Scream­ing vic­tim only es­caped from wild pack by div­ing into the sea

Herald on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - Ben Leahy

AKiwi teen’s idyl­lic hol­i­day in Thai­land turned to a night­mare af­ter she was set upon by pack of stray dogs while run­ning alone at a pop­u­lar beach.

Sarah Cal­ley, 16, nar­rowly es­caped a maul­ing at the teeth of 12 feral dogs and only es­caped by div­ing into the sea, where she was forced to tread wa­ter un­til the an­i­mals lost in­ter­est.

The Christchurch teenager, who had hopes of be­com­ing a vet, said she now lives in fear of dogs.

Dur­ing the hol­i­day in Jan­uary, she was on an early morn­ing run along the golden sands of Nai Yang when she felt a jolt of pain and spun around to see a stocky brown dog had bit­ten her on the bot­tom.

The pack leader was quickly joined by an­other 11 dogs, who “came out of nowhere” to give chase and send Cal­ley run­ning along the beach scream­ing for help.

“I kept hear­ing them snapping be­hind me and I was scream­ing, ‘some­one help me’, but there was no one on the beach,” she said.

The dogs bit her twice more be­fore she dived into the sea. One bit her an­kle as she plunged in.

There Cal­ley waited it out un­til the dogs left and an­other tourist helped her back towards the ho­tel.

But just 5m from the ho­tel grounds the brown dog cir­cled back for a sec­ond at­tack, forc­ing the limp­ing Cal­ley to slam the ho­tel gate in its face.

“I was hys­ter­i­cal and yelling that

I was bit­ten but hardly any­one spoke English,” she said.

Her screams of “No, no, no” as she fled into the ho­tel court­yard car­ried to her par­ents’ room where they had been en­joy­ing a sleep-in on the sec­ond day of their hol­i­day.

“She was stand­ing their drip­ping wet, she had her phone in her hand,” mum Moira said. “She was re­ally hys­ter­i­cal and she had blood run­ning down her legs.”

Be­cause the hol­i­day had been a sur­prise for Cal­ley and her sis­ter Michaela, the girls had not had a ra­bies shot. Moira cleaned the wounds while her hus­band or­gan­ised a taxi to a nearby hos­pi­tal.

Cal­ley was given sev­eral painful in­jec­tions, in­clud­ing ra­bies shots.

Her skin had not been torn open but she had deep punc­ture wounds on the back of her leg.

These were treated at med­i­cal clin­ics “of vary­ing qual­ity” ev­ery day dur­ing the rest of the two-week hol­i­day, with her ra­bies treat­ment com­pleted in New Zealand.

The bites also made it un­com­fort­able for Cal­ley in fol­low­ing days as the fam­ily flew to Cam­bo­dia and she was also un­able to swim for the rest of the two-week trip for fear of in­fec­tion.

Cal­ley said she had de­vel­oped a fear of all dogs but was try­ing to over­come it to reach her dream of be­com­ing a vet. Cal­ley’s drama comes af­ter the Her­ald on Sun­day last month re­vealed the dan­gers that can lurk on a trip to Thai­land.

Since 2009, 150 Ki­wis in the South­east Asian na­tion have re­quested over­seas med­i­cal as­sis­tance from the New Zealand Gov­ern­ment — the high­est num­ber of re­quests made from any coun­try.

But while Ki­wis might be more of­ten alerted to risks, such as hav­ing their drinks spiked or be­ing in­jured in an ad­ven­ture ac­tiv­ity, ra­bies re­mains preva­lent in the coun­try.

A week be­fore Cal­ley was at­tacked, the dogs also bit five other tourists, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in the Phuket News.

South­ern Cross Travel In­sur­ance Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Chris White said claims for an­i­mal bites, par­tic­u­larly from dogs and mon­keys, were not un­com­mon.

“A num­ber of pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions for New Zealan­ders, such as Thai­land, Samoa and the Cook Is­lands, are home to an­i­mals that may ap­pear do­mes­ti­cated,” he said.

The World­wise Trav­ellers Health and Vac­ci­na­tion Cen­tres web­site says tourists should con­sider a ra­bies vac­ci­na­tion be­fore trav­el­ling to Thai­land, par­tic­u­larly chil­dren be­cause of their ea­ger­ness to pat dogs.

Cal­ley said stray dogs over­seas may ap­pear friendly but they can sud­denly turn ag­gres­sive. “And don’t run be­cause they might see you as prey,” she said.

The hol­i­day had been a sur­prise gift from her par­ents but Sarah Cal­ley, 16, had not had any ra­bies shots.

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