Town restaurant owner back from ‘inspirational’ trip of a lifetime

Phil Cantwell makes a new 'friend' during his stint at the Soi Dog Foundation
Phil Cantwell makes a new 'friend' during his stint at the Soi Dog Foundation

Horncastle restaurant owner and lifelong animal lover Phil Cantwell recently returned to the UK from what he describes as ‘an inspirational’ two-week trip to Thailand.

Phil fulfilled his ambition to work as a volunteer at the headquarters of the Soi Dog Foundation.

Phil (57) owns and runs the award-winning Thai Dining Room and Riverside Grill and spent months before his journey gathering donations from other businesses, customers and pet lovers of toys, leads and pet accessories to take with him.

The donations filled a suitcase weighing more than 20kg - leaving Phil with hardly any room for his clothes!

Phil said: “I was overwhelmed by the generosity and support from local businesses, including Chandlers Farm Equipment and Witham View Vets who immediately offered to donate.

“Also the many local dog lovers who got in contact; they were even stopping me in the street wanting to contribute items.

The restaurateur, who owns three English Springer Spaniels and a cat, added: “We also launched a competition with a prize of dinner for four in our restaurant and received entries and donations from as far afield as Devon and Scotland, which just goes to prove we really are a nation of animal lovers.”

The Soi Dog Foundation is based in Phuket and Phil describes his stint as a volunteer as a ‘fantastic experience.’.

He said: “I first heard about the Soi Dog Foundation on a previous trip to Thailand when my wife and I found an abandoned dog, which needed urgent veterinary treatment, in Bangkok’s Lumpini Park.

“We contacted the Foundation which helped us find the right people to help rescue this dog. We were impressed by their dedication and commitment and, after reading founders John and Gill Dalley’s story I was inspired to become a volunteer and do what I could to help.

“Volunteering at the SDF was a fantastic experience. I was made to feel very welcome and I enjoyed every minute of it. The days were busy but fun, and I loved walking and playing with all sorts of dogs and helping bathe them.

“I met so many like-minded people from all over the world and made many friends. The rescued dogs’ stories were often heartbreaking, but it was also heartening to see what is being done to help educate and change popular mindsets, especially the Foundation’s ongoing campaign against the dog meat trade.”

Phil is already planning to go back to Phuket to volunteer again and added: “I would also urge everyone to think about giving a home to a rescue pet from SDF, Each one deserves a loving home – we can all help.”