Trekking with a genuine guide dog

lifestyle August 19, 2012 00:00

By Laurie Rosenthal
The Nation o

2,310 Viewed

When Sing-To takes a well-earned retirement, he passes on his duties to the lively Nam Tam


A group of friends are touring Chiang Mai when they decide to stay a few days at Huay Nam Dang National Park. The morning after they arrive, they ask the resort manager if a guide is available to take them on a trek of the area.
“Of course,” the manager says. “We have a very good one.”
She then goes outside and shouts: “Nam Tan! Nam Tan! You have customers!”
The minute the people in the group hear the guide's name, they suspect that they’re going to have an unusual experience.
They’re right. A few seconds later, a medium-sized brown dog appears, all smiles.
“Take these people on a trek,” the manager orders, and the dog runs off, leading the group up hills and past small creeks, waiting patiently as they admire the beautiful forest growth.
I have a photo of Nam Tan, but it’s all blurred. The dog never stops moving. Even his ears are always in motion.
At the resort, the manager tells the group that Nam Tan has been on the job for only two or three years. Before him, Sing-To, another dog, was the guide, but at nine years old, it was time for him to retire.
 Full of self-confidence, Nam Tan decided to take over, but he was only seven months old at the time. As he led his first-ever group into the wilderness, older dogs attacked him.
 What could he do? One of his trekkers ran over to protect him, and Nam Tan - that intelligent dog - simply jumped into the man’s arms. The guide pup ended up with a free ride back to the resort.
Now, fully-grown, Nam Tan no longer has any problems with other dogs. While he carries out his guide duties, he marks his territory constantly. Perhaps he considers the opportunity to urinate everywhere as one of the benefits of his job.
As for payment, Nam Tan doesn’t ask for much, just a couple of Northern sausages, and he’s happy.
How animals learn from one another has always fascinated me. How did Nam Tan learn guide duties from Sing To? Surely he feels he’s gaining more than just sausages.
I doubt that the dog I wrote about last week could learn how to behave from another dog. As a bangkaew, this dog belongs to a breed known for its strength and aggressiveness. It also needs an experienced owner, not one used to only poodles and shih-tzus.
Owned by Porn, who helps me with the turtles, the dog has never been trained. Porn, however, insists that the dog is very gentle, and her family loves him.
The good news is that Porn has finally had him vaccinated.
Slowly, she too is learning something.