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Humanity, civilisation and dogs – Part 2
Herbal alternatives win again!
“Use it or lose it” – Pets’
effects on the immune system
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
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
“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
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
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