As I make my way around Phnom Penh, I regularly come across pet dogs.
They seem to fall into two categories, and I am shamelessly generalizing. One is big and fierce-looking German Shepherds. The elite use them as guard dogs for extravagant villas, and those animals never run loose.
The second category consists of what seem like canines bred from the same two sets of mixed parents. Invariably, they are small, and they fall basically into two distinct types of varied coloration.
Of course, I am exaggerating; exceptions exist, as you can observe in the photos at the end of this post. Rather than my describing them, please have a look at the images.
Why, you might reasonably ask, are these survivors small? I’m pretty sure it is because any of the bigger ones have more meat on their bones and thus have been eliminated as pets. In other words, eliminated altogether.
Another distinction that small dogs share beside size and appearance is how many of them seem pretty protective of their territory. Most bark menacingly at even the friendliest approach.
An exception is one just a block from our apartment. His name, hardly unique, I am told, is Ghee. He loves attention and trots up to us at the merest invitation to get on his hind legs and have his had scratched.
After having decided to ignore the advice of the Centers for Disease Control, I did ultimately think it wasn’t a bad idea for someone living in Cambodia to undergo a painless round of three injections of a rabies vaccine should I be bitten by a dog or, for that matter, a bat.
Although both eventualities seem unlikely unless I spend more time in the provinces, it seems prudent to take that precaution for minimal cost and virtually nonexistent discomfort.
Despite the number of animals I see (or, for that matter, evidence that they use the byways as bathrooms), the quantity doesn’t come close to the pampered many I see paraded proudly on the sidewalks of New York. It follows that few and far between are pet-food stores and vets in Phnom Penh, never mind businesses selling primarily creatures that don’t swim, fly or dine on carrots. I gather that many pets survive on scraps and that cats are welcomed into Cambodian homes infrequently.
Now regarding cats,there are lots of them around, especially in and about the many Buddhist temples. Most of those I encounter define “skittish,” and rare is the opportunity I have to stroke one. (However, I am looking forward to feeding a friend’s two cats on her brief return to Malaysia at the end of the month.)
Many cats here and, I understand in Thailand and probably elsewhere in Southeast Asia, share a physical trait that is said to be genetic: They are born with cropped or crooked tails.
I know that had I the chance to pet one of the feral animals, I’d miss that long sweep at the end. Meantime, I’ll tread carefully around dogs at liberty such as some of those below. (The last photo is the exception that proves my generalized rule.)