Yeah, you read that right.
Thailand and most of Southeast Asia are riddled with stray dogs. Most are harmless and will for the most part leave you alone. Barely any are fixed so be prepared to see ballz and nipples everywhere. Just had to mention that!
There are usually a couple families in each town that have taken to feeding and taking care of the street dogs to a small degree. The dogs will typically stay around whatever place they can get regular food from. This could be where a street cart sets up every day or even, in my case, a school.
This is where my story begins.
I was visiting a friend who was stationed in a remote area of Thailand in the Peace Corps. Part of her placement was to teach English in a school nearby. Because I had just finished my TEFL certification this was great! I accompanied her to school for a few days to teach!
This is where the trouble started.
I had this idea in my head when packing for Thailand that I needed to wear floor length skirts. So I had this long flowy skirt on this particular day.
Side note: If you are contemplating teaching in Southeast Asia, skip the floor length skirts. You’ll look like a fool. Find some knee length skirts and those will treat you well!
Anyways, I blame this damn skirt for everything.
There were a few stray dogs on the property and I had seen them the last couple days, but they didn’t really pay much attention to me and I returned that lack of attention until BAM.
I literally was walking along, MINDIN MY BUSINESS.
This gnarly dog came out of nowhere and head butts me with his teeth and then runs away.
I didn’t really know what happened, it happened so fast. I lifted my skirt up and there was a small tear in my leg where his teeth connected. The handful of teachers and students around us all looked shocked. My friend asked me what happened and I say I think that dog just bit me.
I was fine, I just needed a bandaid.
Then the mic dropped, “No, that’s a stray dog, you need rabies shots.”
So my friend and I piled in one of the Thai teacher’s trucks and off we went to the local hospital.
To make things especially fun, there were literally no English speaking Thai doctors at this hospital. Luckily, my friend spoke pretty fluent Thai, except medical jargon wasn’t really in her training.
On a random twist of fate, I have an egg allergy and needed to make sure that the rabies vaccine didn’t have eggs in it like the flu vaccine. That was a fun thing to figure out.
I also needed to figure out at what intervals I needed the rest of the shots. I wound up needing one in a week, one in a month and one in 3 months or something like that. In true Megan form, I happened to be in a different city for each one of those and had to find myself a new hospital each time and butcheringly (yeah, it’s a word now) describe what I needed each time.
After a lot of miming and pictures and what not, they handed me this little card that was completely in Thai so I could just take the card to the next hospital to get the next round.
As a special bonus, while I was at the hospital, I had them check out the infection I had in my knee wound from a moto accident the week before! My luck!
It’s a funny story really.
But what happened afterwards is what shaped a lot of my experience in Thailand. I became very afraid of stray dogs. I still am today.
I happened to choose a road to live on in Bangkok that had a lot of construction and those lots were a favorite for street dogs which meant my street had a lot of stray dogs. By a lot I mean in a 20 minute walk I counted 35 dogs. No joke.
It was literally terrifying just walking out the door.
Luckily my bite wasn’t painful or serious and I didn’t start foaming at the mouth, but it did make fear a real thing for me.
I realized I wasn’t invincible and that I needed to be aware of my surroundings.
I let this fear get to me far more than it should have. I started making sure I had a water bottle in my hand when I was walking down the street to throw at a dog should one come at me. Fun fact: most stray dogs will back down if you throw something at them, as locals typically throw rocks and things that hurt so they expect that and run away.
It wound up being a factor in my exiting early, which you can read more about in a couple weeks.
I really shouldn’t have let this fear cripple me as much as I did. Some pepper spray would have helped me feel safe, and just reassuring myself that the likelihood of a dog attacking again, unprovoked was very slim. It’s tough though.
If a dog that may be infected with rabies ever bites you, seek treatment immediately. Any urgent care center or hospital will be able to administer the shots needed. Different shots and areas of the world have different courses of treatment but there is usually a course of 3-4 shots over the next couple days, weeks or months. Make sure to follow it rigidly. I received my shots in my arms, and only had slight tenderness afterwards, but administration and reactions may vary from person to person. If you don’t speak the language do all you can to find someone to translate for you so you understand what you need to do to follow up.