So we’ve established that I’m terrified of dogs. Especially in SE Asia – the mongrels growl and bark a LOT. They are often strays, which terrifies me even more because they are more likely to have all kinds of diseases. I didn’t get a rabies shot before I left the UK and I was beginning to regret it ever so slightly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not planning to spend that much time with our canine friends, but you never know when you’re going to come across a nutcase dog…
My landlady has two that really are pretty loud. The first time I turned up at the entrance to our little apartment block with bags of shopping from the supermarket, they went mental at me. Luckily, my landlady and her husband were doing some gardening close to the gate so held them back so I could get in. Then there was the day when I was planning to do laundry, I mean, the washing machine is literally downstairs; the dogs must have smelt me and came charging up the stairs at me and I locked myself back in the sanctuary of my dog-free apartment! It took me a couple of weeks and Googling “how to overcome your fear of dogs” to feel confident enough to walk past them whilst they were still barking viciously. There was one time when one of the dogs was just lying outside the gate effectively playing the role of guard dog. He was calm and then as soon as I got off the tuktuk with my shopping bags, he started barking at me. I shouted at him and walked straight past him. I stared him straight in the eyes as I wagged my finger at him like a naughty child and said “No. You know me. Stop it”, and since then, they’re fine with me. Normally.
There’s an Aussie guy who lives downstairs who has a very energetic dog that is both loud and loves to play. I feel bad, but I have to tell him “no, get down!” every single morning whilst trying to escape my apartment block on my way to work. This one kind of has a habit of nipping you at the ankles too which is quite concerning, considering the afore-mentioned lack of rabies immunity. But if I ever get a proper bite, I’ll be down the nearest clinic before you can say “you should get a rabies shot”.
Another thing about dogs, and now that I come to think of it, cats, rats, mice and lizards… You can find these on local menus, if you know where to go. Actually, what’s slightly more concerning is when you see a sign outside a little food shack that says “we do not serve cat or rat or dog or lizard”. Now, even though I’m not a fan of anything that walks around on more than 2 legs, and I’m fairly adventurous with local delicacies, I’ve never been keen on the idea of eating animals that can be considered pets.
One thing I have noticed is that a lot of people tend to adopt cats. And though I’ve never been a fan of anything furry with claws, some of the teeny tiny kittens are super cute. There are also quite a few charitable organisations in the area that aim to treat cats and dogs with minor ailments, malnutrition and the suchlike. One particular organisation focuses on stray cats and other animals that live in pagodas (tower-like structures similar to temples) called Siem Reap Pagoda Cats. The animals live with the monks in the pagodas and are well looked after. They are sterilised thanks to volunteer vets from all over the world, and if you ever find yourself in Cambodia, the owner is a lovely lady who would only be too happy to give you a tour.
I guess the fact that I have fur allergies doesn’t really help my dislike of our four-legged friends, but then again, they are only mild allergies causing a bit of sneezing, sniffling and stuffy nose, a bit of eye-itching and running. And I think spending more and more time out and about, I am getting over them and my fear of man’s best friend. I don’t sneeze so much with the dust anymore, and there is a LOT of dust in Cambodia, even more so now in the dry season. And I don’t think I’ve experienced any hayfever since last May in the UK which is awesome! Edit: I’m definitely still allergic. But at the very least, I know the antihistamines that I have definitely work and kick in pretty quick. So don’t worry, it’s going to take a lot more than a little bit of complacency when I’m around furry animals to make me run away from Siem Reap!