Chiang Mai FeMail  by Elena Edwards
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Humanity, civilisation and dogs – Part 2

Herbal alternatives win again!

“Use it or lose it” – Pets’ effects on the immune system

OPINION

 

Humanity, civilisation and dogs – Part 2

A tiny community, living in isolation except for excursions into civilisation from their world apart, these people live in total squalor and the realms of mental illness and disorder.
A dilapidated 3 floored warehouse building with an equally squalid adjacent house is where a group of approximately 6 people live along with an uncounted number of cats, dogs and other wildlife that go hand in hand with this environment. Maybe a few years ago, this might have been the centre of recycling activity but ‘the corner shop verses the superstore’ syndrome has taken its toll here too.
We drove down the small paved roads leading away from busy Mae Rim Road, passing behind the hugely popular and successful Toyota (Lanna Branch) premises. Any cement track turns eventually to grass and that in turn reduces to a muddy wallow, aggravated by the tricycles these people depend on for their livelihood, if that’s what it is. They make daily trips to roadside accumulations of rubbish and salvage as much material from their snatch and grab ventures as possible, bringing their treasured finds back to base and stock piling it in their home. Sorting, grouping and filling sacks with similar materials is their business and the by-product is a filthy, smelly and unhygienic place to live in.
We met the 2 women who live nearby, who had called Care for Dogs about this situation, wanting to do something about the growing problem of multiplying dogs and in turn, offer help to the people living here.
Today, we returned to this ghastly place with a known objective. We had come with transportation cages to take away 5 dogs for sterilisation, to start the process of reducing the numbers of dogs finding an existence here. The ladies had told us there were a couple of bitches in heat and another actually pregnant, these apparently were in the larger building, ‘with the men.’
They introduced us to the matriarch, ‘Khun Yai’ or grandmother, who lives in the house, the one with no glass or wood in any opening of the damp and wrecked building, amongst piles of clothing, plastic, waterlogged paper and literally every other item that we have all seen in our waste bins – most of them clinging to the wet bottom of our kitchen bin liners.
Khun Yai showed us her female dogs, who all followed her to our car in a line behind her (a bit like ‘the pied piper’) and obviously trusted her implicitly when she walked them caringly towards the waiting cages. We selected 3 of them for today’s trip, letting her know we would “do” all of the females in due course. One of them, herself the grandmother of many of the others, was pointed out to us by Khun Yai, who said she didn’t want to let us take her as she had not given birth for many years as a result of regular contraceptive injections.
All of the above, written in a structured and almost “novelist” form, sounds straightforward and easily achieved. However, trying to compile a satisfactory agreement from a 2, 3, and sometimes 4-way Thai/English conversation between people with fears and anxiety about losing a loved and cherished dog and people with knowledge and experience of managing such situations, can result in a sense of extreme frustration all round!
On our last visit here, we had discovered the appalling conditions in which so many dogs and puppies were living. We removed several litters of puppies (15 in all) as we believed they would certainly die if not rescued and with our help, could find adopted homes. If any of them survived, then at least we could start to reduce the uncontrolled growth of dog numbers at this awful place. We have since found all of those puppies good loving homes.
With thanks to Care for Dogs for this story.

 

Herbal alternatives win again!

Don’t you just love the way research into alternative treatments you’ve been using for years with no ill-effects is proceeding! Try this for size – it’s finally been proven by extensive academic and scientific research at the Munich Centre for Complementary Medicine that St. John’s wort really is similarly effective to Prozac and Seroxat in the treatment of depression, and produces fewer side effects. Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort), has long been recognised by those of us who are a little nervous of popping prescribed pills for every ailment as a real help when we feel negative or depressed; it would now seem that experts believe it may keep the chemical serotonin, linked to positive moods, in the brain for longer periods, thus improving moods.
However, the lead scientist in the study, which involved data from 5,489 patients with mild to moderately severe depression, Dr Klaus Linde, warned that the results were only relevant to the specific product used in the tests, and that results from over-the-counter versions of the substance may differ as there is as yet no standard form.
Germany has always been in the forefront of the use of alternative forms of treatment for many conditions, with St. John’s wort being regularly prescribed to children and teenagers as a safer way to combat depression. In the UK and USA, however, the use of complimentary medicines and therapies has been traditionally frowned on by doctors and medical authorities. The findings of this particular study were published by the Cochrane Library, which specialises in systematic reviews of research studies.
Perhaps we should remember, however, that if we suspect we are developing a serious or life-threatening medical condition, it’s advisable to check it out with a specialist before deciding on the next move.


“Use it or lose it” – Pets’ effects on the immune system

Continuing my crusade against the ingesting of too many products from Big Pharma, I recently came across a research report which confirmed something I’d believed in for many years – the beneficial effects of keeping pets, either cats or dogs. Most of us are probably aware that, for a while now, it has been accepted that elderly people are liable to live longer and more healthily if they have a pet; this research, although not conclusive, is far more specific in that it suggests that being a pet- owner may lower the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a fatal form of cancer of the lymphatic system, by nearly one third. It is believed that owning a pet may well stimulate the immune system, thus helping to protect not just against cancer, but against other diseases as well.
Research has also shown that children who come from pet-owning families have less chance of developing allergies in later life, possibly because cats and dogs are, well, ermm, occasionally, slightly grubby…which encourages the stimulation of kids’ immune systems against whatever is on, or in, the dog or cat, thus rendering them less prone to infections and days off school as well as allergies!
It would appear that the well-known phrase, “use it or lose it,” might apply to the human immune system as well as, for example, our foreign language abilities. Given the advertising emphasis in the last 20 years or so on “germ-proof” this and “kills every known bug in the universe” that, logic suggests that the immune system might be tempted to give up out of sheer boredom. Until, of course, it’s really needed, by which time it might well have forgotten how to put itself into top gear and fight a serious nasty. I’ve always thought that moderation in all things is the key, and, hey, my dogs are, I have to admit, grubby more often that not, and very healthy! Which must prove something…particularly as my kitchen ain’t that pristine, either, and I’m also very healthy!


OPINION: Give a dog (or a country) a bad name…

OK, so this last week’s money markets chaos must feel like the last straw for those of us reliant on pensions or income from fast-diminishing investments, particularly when coupled with the insecurity generated by the gratuitous and unnecessary violence which erupted between the Thai police and the PAD protestors outside Bangkok’s parliament building. Just imagine, though, how much worse the Tourist Authority of Thailand must be feeling – faced with an unprecedented downturn of foreign visitors due to matters totally beyond their control. The authority itself, of course, and the over-supply of luxury hotels and eateries in this town, will, we’re sure, survive to fight another day – the small or family-owned enterprises whose clients include visitors and at present financially-challenged farang residents may not be so lucky.
These small businesses, from the local roadside stall to the tour guides and guest houses, encompassing all who help to make a modest life here so enjoyable for residents and tourists alike, simply do not have the spare capital to last through a period of both political and economic uncertainty the like of which has not been seen in our lifetimes. But they are the struggling representatives of the Lanna lifestyle and culture which attracts visitors to this city in a way that hotels and hi-so venues can never be.
Prodded into over-reaction by sensationalised worldwide media reports, embassies and consulates continue to blacklist Thailand on health and safety grounds, exactly as they did two years ago when smoke from forest fires burning across the border in Burma exacerbated the usual dry season air quality problems in the city. Medically uninformed potential visitors still visit online Thai forums and ask if they will get asthma as a result of a brief holiday stop-off in Chiang Mai!
The danger this season is more obvious – riots, and police action resulting in deaths and injuries. All of which, however, occurred in a very small area of a very large city hundreds of miles away from Chiang Mai on a specific and possibly orchestrated occasion. Dangerous? London, New York, any major Western city, and even Oxford and Cambridge, the famous UK university cities, are many times more dangerous than Chiang Mai, particularly at night. This writer doesn’t remember any embassies or consulates advising visitors to avoid any of the above destinations for their own safety, and she’s still alive after living in close proximity to an area of East London fondly known as “murder mile,” just down from the site of the 2012 Olympics, where the weekly rate of deliberate killings rose occasionally to an amount in excess of Chiang Mai’s annual rate!
Thailand in general, and Chiang Mai in particular, are still amongst the safest destinations to visit and maybe to fall in love with, as well as being inexpensive (even now) and providing an opportunity to reach out and touch Asian and Buddhist culture in a very personal manner, an experience that may well have a positive impact on the “thinking tourist’s” life. It must be said that it isn’t all Shangri-La (and I don’t mean the latest example of the hotel chain!) but the kingdom itself, and Chiang Mai in particular, does provide a fascinating and occasionally disturbing insight into the contrast between rich and poor, and between Western and Eastern lifestyles and culture, in which there are lessons to be learned by both sides. And, of course, there are wonderful meals to be eaten, amazing sunsets and storms to be enjoyed, the natural beauty of the mountains and valleys surrounding our city to be explored, the vastness of the Mekong River which divides northern Thailand from its neighbours to be visited, and the whole spectrum of this lovely country to be explored. Tourism isn’t, or shouldn’t be, planned and packaged visits to tired tourist traps, “ethnic” evenings and contrived sites and sights – it’s an adventure into another way of thinking and living which is as relevant as that of the visitors themselves.
So, come on, TAT, go for it – refute the exaggerations of the paparazzi and the over-cautious approach of the various Foreign Offices of Western governments who advise visitors to stay away, forget the structured tours to the fake tourist villages, the gem stores and the animal and human sideshows, and tell the world that Thailand in general, and Chiang Mai in particular, are THE affordable, safe and welcoming places to come to for a real, rich, and definitely not manufactured, visitor experience.