Make a Splash at Neverland

Equal parts spring cleaning ritual and biggest water fight on earth, Songkran marks the Thai New Year with a splash. Tradition mandated trips to the local monasteries to pray, present offerings, and to wash the Buddhas residing within. Water was being thrown well before that, of course, symbolizing sufficient rain for the crops as part of the springtime rites. Now kids (and kids at heart) simply take this opportunity to make a splash and douse one another with Super Soakers, water balloons, and the long-reaching spray of hoses. These antics may sound mean-spirited, but given the sweltering temperatures of mid-April, it would actually be a relief to get nailed with a bucket of ice water!

Even when I visited in late January, the midday heat was astonishing. Stepping out from an air conditioned building onto the hectic, humid streets could knock the air right out of your lungs. While friends back home donned puffer jackets and knit scarves, even a light jacket was unthinkable in this climate. More mind-boggling was the notion that just around the corner, a pack of three dozen huskies, clad in thick fur coats, lay waiting for visitors bearing cool ice to crunch on. Though Songkran is going on right now, from April 13th – 15th, it very well could have been on the day of my visit from the looks of things, too.

Everyday seems like a water festival at TrueLove Cafe at Neverland, a quirky cafe in Bangkok drawing dog lovers from around the globe. Cooling humans and canines alike, all take refuge underneath the giant humming propellers of fans spinning throughout the property. Crunching contentedly on frozen cubes while gamely posing for selfies with tourists, it’s a surreal scene that defies explanation, despite the cute introductory video shown before letting visitors in for playtime.

Neither a zoo or an exhibit, Neverland seems to have grown from one woman’s love of huskies and her inability to let any suffer the heat of Bangkok alone. To keep these majestic beasts impeccably groomed, well-fed, and healthy, tickets could easily be considered a charitable donation, if you feel as silly as I did waiting over an hour to play with the pups, while a line stretched out behind me.

Surrounded by such a friendly herd of fluffy goofballs, it’s hard not to revert to childhood for at least a few minutes. Do I look happy here, maybe just a little? Perhaps the promise of finding true love is more than just a quirky cafe name…

As with the Songkran celebration, food is certainly never far from reach at the cafe, but there are no specific dishes that mark this occasion. Most memorable are the drinks, particularly the shocking aquamarine blue soda, though it tastes mostly of sugar with a hint of citrus. Go for the dogs, stay for the selfies, and not for the cafe. Just be kind and share that ice water with the dogs, no matter how tempting it may be to jump into a bucket solo.

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Going to the Dogs

If you build it, they will come. If you shake the treat bag within earshot, they will come with tails wagging and tongues panting, too.

The push for alternative proteins isn’t limited to just the human diet; behind the scenes, toiling away in laboratories and kitchens, the race is on to develop a more sustainable, ethical, and wholesome way to nourish man’s best friend. Wild Earth is growing their blend, and their business, from the ground up with koji, a type of fungus used in soy sauce and miso.

Higher in protein content than steak (24 percent protein by weight), these cultured mushrooms contain over 45 percent protein by contrast. Though the nutritional numbers are impressive, to say the least, what matters the most to my guy is the fact that these healthy spores impart a unique umami flavor to the treats.

Luka and I were early adopters of this innovative concept, well before the Berkeley-based company revamped their packages, added different flavors, and made a big splash on Shark Tank last week. Now pet parents nationwide can’t stop buzzing about the brand, which successfully secured a $550,000 investment on the show.

Treats are truly just the appetizer to kick things off. Coming soon, proper dog food will be made of the very same savory stuff, providing a completely vegan, fully vetted (AAFCO-compliant) main meal.  That may come as a surprise to those still wedded to the notion that dogs are obligate carnivores, but with more research supporting the possibility of raising healthy, happy canines without the need for meat, Wild Earth is making it not only feasible, but enjoyable for the pups in question.

Puppy Love

He was all wrong for me. Far too young, wild and reckless, completely naive to the ways of the world. A mischievous little devil, intent on getting his way no matter what, the rules of society at large didn’t seem to apply, nor phase him. An intimidating distance stood between us as well; at least a two-hour drive on a good day, without traffic, which is a rarity in the bay area. Had I submitted a proper online dating profile, this beastly candidate would have been screened out from day one.

The thing is, I wasn’t lurking through the tangled web of Tinder profiles for a boyfriend; I was idly browsing through the pet section of Craigslist.

Luka is the dog I didn’t know I needed until the moment he adopted me. A 4 1/2-pound bundle of unlimited energy, he bounded straight into my heart and refused to leave, sinking his sharp teeth in with a ferocious grip. Only 8 weeks old, he’s already begun to train me as much as I’m trying to train him, much to his chagrin. Tiny but mighty, he has big paws and a huge personality to grow into, with so many happy years ahead of us both. Though Luka is far from the kid I thought I would have, in all those hazy dreams of my imagined, unknowable future, he’s exactly the lifelong companion I was craving. This is it, this one is a keeper, I thought to myself, holding him for the first time as he licked my face in an excited frenzy.

My newborn baby is such a shockingly recent (and sudden) addition to the family that I don’t even have a proper portrait session to share yet, but I couldn’t waste this opportunity to share. Today just happens to be National Puppy Day, less than one week into this crazy journey, because life is often stranger than fiction. Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.

If you’ve ever wanted to let more love into your life, start at the shelters. Please, adopt, don’t shop, and save another sweet creature with the misfortune of landing in the wrong place at the wrong time. To a certain degree, you must ignore your brain, let go of your preconceived laundry list of qualifiers, and go with your gut. When you find the right guy or gal, you’ll simply know.

Thank you Luka, for adopting me. I’m far from a perfect doggie mommy, but I promise to always love you.