Sunday, December 18, 2005

Guide Dogs In Thailand

Professor Wiriya Namsiripongpun, a law lecturer at Thammasat University, has used a guide dog for 21 of his 54 years. He believes he is the only blind person in the country to do so, and he may be right. While guide dogs are quite popular in western countries like the United States, they are not easy to keep in Thailand, for a number of reasons.

No matter how well-trained a guide dog is, facts of Bangkok life make using one difficult. Wiriya says both Skeet and Toby were often distracted by stray dogs or cats. Sometimes they got into dog fights.

“Toby was bitten twice and he did not want to walk further until somebody chased the stray dogs away for him. Skeet was a little braver. He would just walk.”

Stray dogs aren’t the biggest problem, however. Of greater concern to the blind is the law that forbids dogs from entering public places like buses, trains, restaurants, hospitals and hotels. The practical result of this is that there are no guide dog training schools in Thailand.

“Some bus drivers did not allow me to board the bus with the dogs. Sometimes when I traveled to other provinces, I had to hide Skeet or Toby under my seat and cover them with my suitcase. Sometimes the staff found out and charged me extra,” says Wiriya. “But I will continue using the dogs. When I have time I will go back to Michigan to get another dog.”

No comments: