Another Dog Story

Published 2:04 pm Monday, October 3, 2016


Written by Steve Wong
Photo submitted

I can usually expect to get a telephone call from my daughter Allyn about 8 a.m. or 8 p.m. For her, these times are reversed because she is on the other side of the globe in Cambodia being a Peace Corps volunteer. When she’s waking up, I’m going to bed; when I’m waking up, she’s going to bed. It takes a little getting used to.

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She teaches English because English is considered to be the key to a better life, and from what I hear, the Cambodians need all the English they can get. It’s not easy for a 27-year-old woman with a love-interest in New York City and a family in the Deep South to put her life on hold in an effort to “make the world a better place.” But she’s doing it, and I’m darned proud of her.

About once or twice a week we talk on the telephone via some app that I can never remember how to use correctly. It’s always better if she calls me. Then, all I have to do is answer the phone. Otherwise, I’m pushing buttons and swiping, and constantly yelling, “Allyn, can you hear me? Are you there?” But all of that is just the background noise to what she is really experiencing.

She recently completed her first year of service in a 27-month commitment. One year and three months to go. Yes, I’m counting. I both love and hate to get her telephone calls. I love to talk to my daughter; I hate hearing about some of things she is going through.

For example, Allyn is health conscious. She’s a vegetarian, dancer, yoga instructor, and runner. As she was being briefed on what was expected of her in her new cultural environment, she was told that short shorts and tank tops are not acceptable clothes in Cambodia. Keep in mind that Cambodia is always very hot and humid—sort of like the Carolinas in July but without end.

She complied: She found athletic wear that met the cultural standards. Problem is, women don’t exercise in Cambodia. They don’t run, especially alone and through fields and on isolated dirt roads. But Allyn does, and her host mom is worried. She is worried that Allyn might be kidnapped and sold into the Asian sex trade. Now, I’m worried, too.

Allyn is right. Someone — some woman — must at some point say “enough is enough.” She must be brave enough to not live in fear. She must dare to run for exercise. I know this needs to happen as Cambodia struggles to become a more modern and progressive country. I just wish it wasn’t my daughter making the stand. No, I take that back. I am proud that my daughter is taking that stand. But like her host Mom, I am worried. But again, all of that is background noise to her most recent conversation with me.

Tomorrow, she will be taking a sick dog to a vet in Phnom Penh, the country’s capital about three hours away via car, bus, and rickshaw. Allyn grew up with a love of rescue dogs. We currently have two: Be Be and Futar. She has found that in Cambodia most dogs are rescue dogs or more accurately wild, homeless, and unwanted. Her host family has allowed one of those dogs to hang around their home because it likes Allyn and she likes it. Unlike Americans, Cambodians treat dogs like dogs, instead of family members. They don’t normally care for dogs because they are too busy caring for themselves.

For the past week or so, Allyn has chronicled to me her dog’s health problem. She noted some symptoms and through Google determined he probably has distemper. Not good. Actually pretty bad. She was able to get some medicine because drugs are not regulated there. She’s doing the best she can. Now, the poor animal has an infected paw because of a pulled toenail. It has gone from bad to worse. Her host Mom suggested bleeding the dog to cure it… slicing a certain spot behind the dog’s ear.

Instead, Allyn will pack up this dog tomorrow morning and make her way to the capital city in hopes of saving the animal’s life. She reports that its eyes are glazed, it growls at the other dogs, and the paw has flowing puss. And as you might expect, the travel and care for this sick animal will be paid for by Allyn, who gets about $250 a month to live on.

I heard this sad tale as I was walking my dogs in the cool morning air. Be Be and Futar had canned dog food for breakfast but were being difficult, crisscrossing my path, as I juggled my cell phone trying to hear Allyn. At some point, I just had to stop and listen, giving her the only thing I had: my undivided attention to a very real problem in her world.

There are countless reasons why a father loves his daughter. I love mine because she is trying to save the life a mongrel dog in Cambodia.

Steve Wong is a frequent contributor to Life In Our Foothills magazine. He likes to push the editorial envelope. Sometimes, the editors push back. Hopefully, readers find the whole ordeal entertaining and insightful. Let him know what you think at