Out in the midday sun

There was a huge black Labrador bitch sleeping at the Lomprayah speedboat pier in Koh Tao. Crowds of people stepped over her or kicked her in the rush to board. Her uterus was prolapsed and her drooping dugs were sore. As a black Lab mix, she was already unusual on an island of yellow mutts, but more distinctive yet was the neon orange slogan spray-painted on her head and flanks. The paint had cracked and worn from her scratching and you couldn’t read it any more. Someone’s idea of a joke.

My second afternoon on the island, she climbed up to the open-air sala where I was reading and flopped down on her back under the hammock, so that my backside almost rested on her swollen belly. She panted slowly and I thought she was dying, or in labor. I gave her some water. She panted on, and then she fell asleep.

The next time I saw her was at the Whitening Bar, which functioned as my office through my stay. Friday was Whitening’s party night, when we regulars sniffed at the package holiday farangs with their plastic buckets of cocktails. The smart Bangkok set who ran the bar shrugged—these buckets of rum were lucrative. The dog loped in around midnight, still crusted with orange paint. I told my bar-pal Mark about the afternoon she’d passed out under my hammock and he laughed.

   “That dog’s an alcoholic, mate. Best-known boozer on the island. Noi says she’s figured out which night is party night in each of the bars. She shows up, finishes all the cocktail buckets she can find and throws up. She sleeps it off on the beach next day. Been doing it for years.”

We watched her nose around the low tables in the sand, stealing drinks. This, I decided, is what I like about Koh Tao. Further south, on Koh Samui, debauchery took the shape of fat old Germans with teenaged Thai girlfriends. On Koh Tao, only the old dogs are old dogs.