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Frankie goes to Florida

From Animal Sheltering Magazine January/February 2013

While my husband and I were living and working in Vietnam, I rescued Com Tam (which means “broken rice” in Vietnamese) at an animal control facility in Saigon. At this facility, the sickly stray dogs are killed; the healthy ones are scheduled to be sent to the market to be sold for meat.

There were about 30 dogs in this cellar-like place. Com Tam was in the last holding pen. I was talking to each of the dogs, telling them I’m sorry I can’t save them all, choking back tears. Then Com Tam looked up at me ... his eyes were hopeless. He had zero life left in his eyes, which were the most human-like eyes I had ever seen in a dog. It was uncanny. At that second, I knew I had to rescue him and his little friend Beans, who kept licking Com Tam, as if to motivate him and tell him it was going to be OK.

Fortunately, with the help of our veterinarian Dr. Nghia, we were able to buy the dogs. However, Com Tam was very sick and at death’s door. It took close to two months of daily IV transfusions, medications, and a lot of prayers to bring him back to life.

When my husband left Vietnam, I stayed behind an extra month. As he was leaving, he told me to make sure I found a good home for Com Tam before I came back. I said sure, knowing full well that he was coming with us. There was no way in hell I was going to leave him back in Vietnam ... so, along with my other three dogs, I brought Frankie (his new name) back into the U.S. to live with us forever. To say that he’s spoiled now is an understatement!

Frankie has become a symbol of hope for the animal rescue organization we started in Saigon, Animal Rescue and Care (ARC) Vietnam. It’s an uphill battle there, because you’re dealing with a culture that eats dogs and cats, and you have to tread carefully to avoid being seen as a Westerner coming in and telling the Vietnamese how to live their lives, how to treat animals. Thankfully, while we started with a core group of five women, they now have many more local volunteers. Because of Frankie’s rescue, many more dogs have been rescued and given a second chance at life.

To learn more about ARC, go to or search for A.R.C. Vietnam (Animal Rescue & Care) on Facebook.

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About the Author

Natalie Carby