Down a country road in the far reaches of Binh Chanh District, close to the Mekong Delta, a small house has been converted into a dog shelter by two Vietnamese dog lovers. Barbara Adam talks to the shelter’s co-founder Linh Vo about her work rescuing and rehoming some tragic canine cases. Photo by Angeli Castillo.
You help run a dog shelter that rescues and rehomes mistreated, abandoned and stolen dogs. What prompted you to set up the shelter?
I’ve been rescuing dogs since I was in high school. At first my mum said “no, no” but she came to love dogs too. And we ended up with 10 dogs at home. It was really lovely.
I just kept rescuing dogs, working with ARC (Animal Rescue and Care).
I met a lovely lady called Ms Mai a while ago, when we worked together to rescue two dogs in Cu Chi District. I helped her find the treatment fee.
Ms Mai has a cat shelter in an apartment block in District 8. She also rescues dogs, and cares for the ones who are seriously sick. Eventually we decided to cooperate on a dog shelter. We found this place in Binh Chanh District. It’s good, the neighbours don’t complain about the noise. But I would love to find another place for the dogs, with more land, and closer to my home in District 2.
We opened our shelter about a year ago. Last month we found homes for three dogs, but rescued many more. We have 20 dogs in our shelter in Binh Chanh District, including a mummy dog with four puppies. Three of our rescues are still at the vet.
My partner, Ms Mai, has 50 cats in her shelter, and about 10 dogs. Some of the dogs are seriously sick and are staying at the vet.
You have one small son with another baby on the way. You’re not working at the moment, so how do you fund the dog shelter?
At the moment I save and save and save. When I had my son I quit my job as an assistant manager at a furniture company, handcrafted furniture. Now I make ice cream and sell it online. It’s called Nemo’s Frozen Corner.
I visit the shelter once a week. It’s so far away, so I can only visit once a week. Ms Mai visits every day and cares for the dogs. We also have one staff member who looks after the dogs during the daytime, feeding them and giving them their medicine.
This is a question for Linh’s husband Bao (who is driving us to the dog shelter): do you love dogs too?
Bao: When I met Linh, I didn’t really think much about dogs. But I saw how much she loved dogs, so I bought her a puppy. I knew when I married her I would always be number two to dogs. But now I love dogs too. I run a pet-friendly car service. I take people and their dogs to Vung Tau or Ho Tram. I know some dog-friendly resorts. And I’m planning to open a cafe and dog park in District 9, with a camping ground.
Now we are at the shelter and there is a lot of barking going on. I ask Linh to tell me some of the dogs’ stories. Some of the dogs are chained up to prevent fights, some dogs are free to collect love from humans, or hide, according to how they’re feeling.
What happened to this handsome boy? (I point at a dog with only three and a half legs).
Charlie is from Long An province. He ran into a neighbour’s house and the neighbour cut off half his leg. The owner took him to the vet but never collected him again. It was too expensive. I hope he finds a new family soon. He misses his old owner a lot.
This one is adorable, where did he come from? (A fluffy Maltese-type dog is giving me lots of love, working his way onto my lap within a minute.)
We rescued Mi from a dog meat market in Dong Thap province. A local girl saw him in a cage with such sad eyes, and she contacted us to help. We paid VND1.2 million for him and he’s been with us for about a year.
And this cute black one, she looks so friendly, wagging her tail and looking so eager, but when I walk closer she hides around the corner. What happened to her?
Melanie was living with an abusive family. She was chained outside by a very small tree and only fed once every two or three days. Her condition was very bad and she would cry a lot every night until a neighbour rescued her and brought her to us. She is still a bit scared of strangers.
And this one, who just presented her rear end to be scratched?
This is Jill, she was rescued from a dog meat market in Ben Tre province about a year ago. We bought her for VND1 million. She’s a bit nervous but once she decides she likes you she’ll ask for a massage!.
(We walk inside, to the nursery room). Who are these adorable little guys, Linh?
The mother dog is Jo. We rescued her from District 8. Her owner had moved to a new house and left a lot of dogs behind. They were homeless and running around the streets. People caught some of them to eat. We only managed to save Jo, and these four little angels said `hi’ about a week later. The puppies are a bit naughty, see they’ve chewed the cord of the fan there?
Oh, so many sad stories. Do you have some happy ones?
Yes, we have a lot. There was Django, who was rescued from Phu Quoc Island. He was very thin, and mostly bald from a skin infection. A German couple brought him to us, and we cared for him until he was strong enough to join them in Germany. Now he has a lovely life, going for walks in the forest and swimming in streams. They send us photos and he looks so happy now.
Do you have a busy time of year for the shelter?
When it’s the Tet holiday we have a lot of cats dumped. Because some people think they’re unlucky. The sound they make, miaow miaow, sounds a bit like ngheo, the word for “poor”, so people throw their cats away. It’s an old superstition.
How can people help?
People can help by giving us rice for the dogs. They can also give money towards the treatment fees. Donations are always welcome!
Each month the shelter costs about VND30 million to run. Rent is about VND6 million, food is about VND8 million, and the medical expenses fluctuate. Sometimes the vets give us a discount, and sometimes they let us pay in instalments.
Sometimes we have a lot of sick dogs and we ask for help from ARC and Dr Nghia to help us with the treatment.
And of course people can help by adopting one of our dogs. We have some very lovely dogs, and some who are scared and need a lot of love and attention.
Linh sells her healthy home made ice cream through www.facebook.com/NemoFC1, and Bao’s pet-friendly car can be booked on 0903 724 272.