Upon my return from an epic hunter-gatherer mission in Bangkok, everything was going perfectly until the very last leg of the journey.
Our hostel hosts had shown us the local map and the quick routes to get to and from town, with two main options. One was the long way round, essentially taking us all around the block past several street vendors, shops, the local temple, and finally toward the bridge which led toward Khaosarn.
The second, and decidedly more convenient option, bypassed all of this: around the back of the hostel, under its balcony along a narrow, uneven path by the river, emerging right next to the aforementioned bridge. It was no contest really.
And this was to be my folly.
The hostel had warned us not to take the riverside path after nightfall, but tired from my supply run and a full day’s rocking around the city temples, I was in no mood for adding extra mileage. In my arrogance I assumed that the danger was merely that the broken and uneven surface was potentially hazardous in the dark, but being born a Night Walker this would not hinder me.
My self-assurance was first knocked about half way down the path, when something large slammed into the metal fence that hemmed me in between the hostel wall. We had seen this fence from above, where it seemed to be a perimeter fence for some trees and undergrowth, though having seen the monitor lizards about it invoked ideas of Jurassic Park style containment.
Consequently, I was somewhat perturbed at what could have launched itself so vigorously at the fence. What ungodly beast was held within? Would the fence hold it? A flurry of thoughts raced through my mind. Not quite the “cool, calm, and collected” guy I fancy myself, and having double-timed the rest of the path, I rounded the corner quite suddenly and was met by a fairly large dog, who bolted up at my sudden entrance.
I had encountered Doggo.
Maybe it was my imagination, or maybe it was the fact that he stared at me constantly as I walked by, but something gave me the impression that Doggo wasn’t going to let this moment pass without incident. Just as I reached the corner and the very last steps toward the hostel, I heard a scrape on the pavement, turned fast, and there was Doggo right behind me, chomping distance from my posterior.
He barked. This was no friendly yip or bork, but a deep, throaty growl. No teeth were bared, but I got the message: this is my place, human, begone or face my wrath! Eager to heed this warning, I walked on, but he wasn’t having it, and followed me toward the door with another less-than-hospitable woof. I politely told him to F-off, but Doggo neither spoke English nor human, and in any case he wasn’t interested. I’d stumbled into his turf and he was going to defend it.
Remembering some advice I’d been told, I resolved not to run as this would undoubtedly trigger the predator-prey instinct, and I didn’t fancy having a tussle with Doggo. We’d had all our rabies shots before the trip, but a bite would still mean more jabs, and he was big enough to do some real damage. I was genuinely at a loss for what to do, anxious that any sudden movement could set him off. The persistence of his aggressive behaviour was really quite unnerving, and there was no one else about to help if things went wrong.
Luckily, he lost interest as I approached the hostel doors, and I was free to go about my business, albeit very rattled. I later did some research and it turns out Thailand has a real problem with strays, some of which can be rabid and thus very territorial. Was Doggo part of this troubling statistic? The warnings were filled with advice about defending yourself, some even suggesting you invest in a large stick or slingshot to keep them at bay. These were accompanied by a plethora of horror stories about people being mangled by whole packs of hounds. I was not reassured…
The next day though Doggo was nowhere to be seen, and the following days passed without incident either. But then one night as we returned home together, Lily and I caught sight of him. Would I have to defend her from Doggo? And more importantly could I? Lily could easily handle herself but you like to think you could step in if necessary. In my desperation I grabbed a rock as a last resort. But my strength (and pride) were in no danger, as Doggo just sat there nonchalantly, mocking me with his placid manner. Lily even said hello and was met by nothing but a curious raise of the ears.
How perfect of him….
But taking another solo nighttime stroll later in the week, I heard the familiar scrape of claw against pavement, and turned to find him there, once again in biting distance. I had no rock this time, and he was between me and the hostel. He had followed me halfway down the road until he finally let me be. I was shaken and annoyed, and even more so when later he hurriedly intercepted me when I came back (this time I did have a rock, but didn’t really know what I meant to do with it).
The next day it happened again, but this time I shook my head and thought “This ends now.” Recalling the advice I’d read, I kept my eyes fixed on him, not turning my back this time, and in a calm but assertive voice told him to do one. I was unsure if this somewhat spurious advice from the internet would work, and steeled myself for trouble. It was time for a showdown.
Doggo pressed the assault with more barks, edging toward me. “Doggo,” I proclaimed, “Kindly bugger off!” He stopped. My heart raced but I stood my ground. We exchanged masculine gestures for a small eternity, and then with a derisive snort (dogs can be so judgmental) he reluctantly backed off. I was victorious…. I think. In any case I wasn’t trying to shake a dog off my arm, so victory or not, this conclusive encounter had gone pretty well.
Upon my return he was there again, but this time we merely exchanged a cursory nods and went about our business (this didn’t really happen, but a truce had indeed been called). In the struggle of Man versus Beast, Man had prevailed this time, and with no bloodshed. And so ended the trials of David and Doggo.
Photo by Lily Thomson. (n.b. This is not Doggo, but the same breed. He was never there to pose for a picture when we needed him. So this is Am-Am, a decidedly nicer woofer from Ayutthaya)
Words by David Hamilton.