Huskies are wildly popular around the world, especially in Thailand, thanks to their natural mystique and their resemblance to the Stark family’s direwolves on Game of Thrones.
However, a lack of awareness of the demands of caring for a husky results in a high rate of abandonment.
Nessie is one homeless husky who struggled to survive on her own after being dumped by her owners, but whose story has a happy ending thanks to the work of the Soi Dog Foundation.
In March 2018, on their Facebook page, the Soi Dog Foundation shared a striking image of a husky, her soulful eyes—one hazel and one icy blue—looking out from a face disfigured by mange.
They had rescued this homeless dog after they got a call that she had been seen wandering in a local neighborhood, likely after being dumped by her previous owners. In their Facebook story about Nessie, they reported that in addition to the problems with her skin, she had “strange wounds all over her body” and infected eyes, which were leaking discharge and missing nearly all of their lashes.
“She had clearly been neglected and unloved for a long time,” they wrote.
A touching video the Soi Dog Foundation posted to YouTube shows staff members caring for the two-year-old dog, gently cleaning her wounds and being showered with grateful kisses in return.
Footage from after her recovery shows her smiling and happy with her auburn and white coat fully grown back in.
The Soi Dog Foundation’s video reminds the viewer, “She is proof of the power you have to make a difference,” and invites readers who want to save other dogs like Nessie to support their work with a donation.
They note that thanks to such support, they were able to re-home Nessie to a partner rescue in the United States.
The organization that took over Nessie’s care was The Devoted Barn, a rescue organization based in Michigan that renamed her Matsi.
In the YouTube footage with her foster dad, it’s clear that Matsi is a changed dog, happily walking on a leash, fetching balls, and getting lots of pets from her foster dad.
Homeless Huskies in Southeast Asia
The Soi Dog Foundation has rescued many other huskies, which are popular in Thailand because of their beauty and unique blue eyes. These thick-coated Siberian dogs are a surprisingly common sight in the hot and humid country.
One of the most popular attractions in Bangkok is the True Love Cafe, a husky cafe where people can come to play with an entire pack of them. In a story reported on Oddity Central, the cafe’s owner, Chotiros Ratanabirabongse, or Paw, says that to keep the dogs cool, they are given bowls of ice when they are let out to play with cafe visitors and are kept in air-conditioned enclosures the rest of the time.
In a story from the Khmer Times, Yulia Khouri reports that this trend has spilled over into neighboring Cambodia, where there are so many huskies that specialty pet stores focused purely on the breed are a growing business. As in Thailand, their appeal lies in their beauty, rather than their breed characteristics, which are not widely understood.
Cambodians unfamiliar with the breed’s needs shave their dogs, which actually makes it harder for them to regulate their body temperature, and leave them in backyards, where boredom often causes them to become destructive and aggressive. Khouri reports on Husda, a husky who, like Nessie, was abandoned after she was just over a year old.
In an interview with The Dodo, Maeve Henry of the Soi Dog Foundation said that many of the people who adopt these “cute puppies” don’t realize the “work that goes along with having a big, energetic dog like a husky,” resulting in many of the dogs being “abandoned when they are no longer small, cute and fluffy.”
In their article on Nessie, The Dodo notes that this is a common problem in the United States as well, where the energetic dogs can act out in fits of boredom when they don’t get enough exercise and stimulation, resulting in their abandonment at shelters.
Abandoned Huskies: A Growing Global Problem
In a July 2017 article from SFGate, Dianne de Guzman reported on the spike of huskies abandoned to shelters and rescues in the United States following the airing of Game of Thrones. One rescue organization in the Bay Area of northern California was able to directly link the trend to the show by scanning microchips and finding dozens of dogs with names inspired by its characters and themes.
De Guzman also reports that in the United Kingdom, there was a “700 percent rise” in abandoned huskies in the three-year period after Game of Thrones started airing. In an article on Wide Open Pets, Amber King reports that a husky rescue in Perth, Australia, has also been overwhelmed by an increase in the number of huskies in need of homes.
How You Can Help Homeless Huskies
The Dodo notes that Matsi is a loving dog who is likely to make her new owner very happy. For the right person, this charismatic breed is the perfect match. But for the wrong person, a husky’s needs quickly become overwhelming.
In addition to their extremely high energy level, huskies are intelligent and have a high prey drive. Without work to do that taps into these instincts, they often channel them into unwanted behaviors. Huskies do best in homes where they are trained to learn complex behaviors and where they regularly participate in a guided exercise that requires both physical exertion and mental focus, like long walks and hikes.
Adopting a dog is a joyful occasion, but happy endings require people to understand the commitment they are making before bringing a dog into their home. In addition to donating to support organizations like the Soi Dog Foundation, you can help by encouraging people to rescue and adopt dogs, to spay and neuter, and to do their homework to make sure they are choosing a breed that fits their lifestyle.