Virtually every household in Cambodia counts one if not more canine creatures in its residency. Generally mongrels, lean and lithe, often almost camouflaged against their red dirt track surroundings these dogs are also schizophrenic in nature.
Wander the streets of towns and villages during the day and you’ll see the dogs lying in the shade, meandering from hither to thither, occasionally, channelling their Littlest Hobo vibe and languidly strolling in a straight line down the middle of a long dirt road. Mothers lie on their sides, teats swollen, as pups unhurriedly and noiselessly suckle the life giving milk on offer.
Some may feign interest, wandering towards you only to stop a few paces short and gaze forlornly as you stroll or pedal past only to return to their spot languishing under their favourite tree before the dust has settled.
All are silent. The effort of raising a sound, let alone emitting a full on bark too much effort for these muts to bear.
But with the setting sun comes change. Those who were once the languid dozer are now on full alert. The slightest movement garners their interest, their ears prick and they’re ready. Approach within 50 feet and they will let rip as first they bark, then bark a bit more whilst running towards you. They’re at your feet, barking and snarling, their neighbours join in, suddenly what was one dog is now a pack. You are on their territory and this is not something they will allow.
The darker it gets, the fiercer the warning, the louder the barking, the more aggressive the snapping and snarling as the mongrel patrol protects their land and families.
Nothing escapes their attention, no one is safe. Even those in their beds cannot escape the pack – their barking calls drifting on the breeze and infiltrating the sleep of innocents nearby.
And then the sun rises once more, silence descends as the hounds of Cambodia settle once more into their daytime personas.