Fruit Eating Dogs
Durian, oh no!
Papaya, sala, mango, longkong, lychees, jackfruit, mangosteen, guava, custard apple, banana, durian ……………….. These are just a few of the favourite fruits of the canine branch of our household. – Okay, hold it right there, did you say DURIAN? I can hear the question palpably from here. It stinks though, surely dogs won’t eat durian!
For those of you unfamiliar with the durian fruit, Durio zibethinus to give it its correct Latin name, it is a native of the Far East, probably originating in Malaysia, and it’s greatest distinguishing quality is its putrid odour. And I mean ‘putrid’! It is banned from most airlines and many hotels, which is evidence enough to shows how offensive the smell is. But our dogs love it and will grovel, as only Labradors can grovel for a taste of its delicious flesh. For delicious it is and it has a custardy consistency when eaten. Also very nutritious, though somewhat oily, so don’t eat too much.
Tessa and Pippa are immigrant canines who accompanied my husband and me to Thailand three years ago when we took early retirement. They’d been working gun dogs on the farm my husband worked in Wiltshire and had known only a very free and exciting life chasing the usual rabbits, hares, rats and the occasional cat that was silly enough to stray into their territory across acres of open fields. In the winter months they went into gun dog mode and were the envy of many a good friend on the shoots in which we partook. Both worked exceptionally well and we were truly proud of them.
When it came to a change of lifestyle, we were not so sure if a move to Thailand for them was a wise decision, but after much soul searching and heartache, decided we loved them too much to be parted from them. We would make every endeavour to make their lives as happy, comfortable and interesting as we could. We knew something of the countryside around the house we’d bought and could see no reason why they shouldn’t adapt to it fairly easily. The house was in the middle of a village and in a rural setting similar to the one we were leaving. Apart from the climate that is, and the palm trees of course. Wiltshire is not exactly renown for its humid tropical atmosphere is it! Rain of monsoon proportions at times, yes. Hot, no!
Welcome or Not? Their arrival was heralded by snarls and barks from the local dog population, but the girls soon put them in their place. Neither are aggressive dogs, they’re Labradors for heavens sake! the most noble and gentle of the canine race. But Tessa had been known to hospitalize our friends’ dog on two occasions when the arrogant creature had had the audacity to claim her pheasant she’d just picked up! From the look in her eyes and the set of her teeth on both occasions, she would have fought to the death to secure her bird. Her honour and her divine rights were at stake here! So these village curs soon buckled down to the domination of this superior Angrit (English to the Thais, or Farang, meaning ‘Western foreigner’ if you wish) Alpha female in their midst. Pippa on the other hand, had never had to show her authority, she just KNEW she was the younger boss alongside her Mother Tessa!
Avian Friends and allies.
The transformation from plain meat eaters to fruit and meat eaters came about rapidly and within weeks of our arrival. Our first few weeks here saw us trotting around all the local markets and buying up huge quantities of all the wonderful fruits on display. But we forgot one thing; we no longer had family and friends popping in to share these goodies with. Not wanting to waste any of these treasures, we began giving little titbits to Tessa and Pip. To our surprise, these two dogs, which had looked upon fruit with the greatest disdain in England, now developed a passion for all things fruity, to the point of stealing it off the sideboard if necessary!
They had comrades in arms in their thieving, our resident mynah birds, Acridotheres tristis. They of the bouncy walk and the cheeky look! Bovver boys incarnate! We’ve no idea how many of the little bandits are lodging in our roof, but they all think our kitchen is fair game if we forget to pull the screen doors or window screens across. Our biggest mistake was leaving the dry dog biscuits in their dish by the kitchen door. We’d always fed the dogs this way in England. But “wow! Free food on tap”, they chirped; and word soon spread, so that we had all the family darting in and out for a snack until it was drawn to our attention by their raucous voices as they quarrelled over who would have certain flavours or which juicy fruit. Football hooligans have nothing on Mynah birds for sheer mischief and naughtiness. What fruit the dogs didn’t steal, the Mynahs did, and the dogs were quite happy to share their plunder with these louts of the avian world! They didn’t chase them away like they did the magpies, cats or rats at the farm. Oh no, they just lay there on the cool tiles sleeping soundly; occasionally opening one eye to make sure the thieves were not taking too many liberties. I could almost swear the one eye was blinked in a wink!
So the dry food regime had to undergo a severe change and the ‘girls’ had to be content with one good meal a day. We varied this of course with tinned meat; chicken and offal from the market, rice and not forgetting the fruits. Rice being the staple food crop in this part of Asia, is cheap and abundant. And to my delight, the inventive Thais have produced an electric rice cooker which, when filled with the required amount of rice and water and switched on, will cook itself and stay light and fluffy. You can leave it on all day and it doesn’t spoil or go cold. All my life I’ve battled with ‘gooey’ rice, much to the amusement of my kids and family. I’ve even had hands-on demonstrations from some of my more sympathetic students, and still can not do it. Oh joy, oh bliss to find this invention here! It’s so simple now!
And have you actually read the ingredients on dog food tins – well, meat and rice seems to be the main ingredients. So, if that’s the case, let’s not fill the pockets of the dog food manufacturers, let’s do it ourselves I thought. Tinned dog food is expensive in comparison. But it does make a change for these beloved and spoilt creatures, so we don’t cook for them all the time I might add.
Their uncouth friends the Mynah birds on the other hand, no longer partake in their food all day, but have to be content with us putting fruit out for them. We have a super-abundance of bananas now that the trees have decided to fruit, so if we aren’t quick enough with the parang, they soon recognise the ripening bananas and proceed to demolish them at an astonishing rate. Again with great squeals of delight which alert us to their capers! But in this assault, they’re joined by a more graceful, but equally greedy little charmer, the Yellow Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotis goiavier), a very common bird in our garden and one that breeds prodigiously. This year alone, 5 nests close to the house, with 15 eggs over several sittings, and to our knowledge, only 3 unsuccessful fledglings. Not a bad Spring average! We need to grow bananas just to keep them, the canines and the Mynahs fed really.
But back to the fruit eating dogs. A footnote to the purchased dog food. On reading the labels, vitamins and minerals are evidently added to the foods. We think that the consumption of so much fruit by our dogs must equal whatever they add to the manufactured food, so once again feel we’re on a winning wicket here. And you may be asking, does so much fruit cause diarrhoea in the beloved hounds? Well no, their faeces is normal and a good colour. We don’t give them copious quantities of fruit, I might add, just snacks when we’re eating it ourselves. We could have a big problem if unlimited consumption was the case, but it isn’t. The only faeces I complain volubly about is that of the badly behaved Mynah birds who, having gained access to the house when we aren’t vigilant, proceed to poo over everything in their vain attempts to locate the fruits and dog food they’re convinced we’re keeping from them!
Long may we be entertained by our dogs and the local birds. They’re all such marvellous characters and each deserves an article to themselves. Well, maybe one day……………………………..
Tessa, how’s your typing paw? Back to work girl. Retired? Who said?
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A life changing event that has proved the best thing we've ever done. Thailand continues to be a wonderful place to retire to. Every day is exciting! To all contemplating such a move, 'JUST DO IT'!
The wonderful bird population of Thailand is amazing. It makes walking the dog in the morning such a pleasure and I'm now beginning to recognise different songs. My favourite is the Malkoha.
Dogs love their owners and to be with them is the one thing that makes them happy. You chose to have a dog, so when you choose to move to another country, think seriously about your 'best friend'.