Readers' Submissions

In Sickness And In Health… Pets, Too




“…in sickness and in health…” part of a familiar phrase, so many years ago, in a different country, standing at the altar with my wife-to-be.. We registered the marriage in Thailand, but the church ceremony was for the benefit of my parents and the numerous relatives and friends. (I have touched on part of my life in Thailand in another Stickman article, reader 1576.) It’s sometimes hard to believe that so much time has passed, the kids are almost grown-ups in their own right.

It was several years after we’d been married before we were more settled and bought a house in Bangkok, and one of the things that I felt was important to me was that the children should always grow up with a pet in the house. My preference has always been dogs, though we’ve had rabbits before. We never had cats for one simple reason – our dogs would get them first, and if they survived our garden, the neighbours’ dogs would definitely finish them off. Also, with dogs, they’d form a bond with the family and friends. You’d never see cats behave like that. It is perhaps because of this that I tolerate other people’s cats, but would never want to care for one myself.

My resolve to get a dog only strengthened when I saw someone hop over the garden wall and help himself to the shoes in front of the front door. He’d assumed no-one was in and really ran after I shouted, but still got away with a decent pair of shoes. The height of said garden wall has now been adjusted to a proper height. Now, all that was needed to complete the equation was to add one dog. Simple mathematics, right? Wrong. My wife doesn’t like animals of any sort, and I had to resort to close to quantum physics before she’d finally agreed.

As fate would have it, the neighbour mentioned that our favourite stray had had a litter at her brother’s place a few doors down. She’d taken up residence in the soi (lane) about a year earlier, and most of us used to feed her because we liked her good nature. I had tried to get her to stay in the compound, as did the neighbour, but the soi was her home. I guess once a soi dog, always a soi dog, and that was where she stayed till the day she died. In a way it was quite funny, because I had picked a nice female out of the litter, almost a spitting image of the mother, and watched them grow up together, but one with her home in the soi, and the other with her home in my house.


I’ve always had dogs around me ever since I was a kid, and it is perhaps only now as a parent that I realise how much a part they played in my development. If I came back from school early, they’d never be too tired to run around the garden or play games. I had to give them a weekly bath – funny how they develop a sixth sense and stay out of your way when the time comes… Keep them clean of ticks and fleas, feed them – and help bring them to the vet.


And in this respect I have been extremely fortunate. A vet set up shop at the end of the main soi just around the time I got the first dog, just seven minutes walk from the house. The only problem at the time was to be able to manoeuvre through the soi without attracting too much attention from the other dogs there. The easiest thing to do was to hail a passing four-wheel tuk-tuk (also known as ‘Subarus’ as in the brand name) get the dog there, and later get another for the trip back. The Subaru drivers would also do the round trip including the waiting time for a reasonable negotiated fee. This still happens today, and saves me the hassle of cleaning all of the dog’s fur out of my car. This vet has taken care of my dogs over the years, and can remember all the dogs I’ve had. One of his first customers was my favourite soi dog. I had her neutered here as she had a habit of having a fairly large litter on a regular basis, and I think many of the neighbours heaved a collective sigh of relief.


About two months ago, the four-year old female developed some redness in both eyes, swelling almost to the size of a pea after a couple of days that even eyedrops didn’t seem to help. Even my wife was worried. I had a word with the vet, but he told me it would be better to have a look at her in his clinic. Ten minutes later, he says ‘Cherry eye’. Uh. ‘She needs an operation, and this is too delicate even for me.’

‘Uh, what is cherry eye?’

He explains, it’s when the third eyelid doesn’t want to stay where it is and comes out to the open. ‘It’s not so bad, it isn’t blocking the iris yet…’ He doesn’t look too worried. He also goes on to say that a private vet would charge something like eight thousand baht for this, and I almost fell out of my (imaginary) chair! Eight thousand baht! And here I am, thinking of the public thirty baht health scheme that many hospitals participate in. He does offer an alternative, but he said ‘You’ll have to wait in the queue’. He then points me in the direction of the Kasetsart University Animal Hospital.


The Kasetsart Animal Hospital is located on Pahonyothin Road, just after the Navamin Road junction going in the direction of Laksi. It is a teaching Veterinary Hospital that fortunately takes even walk-in cases at Government hospital rates. And as I was to find out later, they are also open seven days a week…

http://www.vet.ku.ac.th/vet-eng/gen/general.html

I brought the dog in on a Saturday morning. Parking was basically non-existent, but I managed to squeeze in somewhere. Picture a busy shopping center carpark over a payday weekend, and you know you’ll be pushing cars. Dogs are everywhere. We get in the front door, get her weighed, and get a number. 103. Ahg! It’s only 8:30 in the morning, and the dog’s a nervous wreck! Just like any government hospital, you spend half the day waiting. We didn’t get to see a vet till half past twelve, and the examination took all of five minutes. ‘Cherry eye. You need an operation.’ OK. ‘Bring her here next Tuesday, 1 PM, with this sheet of paper. Get her blood tested at the next station before you go.’ Blood tested, and two hundred and thirty baht poorer for some eye drops, I bring her home.

Tuesday. She’s been locked in the kitchen since midnight, no food allowed. I manhandle her into the car; she’s already a nervous wreck. Fortunately traffic wasn’t too bad and I managed to get a proper parking place this time. Check in, walk up to the second floor. Wait another hour.. In the meantime I observe the kind of animals being brought in. Lots of dogs, a cat or two, and quite a few rabbits! It was interesting to note that they also had the X-ray and ultrasound department on the same floor as the operating theatres.


Finally I get called in. We put her on a trolley, and she’s given a shot of anaesthetic. As she’s dropping off, one of the (I assume) students tries to find a vein for the drip. I give her a bit of a look after two unsuccessful tries, and a more experienced student(?) does it in one quick go. They tell me to come back in an hour or so. I do.

She’s still a bit groggy and looks a sorry sight. All the fur around her eyes has been shaved off, making her look like a racoon. They’ve also put a plastic conical collar to prevent her from scratching at her eyes. I’ve already settled the payment – inclusive of the collar, came up to less than two thousand baht. ‘Bring her back in a week to have her stitches removed.’

’Can I get it done at the vet?’

‘Sure, no problem.’

Thank goodness. I now have to push the trolley all the way back to the car. Talk about self service…


In hindsight, I did not have to wait long at all for an operation to be scheduled. Just three days. It did not cost an arm and a leg. She’s quite happily running around the garden again, without the plastic collar getting in the way, and the hair is growing back. The sad thing is that in some first-world countries, people have a waiting list of months before some specialist is even going to consider their medical condition.

And I still have the vet at the end of the soi.

Stickman's thoughts:

Another writer sent a similar story about his cat a few years ago. He took the cat to the vet school at Chulalongkorn University and was thrilled at the service and very reasonable fees charged.