16 April 2024

Thai rescue dog Cola given a new lease of life

By Rebecca Hannant

A Hornsea rescue dog that survived a brutal machete attack has received new prosthetic legs.

Cola used to be a stray in Thailand. In 2016, when he was just nine months old, he had his front legs hacked off by a neighbour after they caught him chewing their shoes.

Cola was rescued by the Soi Dog Foundation, a Thailand-based animal welfare organisation founded by British couple John and Gill Dalley.

The Soi Dog Foundation, established in 2003 on the island of Phuket, is South East Asia’s largest organisation helping stray animals. Its mission is to improve the welfare of dogs and cats in Asia, resulting in better lives for both the animal and human communities, to create a society without homeless animals and to ultimately end animal cruelty.

The Gill Dalley Sanctuary in Phuket is home to more than 1,800 animals. Soi Dog also has a treatment facility in Bangkok and responds to crisis situations throughout Thailand. The organisation is dedicated to implementing effective, sustainable solutions that reduce the suffering of dogs and cats in Asia, runs entirely on donations and works effifficiently so all donations are used to help animals as effectively as possible.

Reflecting on the first time he met Cola, John said: “We’ve dealt with thousands of cruelty cases. Generally, those dogs are very fearful and frightened, often permanently. Cola, when I went into the vet clinic in Bangkok two weeks after it had happened, was wagging his tail and licking my hand. It was quite amazing.”

Cola also had a natural affinity with Gill, who had lost both of her legs in 2004 after contracting a rare form of septicaemia while rescuing a dog from a flooded buffalo field. John added: “I called Gill from the clinic and said, I’ve got a dog here. I think you’re going to want him. Both being double amputees, they had an instant bond.”

To help Cola walk again, Bengt Soderberg, the same man who had previously made prosthetics for Gill, fitted him with a pair.

Gill died of cancer in 2017, and John returned to the UK in 2022 with Cola and his other rescued dogs and cats, and they now live together in Hornsea. As president of the Soi Dog Foundation, he remains closely involved with the charity and enjoys regular walks on the beach.

However, as Cola’s prosthetics were starting to wear out eight years on, leading specialists from Dorset Orthopaedic offered to craft a new pair, free of charge, so he could continue to enjoy his freedom.

Toby Carlsson, a prosthetist at Dorset Orthopaedic, said: “Cola’s current prostheses are quite
old and have come to the end of their useful life, so we are replacing them with something like what he’s got. We are not trying to build in sophisticated functions – they are very sturdy, functional, and hopefully comfortable so he can stand and run properly.

“He’s my first dog patient so that’s a challenge, but he’s such a good boy. He sits still when you want him to and lets you take a cast of his legs.”

John added: “Cola is such a friendly dog, he loves everybody, loves every dog. He makes a good example of the resilience of Thai dogs and how they overcome things and, amazingly, how he’s learned to forgive people for what happened to him.”

In addition to the rescue and treatment of animals such as Cola, the Soi Dog Foundation also operates the largest spay/neuter programme of its kind in the world and runs humane education and community outreach programmes to help implement a different approach to the treatment of animals in Thailand.

The foundation was also instrumental in the introduction of Thailand’s first animal welfare law in 2014, under which Cola’s attacker was ultimately prosecuted.