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Saturday, 20 April 2019
A DOG which escaped death as part of Thailand’s dog meat trade has started a new life in Henley.
Freya, a crossbreed, was adopted by Helen Southby, of Greys Hill, and travelled to the UK last month.
She is one of thousands of dogs rescued by the Sound of Animals, a charity founded by French doctor Michael Chour.
Mrs Southby, who is retired, has known Mr Chour for three years and spent six weeks volunteering at the charity’s shelter in the Buriram province in March and April, when she met Freya.
She said: “Michael put out an SOS on Facebook for volunteers. It’s 12-hour days, seven days a week which is very hard in the heat out there.
“In the morning you clean the kennels and in the afternoon you go from kennel to kennel rehabilitating the dogs.
“You also have to get them used to leads so the volunteers have to do a lot of walking.
“When I met Freya I totally fell in love with her. Her name comes from the French girl’s name.
“She had been with Michael for six months but for the rest of her life she was a street dog. Every time I left her kennel she cried and if I walked past she immediately knew it was me.
“I promised Freya that I would get her out.”
With the help of volunteers at the charity, the dog was brought to the UK by air and sea and then brought to Henley.
Mrs Southby said that despite a few early hiccups with her other dog Leroy, an eight-year-old working cocker spaniel, Freya has settled well and is very affectionate.
She said: “She attacked Leroy at first but it was just out of jealousy. They love each other now and she gives him kisses.
“I walk her four times a day. She is much stronger than she looks because she lived outside. She has pulled me over already!”
Mrs Southby said Freya was fascinated by all the new sights and sounds when she goes on a walk and the pair are often stopped by passers-by who want to know all about her.
She said: “When I take her for a walk down by the river, which is her favourite walk now, people stop me and they all want to know what breed she is but I haven’t got a clue! We also don’t know her age, although Michael thinks she’s about nine.
“Everything is new to her, every sound and smell, and she’s incredibly alert. She couldn’t understand boats.
“When you come to some long grass she knows if there’s a mouse in it because she’s a hunter. There isn’t much grass where she comes from so she loves rolling in our grass as it’s so soft.”
Mrs Southby said she was shocked by some of the things she saw on her visit to Thailand and wants more people involved by either volunteering or adopting rescue dogs.
Ahead of her visit, she was given boxes of leads, harnesses and nappies by Henley Pet Shop in Bell Street.
She said: “We were overwhelmed by how much stuff he gave us, one of the volunteers cried when they saw it all. Every single collar was on a dog by the following lunchtime. I’d definitely encourage people to do it. It’s so rewarding and these dogs are so grateful to be rescued. Freya had a horrible life and I just want to give her some happiness in her old age.”
Mr Chour started the charity after he experienced the dog meat trade on a visit to Buriram in north-east Thailand.
He relocated to the country soon afterwards and began a “crusade” against the trade.
He worked with the Thai government in cracking down on the trade and has since begun work in neighbouring Cambodia as well as rescuing some of the thousands of dogs which roam the streets. His work includes feeding and medicating the animals as well as subsiding landowners to let dogs live on their land.
The charity built the Blue Dream shelter last year, which offers homes to dogs as well as treating them for disease and
Donna Williams, from Reading, works for the charity and helped to have Freya rehomed and picked her up when she arrived in this country.
She said: “Freya was flown from Bangkok to Amsterdam and then got a ferry to Harwich where I picked her up and drove her to Henley, where she has settled in very well.
“It’s incredible to see the journey. I try to document each dog’s story — where they have come from and the terror in their eyes when they are rescued.”
Miss Williams was introduced to the charity by friends who helped build the shelter.
She said that cruelty to the animals was rife in Thailand.
Miss Williams, who used to work as BA cabin crew, said: “It’s very distressing and the things you see are subhuman. You can’t imagine people can do that to another living thing.
“I’ve given up my job to do this full-time because I’m so passionate about it. Most of the dogs are very loving and we try to get them into loving homes as quickly as we can.” Miss Williams said that despite the efforts of the charity, much more needs to be done.
She said: “Michael goes over to Cambodia to negotiate with butchers. He saw 200 dogs killed last week by being thrown in boiling water.
“Thais also attack them on a daily basis with machetes. Unfortunately, dog meat is a prosperous thing over there and they can make up to $50 per kilogram of meat, which is a lot of money.
“The Chinese have also started to come over to Cambodia to get involved. They are very difficult to negotiate with.”
Mrs Southby said: “I’d love to go back to help. If I was younger I’d be there in a shot. All the volunteers are in their twenties and I’m an old lady. I did keep up when I was there but I was shattered.
“Michael is the most amazing man I’ve ever met and the dogs love him to bits.”
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