The dogs don’t bark in Laos. In a month, only one dog barked at me, and it was my last night, in the border town of Huay Xai. I was walking with some friends to a dinner party down the street and this unruly fellow was barking, hi how ya doing?! And I thought to myself, who is this boisterous dog? Then, again, on the way home the loudmouth was hollering, woof woof woof, woofing us all the way down the street. So I snap “You know, you’re the only dog in Laos who barks at people! Put a lid on it!” Mi amigos laughed because it’s so true, and I was serious! (My suspicion is that he’s a Thai dog who was on the wrong side of the Mekong.)
Besides this misguided one, the Lao dogs were so sweet. Trotting along beside you, laying in the road, a little sniff sniff, looking at you without pleading or confrontation. In groups, they played a lot, like pups. Most of the time though, I saw them lying in the shade being lazy, lying on their side, with all four legs out. The typical Lao mutt generally has a healthy-looking reddish brown coat, a husky-look, with fox-like ears and shorter than average legs. Even at night, walking along village streets, they didn’t bark at me. I never saw any Lao people beat their dogs (which is unique out here), and i conjecture that they’re just softies, without fear or aggressive complexes due to mistreatment. I bet they eat well, as most Lao seem to have plenty of sticky rice and bbq meat to go around. Happy dogs, happy cyclist!
I didn’t see many cats, but those that I did fell into two categories: the wild ones, and the house-cats. I’m sure most of ’em had a place to call home, but the ones I saw outside had such smug little wild looks! Such pusses, with their grey and black striped markings and long squinting, almost sneering eyes. (Don’t look at me, Meeeeorrrrrw!) Weird. The few cats I saw indoors were plump, furry, and rolled around and tackled each other like kittens, sometimes right in front of me on the restaurant table. None of the humans seemed to mind.
Which reminds me of another thing I always found so cute… hearing people Sssssssst! away the animals, usually ducks, or pigs. Remarkably, a vast majority of the livestock were free range. So they were getting into everything, in the shops, munching on produce when people weren’t looking, crossing the road, checking me out. So big pigs lied about with their piglets scurrying around adorably, usually within oinks-distance of momma. Ducks waddled across the street, adding to the traffic of whom the oblivious dogs, without a care in the world, comprised the majority. Cows fed along the road, on the river banks, and in the corn and rice fields. Roosters, chickens, turkeys, and their chicks could be found in every yard, tweeting, clucking, and chattering (from well before sunrise) until sunset, to keep together I guess? I think it’s funny how I describe everyone in the road, cuz that’s where I was most of the time, as endless farm land surrounded me always. But they were often in the road, where all the action (and trash) is, lucky for me!
Another priceless aspect of everyday life was people poking around in your yard, so you see some kid outside your kitchen window in the garden, and you ask him what’s up and he’s looking for his chicken. And there he is! Next he’s taking off back home with the bird under his arm like he’s making a touchdown run. I saw this ALL the time, always some kid or boy or man making a mad dash with his chicken. So funny.
It’s too bad that vegetarianism is virtually non-existent in Laos, but at least the animals get to lead care-free, natural lives until their untimely fates. Another sad thing is that some of these happy dogs end up on the dinner table. Yep, they eat dog (in all the SE Asian countries). I saw one in the market on the butcher block, and it freaked me out on par with seeing the barbecued turtle in Cambodia. But that’s life in the animal kingdom, I suppose. It actually got me thinking… Every week thousands of dogs are euthanized in the USA. It’s so sad, so many would-be best friends going into the gas chamber or lethally injected, and then what? Maybe they’re buried, or more likely they’re burned. What a waste. (The real problem is the pet industry, and all the nitwit people who lose-interest, neglect, and discard animals without the respect and right to life that an earthly-being deserves… but that’s another topic altogether.) Anyway, the Asians EAT them. We just throw them away. That’s food for thought.
On that note, love thy animals, and please take a moment to consider their journey in this world to your dinner plate (or to your local pound). It’s not all bad, but much of it is, and it’s easy to stop the suffering by being accountable for your choices and consumption. Or you can just say No to reduce and eliminate your demand on the system.