Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
A dog I met in Mae-Sot Thailand has taught me one of the greatest lessons in peacemaking. We have brilliant and experienced teachers from all over the world on peacebuilding and conflict resolution at the Rotary Peace Center; but I must say—that dog I called “Sot” gave me the greatest lesson so far in our three-month peace fellowship program.
Dogs are territorial animals but a man’s best friend too. Every time I see a dog not my own, the first thing that comes to my mind is, it will bite me. So I try to distance myself from that dog. I always forget that dogs are the friendliest animals, and that friendship creates peace between two different species, and peace within, by removing the stress and negative energies inside of us.
A stranger dog has once proved to me that we can be connected even when we don’t know each other, despite our anatomical differences, and even there are no strings attached between us. I come from the Philippines, I am of cosmopolitan human race, and I speak the language of men. This dog comes from Thailand, belonging to predatory and scavenging mammal, and uttering the language of a canine species. The time that I met him, I have nothing with me to give him, no food or toy for him. This dog welcomed me in his own territory with such warmth unimaginable to me that a stranger dog could ever give.
It was Wednesday morning in Mae-Sot, Thailand. I was on my way to a local market, not to buy anything but just to explore a new surrounding. A few meters away from the hotel where I stay, a big, brown dog came running to me, not to attack me, but to greet me. He produced sounds that seem be saying “hello”; then he nudged my leg with his cheek. I was puzzled and amazed. Unlike before when a big dog approaches me, I feel so nervous, but for this one I feel peace within me and between us. In response I stooped down, and gently rubbed his head with the palm of my hand.
From there I decided to walk back to the hotel, but the dog tried to stop me by gently pressing his body against my legs. I stooped down and gently rubbed his head again; then from there he let go of me and walked back to a house garage. That night, I decided to call that friendly dog “Sot,” named after Mae-Sot where we had the field trip for our Rotary Peace Fellowship.
The next day, I went to the local market to buy some fruits. I saw Sot sleeping soundly inside a garage. I walked passed that house and continued my way to the market. But a few steps away, I heard a dog barking behind me. I looked back and it was Sot running toward me. I stopped from walking and greeted him. He again nudged my leg with his cheek; then I stooped down to have a “selfie” picture with him. When I was about to leave, he tried again to stop me from walking further by gently pressing his body against my legs. After a few attempts, he let go of me and walked back to his garage.
On my way back from the local market, I saw Sot from the other side of the road, looking at me. It seems that he was stalking me. When I crossed the street, there again he came running to me and did the same things he used to. I also met Sot’s owners who were about to leave the house riding a motorbike. Sot’s owner tried to stop him from following me, but I told the owner, it’s OK. Sot’s owners and I did not have the chance to talk that much because of language barrier. But to Sot, I had so much connection, even though we are of different species and of different territories.
It was the last day of our field trip in Mae-Sot. I visited Sot, my doggie friend, where he lives. At first, I didn’t see him, so I just stood outside that house and took some pictures of the monks. In a few minutes, I saw Sot again, running toward me and doing the same things he did in the last two days. I gave him a whisper without sounds “Goodbye, my doggie friend, I will never forget you.”
What can we learn from Sot in the context of peacemaking? Sot made a connection with me without expecting that I would give him food to eat. I didn’t expect anything from him either. Unrestrained by our biological differences, we became friends without expecting anything in return. If peoples of different cultures and religions, and if nations of different economic standing, will connect and engage with each other, without strings attached, without vested interests, without thinking about our differences, then surely world peace is not impossible to achieve.
Cyrel San Gabriel, Philippines
Rotary Peace Fellow, January 2016 session.