A domestic travel ban to contain the novel coronavirus was lifted recently following Thailand’s success in keeping infections under control, giving Kriengkai a chance to tackle a backlog of hundreds of haircuts in each dog shelter he visits.
“I was so stressed for the past three months of lockdown because I couldn’t travel and there was unfinished work,” he said, removing the coat of a wriggling mongrel held down by a fellow volunteer.
“The group of dogs before we faced COVID-19 were the ones that are super unfriendly but in need of extreme grooming. No one dares to touch them,” he added, speaking over dozens of barking canines.
“They must have been in agony because of the heat.”
Thailand is a nation of dog-lovers but its urban stray population can get out of control without resources to sterilise or care for them properly.
Kriengkai, 43, started helping out man’s best friend seven years ago after being inspired by a documentary about a volunteer group that provided grooming to strays to find homes for them faster.
He has no regrets about quitting his family business and now relies on donations and support from friends and his social media followers.
To get to the shelters, he rides for free on trains from his home in northeastern Sisaket province and sometimes stays over at Buddhist temples, where dogs are also welcome.
In just one day last week, he cut the hair of 80 of the 600 residents of a shelter in Chonburi province.
“I’m the black sheep in the dog grooming business, everyone thinks I’m crazy, but I don’t care,” he said.