LOYAL FRIEND AND ROLE MODEL
Story by CHAIWAT SATYAEM
Nine years ago, His Majesty the King adopted a stray female dog, and named her Khun Tongdaeng. His care for the poor canine became a model for his subjects to follow.
The King also coined the term maa thes, which was short for maa thesaban, or stray city dogs.
The King came across Khun Tongdaeng when he presided over the opening of a medical centre on Rama IX road in 1998. The centre is located near an area where a number of stray dogs took refuge. Among them was Khun Tongdaeng's mother, Daeng, and her five-month-old puppies.
When a doctor presented Khun Tongdaeng to the King for inspection, he decided to take the cute puppy to the palace, recalled Kasetsart University veterinarian Noppakrit Chanthik, who is also the veterinarian for the King's dogs.
Khun Tongdaeng's name came from her red-brown colour.
She shared some characteristics of the Basenji breed, a hunting dog whose origins is in central Africa, in particular the white colour on her legs, which looked as if she wore socks.
Khun Tongdaeng was known as a polite and smart dog, said Dr Noppakrit. Her behaviour reflected strong loyalty to the King, who took very good care of her.
The King's dog mated with a Basenji dog at the palace and gave birth to nine puppies - all of which were given a name which included tong, which means gold in Thai.
His Majesty's good care of Khun Tongdaeng set an example to his subjects and many have acquired strays for pets, said Dr Noppakrit.
"Some people give food to stray dogs and claim they are following in the King's footsteps. But they misunderstand," he said.
If one really wants to help stray dogs, they have to adopt the animals, providing them with shelter and giving them love and care, as the King does, he stressed.
He suggested kind-hearted people visit the Hua Hin Dog Shelter, which was initiated by His Majesty in Prachuap Khiri Khan. The shelter serves as a temporary home for strays. They are well fed until "true dog lovers" come to adopt them.
Dr Noppakrit said that the shelter is not a place where people can dump their unwanted pets.
Dog owners should show more responsibility in taking care of their pets, he said. Without this attitude, they should not feed any creature, he added.