I have noticed a fair number of stray dogs and cats here in Chiang Mai. Seeing the wayward dog or cat is always a bit of a surprise to me. Billy remarked that he’s never seen a stray dog in New York city, even though I’m sure they are there. I haven’t seen a stray in New York either, come to think of it, but again, I’m sure they are there.
New York must have an excellent animal control force, and the excellency of their animal control is due in part to the fact that the State of New York can afford such a unit. I don’t know the budget for public works and animal control here in Chiang Mai, but if the only basis of comparison is off of New York (which it is, in my case) then it would be fair to say that Chiang Mai can’t afford to maintain a proper animal control unit, especially when there are so many more pressing concerns facing Thailand. For example, did you know that the last military coup in Thailand occurred just three years ago? The coups, then, probably take financial precedence over the strays.
I’m sitting in bar at seven o’clock in the club district of Chiang Mai. It’s Friday night, and seven o’clock is too early for the club scene to kick of, so Billy and I chat in a vacant bar situated right on the street so we can watch passers-by. This is exactly the sort of thing I love: a cheap drink, good conversation, and plenty of people-watching.
Walking along the street with the tourists who are hurrying to their hotels before the young people take over are the stray dogs and cats. The cats noiselessly pad their way through the throngs of people, looking for a place to nap or perhaps a meal; their motives are just as ambiguous as their domestic counter parts. The dogs are always looking for two things: food, or affection. They’re happiest when they can get both, though.
The fear of what they might have inherited from the streets keeps people at a distance, so the dogs just mope about, never approaching you unless prompted. Never have I wished I could talk to animals as badly as when I’m here, watching a stray dog trying to cross the street. You can actually see the fear on his face, or maybe it’s resignation, I can’t ask him which.
By nine o’clock we are ready to head back to our apartment, but already the club-goers are arriving. The men arrive in packs and walk straight to the bar, looking for a drink or any early women, who usually slink out of the back of tuk-tuks and red trucks, trying to make their entrance as inconspicuous as possible.
They are a seething mix of foreigners and natives, but even the natives are not without a small trace of displacement. All wayward with nothing domestic to anchor them on a Friday night, they spend a few joyful and inhibition-less hours dancing and drinking, perhaps never noticing the kindred spirits that swirl about their ankles on the walk home.