Sunshine’s Tale – A Golden Retriever in Chiang Mai, Thailand

No day is ordinary when you work with animals. Routines contort around emergencies and nature’s whims decide the schedules. The story is no different at Care for Dogs in Chiangmai, Thailand. Even the most casual project can change lives. Still when staff member Karin Hawelka sat down at her email one morning she had no idea what she’d find in her inbox.

Among the usual business letters, reports and million dollar stock tips, cleverly disguised as spam, a ray of sunshine was hidden. Karin received an email from a man who said he’d seen an underweight Golden Retriever on Doi Suthep. Martin, the alert animal lover who reported the dog, also noted the retriever appeared to have a leg injury. The computer could wait. Karin and Care for Dog’s team member Ally Taylor set off at once.

Atop Doi Suthep Mountain lies Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The temple is a major pilgrimage destination for the Buddhist holidays of Makha Buja and Visak. Setting high above the bustling city of Chiang Mai this 600 year old sanctuary can be seen glowing in the sunshine across the region. The breathtaking views from the drive up the mountain would have been reason enough to escape the city. Still, Karin and Ally had a mission.

Among the shining golden Buddhas, sidewalk shops and camera-heavy tourists, saffron draped monks strolled the temple grounds. Zigzagging among the monks was the Care for Dogs team. It didn’t take long for the gals to find their hidden temple treasure.

As reported a beautiful Golden Retriever was indeed on the grounds. Sadly, the rest of the report was also true. The once magnificent animal was flea-infested, vastly underweight and limping along the walkway. At rest, his back left leg swung loose as if it were shorter than the rest.

As the duo made inquiries about the friendly canine, his story began to unfold. The retriever’s irresponsible owner had just dumped him at the temple several weeks earlier, leaving the injured animal to fend for himself. The story was seemingly more tragic in that no one cared if the team took the dog away. Even a monk, often the last hope for dumped temple dogs, seemed surprised to notice the wounded animal. In the end, this was the best thing that could have happened.

As Ally grabbed up their golden-fleeced find, Karin commandeered the temple’s cable-car. This spared their new charge the 309 stairs steps that is the temples more notorious claim to fame. Within minutes, the trio was off to the veterinarians. Instantly the canine found his new name – sunshine.

X-rays reveled that Sunshine’s left leg was indeed shorter than his other legs and contained a medal pin from a previous surgery. The pin had somehow migrated, causing a painful point to stick out beyond the bone. It had been this way for some time as calcium now enveloped the steel. All the vets could do was cut off the extended end. Still, what a miracle this was for Sunshine after what must have been many months of suffering.

When the Care for Dogs team transferred Sunshine from the veterinary hospital to their sanctuary his true personality began to shine through. There is nothing like the confident dominance projected by a mentally well-balanced golden retriever. Despite his long hard spell, Sunshine proved worthy of his breed.

Dominant, yet not overly aggressive, he quickly established himself as top-dog in his area of the facility. Even against the resident Rottweiler mix Noy, Sunshine drew a firm line. In no time he stole the hearts of the Care for Dogs crew. It was not surprising that in a matter of days new volunteers Teresa and Nok informed Karin of their decision to give Sunshine a forever-home.

Karin smiled as she went off to check her email, yet again.