Half a decade ago, a man’s shattered heart brought about a positive change in the lives of several stray canines inhabiting the streets of Thailand. This individual is now recognized as the “savior of dogs.”
Michael J. Baines, a restaurateur from Scotland, made the decision to move to Thailand 15 years ago with his wife after being captivated by the country during a visit. Having previously resided in Sweden, the couple decided to start a restaurant enterprise in Thailand.
Once while on duty, a skinny and hungry street dog came by looking for food. This particular encounter changed the course of his life as he couldn’t find words to explain how he felt at that moment. The dog looked straight into his eyes, and he sensed a plea for help as if she was saying, “I’m starving and hurt, can you help me?” The dog had recently given birth to puppies and was extremely thin. Her malnourished state made him feel sad, and with a heavy heart, he started feeding her every day.
According to him, it all began with that. From then on, it continued non-stop. He couldn’t bear to witness dogs in pain any longer.
Baines came to the realization that something needed to be done about the stray dogs in his area. As a result, he took it upon himself to feed them once daily, and he has since made a total of 17 stops along three different routes. During his commute from home to work, he makes eight stops to feed around 30 dogs. After breakfast at his restaurant, he gathers food for the second run, making eight or nine stops to feed between 30 to 35 dogs. Additionally, he feeds six more dogs outside his restaurant, and four to five dogs on his way back home after work. The dogs are fed a combination of dry food, boiled rice, vegetable oil, and bouillon, alongside a mixture of boiled chicken, pork, and fish for taste. Baines also adds a powdered supplement once a month to prevent various parasites such as worms, ticks, and fleas. Most of the expenses incurred are self-funded or sourced through donations.
The Soi Dog Foundation, a sanctuary for homeless dogs, was established in 2003 by Baines and his wife, Gill Dalley. Their mission is to enhance the lives of dogs and cats throughout Asia, leading to a society without stray animals and ultimately ending animal cruelty. The foundation now encompasses a top-notch dog hospital and an exclusive cat hospital, which is possibly the largest and most advanced dog hospital in Asia. Gill dedicated her final four years to the design and construction of the dog hospital, fulfilling her vow to provide the best possible care for the street dogs she cherished. Baines remains actively involved in the foundation and was honoured with an MBE in the Queen’s 2020 birthday honours for his animal welfare services in Southeast Asia, which he continues to devote to honouring Gill’s promise to the street dogs and cats.