In June of 2001, my friends and I visited the island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand. All of us were marine biologists and educators and had come to the island to dive in search of whale sharks. It was hard for me to enjoy the trip due to all the stray dogs wandering the streets in the unrelenting heat .I noticed a particular dog when we disembarked from the boat ferry, as he roamed the streets with the other starving dogs. He stood out as he was hopping along on three legs with his front right leg stuck straight out in front of him.
Early the next morning, I opened the door to my bungalow and there standing in the middle of the grassy beach area was the three-legged dog. Our eyes locked and he immediately began whining and yodeling as he hopped his way toward me. He looked at the steps leading up to the bungalow and carefully maneuvered his way up them. I could now see his severely infected leg with smelly puss leaking out his arm. He peered up at me and continued his dog speak. It was if he was saying, “This is my story will you listen?”
I bought him breakfast at a restaurant and brought it back to him and allowed him to come in the room and sleep on the cool tile floor in the bathroom. I shared turkey jerky with him that I had brought from the states. Wherever I walked in town, he would courageously follow and growl at other dogs who would challenge him for being in their territory. It was as if he knew I was his meal ticket and he was not going to let me out of his sight.
After a few days, we were on our way to another island. I was heartbroken as we left. I felt as if this dog was looking at me as his last hope. I knew he could not survive in this heat, starving with this severely infected leg much longer. The people at the dive store said that the tripod dog had been living with his bad leg for 8 months or more. Attempts to help him had failed as he was distrustful of anyone getting to close. I asked if there was any dog rescue place on the island or an animal shelter. They said the only animal rescue was done by a German woman on another island Ko Samui, a three hour boat ride from Ko Tao. I would have to talk to her and see if she could help.
I spent the rest of my vacation time tracking down Brigitte Gomm and her husband who rescue animals on Ko Samui. She said the dog would have to get to her and then it would have to have shots and stay one month before he could be flown to the U.S. She said she did not have staff to come get the dog and that I would have to figure out how to get him to her.
From California, I phoned Thailand and emailed repeatedly in an effort to get help for ”Hoppy” and get him moved to the Dog Rescue Center Samui (DRCS). I worked with the dive center on Koh Tao to pay someone to transport Hoppy to Samui. On the first attempt to take him by boat to Samui, the boat broke down. On the second trip, he was met on Samui by Brigitte and her team, given shots, and fed regularly for the first time in his life. The veterinarian said nothing could be done for Hoppy’s leg, except to give him antibiotics.
We anxiously awaited the first photographs of him via email and were very relieved to see that the dog delivered from Koh Tao was indeed Hoppy (named by Brigitte and her staff). I was planning to fly back to Thailand to retrieve Hoppy. However, a friend, Chris DeRose, who heads Last Chance For Animals, wanted to help and see the Dog Rescue Center in action on Samui island. He spent his few days of vacation time on Operation Hoppy. He returned to Los Angeles International Airport with a dazed and confused dog a week later in August 2001.
Hoppy now resides happily in Monterey County, California. X-rays upon his arrival showed that the gaping wound in his leg that would not heal was caused by a bullet that had fragmented into many pieces throughout his front leg. A large piece of bone had been sheared off and this had caused the open wound. The vet surgically removed the bone fragment and after constant walks and exercise, Hoppy is using his leg!
Even after all these years of regular meals, he always looks for scraps of food on the street and wants to get into trash cans during his walks. The memory of his early existence has not entirely faded. He loves to ride in the car, is very social and likes human company. He is a scrapper, and it is only by his wits that he survived over a year in Thailand with his wounded leg.
When I look at Hoppy I think of all the other dogs in Thailand who would have no hope of survival without the tremendous work of Dog Rescue Center Samui. I volunteer my time to collect money in the U.S. and wire the money to the Dog Rescue Center Samui. They have saved and continue to help hundreds of animals from suffering and death.
I am the co-founder of Save The Whales www.savethewhales.org which I started with my mother at the age of 14. I know how important it is to support the good work of organizations like DRCS. Feel free to contact me regarding whales or how to contribute to DRCS.
Maris Sidenstecker & Hoppy
This is how I looked when I came to Brigitte's house
That's me together with Maris, the lovely woman who has rescued me
This is how I look on Christmas. Ain't I cute?!