Become a better person by learning life's lessons from dogs
    Writer: By Chompoo Trakullertsathien
    Published: 26/07/2009 at 12:00 AM
    Newspaper section: Brunch

Living with some 200 ex-homeless dogs, Warin Taphaothong is well aware of the impermanence of life. Over the years she has seen close and loyal canine friends die almost daily.

FRIENDS FOR LIFE: Warin Taphaothong takes a rest with some canine friends. She looks after about 200 ex-strays who are sharing a happy life together in her vast natural sanctuary.

Even so, the recent and sudden death of one of her beloved dogs left her in great distress for several months because the cause of that death was so barbaric and senseless that it vividly revealed the dark and selfish side of the human heart.

"That poor dog was shot by a man who lives next door because he accidentally wandered onto his land. He didn't die right away. He ran back home to see me. When I saw his body lying on the ground surrounded by a pool of blood, I was totally shocked," recalled the dog lover. Ms Warin took the injured dog to a vet but unfortunately he didn't make it. His happy days with his caring mistress ended unexpectedly. "Before he passed away, he lay on my lap. I told him that he could leave me if the pain was so unbearable. I told him that I would pray for him so that he would have it better in his next life. A minute later, his breath slowly faded and then stopped. I gave him a final, loving hug," she recollected, with tears in her eyes.

"I really don't understand why that man had to use such a cruel means of showing his anger. He could simply have scared the dog away by making a loud noise. He did not have to shoot him. Why did he have to shoot a helpless dog that wouldn't have fought back?" she asked.

Ms Warin herself didn't fight back, either. Although she was very angry with the "murderer", she said nothing bad to him because she didn't want to create an enemy. She was more concerned about protecting her "children" from human threats.

"People often think that I'm a freak because they always see me carrying a bucket of food to feed strays, playing with the dogs when I am free, or crying profusely when a dog dies. I don't want to quarrel with anybody
because my dogs
might be in danger. I fully realise that there are both dog lovers and haters," she explained.

Nevertheless, Ms Warin desperately wants to drive home the message that humans should not hurt animals, whether wild or domesticated.
We're luckier than they are, to have been born humans. We should give them loving compassion and sympathy. You don't need to feed them like I do, but you shouldn't hurt or beat them. With just that bit of kindness, all dogs will thank you for your nobility," she said.

Apart from the sorrow, the episode taught her a lesson on the inescapable truth of life that clearly reflects the core teachings of Buddhism.

A HELPING HAND: Ms Warin also regularly feeds dogs on the streets, sois and beaches.

"I have seen death countless times. Finally, I realised that life is just that way. But what I have to do is steel my mind not to die with those already dead dogs. Life goes on. It's tough doing that, but I have to," disclosed the dog caretaker.

"Previously, I cried profusely when any of my dogs died. Their death s were so heart-wrenching, and it seemed like I died each time along with them," she revealed. Ms Warin is now able to accept that all things must pass, and she turns instead to rescuing needy dogs with a more magnanimous and composed mind.

"Now I try not to take more dogs in. I'm getting older, and I'm afraid that there will be no one to take care of them after I die. I don't think that anyone will look after them the way I do.

"I pray for them to die before me so that I can take care of them until their last days. I don't want them to be a burden to others," she said.

Ms Warin has never felt that her dogs are a burden to her, although feeding and bathing them daily leaves her no time to enjoy a personal life. She treats all of her dogs as if they are her own children, and she is more than happy to see them running around and chasing after one another friskily and freely in the enclosure.

"All of my savings have already been spent on my canine causes. Now I have to rely on a loan shark for money to buy rice and food for t
he dogs. My sister and her ex-husband are supporting me financially. I have to do all I can to make sure my dogs' stomachs are always full," she emphasised.

"I have to admit, however, that what makes me suffer the most is the thought that I might not be able to find enough food for them or be unable to treat them when they're sick. It is a kind of suffering in the midst of happiness, though."

So far, 200 ex-strays are living on the vast plot of land surrounded by nature, where they can bask happily in the morning. In the afternoon, they have shade where they can enjoy a nap peacefully. Each dog has its favourite morning and afternoon spots.

Warin's routine begins at dawn. While many people are still fast asleep in their cosy bed, Warin gets up at 4am to prepare the food and to clean all the food and water bowls for the dogs.
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