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ASAFE HAVE


Continuing our story of the woman who has dedicated her life to stray animals

*Story by CH0MP00 TRAKULLERTSATHIEN
*Photo by SUCHADA HONGSA (Bangkok Post Newpaper)

Over the course of one day, Areeporn Maharouy has only five hours to herself, two for working and three for sleeping. The rest of her time is set aside for her 'children', ensuring that they have enough food to eat and a clean place to sleep.


hough Areeporn Maharouy has lost almost eveiything — family, love, enjoyment, friendship, faith — she still has high hopes for the welfare of homeless dogs and cats.
"I've never, ever lost hope. It might be hope against hope. But I do live in hope, and always hope for the best," said Areeporn, who has dedicated the last 10 years of her life to rescuing stray dogs and cats, many of them once domestic pets.
Areeporn is the last hope for more than 100 homeless animals that now have a better life since meeting her. The once sickly and hungry dogs have regained their health, and she has taken around 30 aban?doned cats from temples to avoid them being attacked by the dogs — Areeporn has given over the second and the third floors of her house to her feline friends so ihey can enjoy their privacy.
Most of the puppies were infected with parasites, but have now been treated. Sev?eral were handicapped, but now have a new lease of life under Areeporn's protective care. In an attempt to control the population of stray dogs and cats under her supervision, Areeporn has spent her own money to neuter them, but many are still waiting since neutering is expensive. In some cases, especially those who are very scared of people, she has to pay to have them anaes?thetised so she can take them to the vet.
Although Areeporn has tried her best to help homeless mongrels, it is evident that the situation has not improved. The more she gets involved, the more problems she encounters. Areeporn has been told by many not to raise her hopes too much since she will end up being very disap?pointed. They say solving the problem of stray animals in Thailand Is an uphill battle since the authorities have never taken the problem seriously and the population of stray animals continues to increase steadily, as does the problem of the soaring number of domestic pets dumped on the streets and at temples.
She was recently dismayed to find that many dogs that had taken refuge in the dense field behind her community were burned to death by the local authorities in an attempt to "evict" them. What she saw was yet another traumatic experience, after the canine massacre in her community 10 years ago, when countless dogs were poisoned and beaten to death.
After the fire burned out, there was no sign of life. All the puppies were dead. Only one dogsurvived the tire and she was seriously injured. Her condition is still crit ical.
"I was shocked when I heard what hap-pened to the dogs and puppies. Why can't we let them live their lives? They really don't know where to go, so they hide in the thick grass, thi! only place that keeps them out of the sweltering heat and the rain. But some people keep disturbing them. 1 really don't know how to help them all as long as there arc still people who hate stray animals. Wc can help them by simply showing our sympathy to them. Just stop hurting them and find the right way to help control their population," said the dog guardian.
Apart from the dog haters, Areeporn has to put up with irresponsible dog owners. Recently, nine female dogs, most of them pedigree, were dumped at die temple where her dogs live, and a family of five Yorkshire terriers was dumped in front of her house. It seems that this vicious cycle is endless, as is Areeporn's burden.
 "I just can't turn my back on them. I have to adopt the five dogs, even though my house is already crowded with dogs and cats. They are a father, mother and three children. They arc a lovely family and well-mannered. 1 don't know why their former owner no longer wants to keep I hem. I have to keep them at the back of my house because every corner is already occupied," she said.
"If you're not sure that you can take on a long-term commitment, don't. It just causes more and more problems to society," she cautioned.
Although Areeporn has to shoulder a heavy burden, and is occasionally disheart-ened, she has never given up. Her heart, or to be more precise, her life is devoted to the poor animals. While most people can enjoy their days fully, Areeporn has only five hours for herself— two for working at her freelance job and three for sleeping. The rest of the day and the night is set aside for the care of her "children", who are always waiting for her to let them know that there is still someone who really cares about them and who doesn't regarded them as "disposable".
Areeporn has an unusual yet praise?worthy life. While many people enjoy their sleep, she is busy in the kitchen, cooking 10 pots of rice for her dogs. The task starts at about 11pm and finishes at 3am. While her children sleep happily Areeporn cleans the house for three hours to make sure that there is no bad smells to bother her neighbours.
As people wakfrup,: it,' ร time for Areeporn to take a short breaifcShe IS always awoken by her dogs arouniypm. After washing and dressing, she cooks more rice for dinner. In the late morning all 20 dogs are allowed to go outside to go to the toilet, which takes about 40 minutes. When the dogs return, it is Areeporn's turn to go out and clean up after them.
Having a rest or even stopping to drink a glass of cold water is out of the question for her. since so many dogs are waiting for her to feed them. Areeporn begins feeding her dogs and cats at home at 9am. Their favourite diet includes rice mixed with tinned food, chicken, liver or meat. If the rice nins out, she gives them commercial food. And when it comes to their food Areeporn has never been stingy—she has to spend about 1,000 baht a day on dog and cat food. And it's hard to make ends meet.
"Many people ask me why I have to feed them premium food since they are simply strays. They say that commercial food is suitable only for pedigree breeds. Stray dogs can eat anything, ranging from leftovers to rotten food. But I don't think so. Pedigrees and mixed breeds are similar. Why shouldn't homeless dogs eat good food, too? I treat them all equally," said the dog lover.
Areeporn's second round of feeding starts around 2pm, this time for around 80 dogs at the two temples and many along the street. She has to make 11 stops to feed homeless dogs. Before leaving home, she doesn't forget to light mosquito coils around the house, since she won't be back until late. This ensures that her children will not be disturbed by hordes of bloodsuckers.
To those who live near the temples it is a common sight to see the middle-aged lady walking around, carrying two buckets full of food and looking for her "children". As soon as her tumbledown pick-up arrives at the temple, the once serene place be?comes lively as dogs arrive from nowhere, surrounding her with visible delight. They jump up and down happily. Some greet her with happy cries, as if they are talking to her. Others wag their tails non-stop to welcome their surrogate mother. Their love of Areeporn is visible and very touching.
"I love all of my dogs. When they see me .they 'dance' and sing'. พ}!en I leave the temple they follow my car, harking politely as if saying Good-bye'. To rne they are all equally lovely.. Even the sick ones, they also try to rouse themselves to say 'Hi!, and I feel immediately invigorate," she said.
Areeporn's backbreaking work at the temple includes cleaning all the food and water bowls, feeding all the dogs at different parts of the grounds and presiding clean water for them. After lighting mosquito coils for them, Areeporn visits the other temple and does the same. Before leaving, she has to help clean and sweep to say "Thank you" to the abbots who allow her dogs to live there. She finishes at around 11pm, and this schedule is repeated year after year.
Apart from feeding and bathing, Areeporn has to check the animals' health to ensure that they are free of parasites and disease. In an effort to stand'on her own feet and reduce unnecessary medical costs, Areeporn has learned more about canine and feline diseases and how to give first aid from several of the vets she has met. She also gives medicines to sick dogs on her own after being taught how to. She has to apply some techniques to save herself, too. especially when dealing with cats. When the animals have a fever, Areeporn is always available to comfort them and rub their bodies with a towel soaked in warm water. Once, one of her dogs had a blood parasite and the vet recommended that she feed it every hour, which meant that she had no sleep for three days, But it was worth doing since that dognow is restored to full health.
"Some vets who know my situation are willing to help. They teach me how to properly take care of the sick dogs and cats. Giving medicine to a cat is difficult, since they struggle and scratch my hands. So I have to cover my hands with thick cloth so I can avoid being scratched. Now j it's a piece of cake to give medicine to the I cats, she said.
But not all vets are helpful. Areeporn j has to drive for several hours to take her I sick dogs and cats to the vet, only to find j that they are refused treatment because I she can t immediately pay the medical ; bills.
"Some die in my hands because they j can't hold on for me to earn money to pay for their medical treatment. When I look I into their eyes, my heart sinks. I feel so sorry for them because I can't help them."
While many people regard stray animals as worthless life, Areeporn sees the mutual sharing between human and animal.
"They give me loyalty and friendship, and 1 give them healthy food, care and a safe place to sleep," she said.
Areeporn is still on her solo crusade. To many people she is a freak and a crazy woman who has nothing better to do. But Areeporn has her own reasons to keep feeding homeless animals. The death of one dog she rescued prompts her to heip more, even though it means that she has to sacrifice her time and savings.
"I tookthatdogtothevettofindoutthe real cause of its death. What I saw was shocking. Countless elastic bands were I found in its stomach. Many stray dogs j have to forage for food on rubbish dumps I and very often they accidentally eat clastic j bands. You know, I always keep tinned I and dry food in my car. Whenever I spot ; homeless dogs I'll feed them," she said.
Asked what her future plans are if she can no longer take care of her dogs and cats for any reason, she cries and cries.
And those who hear her answer might cry, too.

   



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