The animals she adored - and Khun Sibsam
Like her youngest brother, Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana was a dog lover, in the course of her lifetime raising no fewer than 89. And she remembered every one of them.
Published on January 3, 2008
There were various breeds - shih tzus, border terriers, golden and Labrador retrievers, the Bang Kaew, and many more.
She kept a detailed list of all of their names, their birthdays if she knew them and the ages at which they died. But, yes, she did have a favourite.
Khun Sibsam was one of three border terrier pups born on December 13, 1987. A commemorative book published for the Princess' 84th birthday last year recalled that she came to see the puppies and "called out to them".
"Only one crept up to her, and that was Khun Sibsam."
Published by Chulalongkorn University's veterinary-science faculty, the book celebrated the Princess' motherly passion for her pets. Sibsam, it said, was by her side wherever she went, and in its youth could be aggressive if anyone came too close to her.
Sibsam was treated to a birthday party at the Le Dix Palace in 2000, complete with food stalls, entertainment and a lucky draw. On hand was the staff of the Small Animal Hospital at Chulalongkorn, to whom the Princess gave a personal tour of a specially prepared exhibition on her many pet dogs.
The occasion was so enjoyable that parties were held for Khun Sibsam's birthdays the following two years. But soon after the last one, in early 2003, Sibsam died, having been a source of joy for the Princess for 15 years.
"In its final hours, the Princess carried it in her arms all the time," the commemorative book noted. A wake was held in Sibsam's honour, and members of the Faculty of Veterinary Science composed a poem in tribute and erected a statue of the beloved pet in the garden of the Villa Vadhana.
The Princess' affinity for animals wasn't limited to her own pets. Out of her concern for strays and the ailing pets of low-income families, she set up the Bt1-million Sibsam Fund in February 2000.
The start-up financing covered the cost of thousands of treatments, and the Princess continued to contribute her own money as well as the proceeds from the sale of specially made T-shirts and calendars bearing pictures of her pets.
For her 80th birthday in 2003, an exhibition was held in her honour at the Small Animal Hospital. At the opening she saw that the emergency room was quite small and offered to help get a new building erected with better emergency medical facilities.
With Princess Galyani backing it, the project benefited from a Bt13-million donation from Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi and his wife, Khunying Wanna, and the new building now treats some 2,100 animals every month.