their care as the sanctuary is almost full to capacity. When I asked what Corinna and Karin really need, they told me ‘We urgently want to re-house these dogs into good homes. They all deserve to be looked after and loved for the rest of their lives.’ The organisation also needs sponsorship. ‘Caring for these dogs costs a lot of money. While we will always do our best for the dogs in our care, we cannot afford everything. Vet bills can be very expensive, dog food can be very expensive, treatment can be very expensive. If people cannot adopt any of these dogs, we would very much appreciate the chance to be considered for sponsorship.’
When asked about the future, Karin and Corinna have no plans to change the way they are living. The dogs mean everything to them and they are not about to give up their fight. They do hope to set up their own mobile vet clinic, but like everything this needs financing. They already visit temples and villages on a weekly basis to feed and take care of the dogs, as well as treating any minor ailments. They take female dogs to the vet for sterilisation, a procedure that is often too expensive for many owners, and spend time playing with them.
Both of the women are extremely modest about what they are doing. They run the shelter because they love dogs and because they cannot ignore suffering. I asked Karin if she ever got discouraged by the mammoth task that they have taken on. She quoted a sentence from their website: ‘Saving one dog won’t change the world, but surely, the world will change for that one dog.’ As she said it, my hair stood on end and I got a lump in my throat. I was sitting among dogs that had been saved from a world of fear, abuse and hunger.
What these two women are doing is truly remarkable. They are offering care to animals that would otherwise go unnoticed by so many; it is much more than a full time job. The list of daily duties is endless. If you love dogs and would like to help out, you can contact Karin and Corinna for information. Equally, if you think you could offer a home to any of the dogs, you will be rewarded with a loving and loyal companion. Please visit www.carefordogs.org for more information or you can email them on: [email protected] and [email protected]