Orange County

‘She had this fighter spirit’: Dog finds forever home in Huntington Beach after being rescued in Thailand by 2 friends

A street dog from Thailand has found her fur-ever home in Huntington Beach.

Dr. Lisa Chong and Tara Austin spotted the year-old Thai Bangkaew dog dragging its body on its two front legs across a busy street while they were in that country last December to volunteer at Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai.

The tale began to unfold after dinner one night during their stay. During the meal, Austin shared with Chong her admiration for Frida Kahlo, an artist who remained dedicated to her art despite becoming bedridden after a bus accident.

On their way back to their hotel following dinner, the two childhood friends spotted the dog. Without consulting each other, they both walked onto the street to stop traffic and to shepherd the dog to safety. While Chong used dog treats to gauge the dog’s friendliness toward humans, Austin flagged down a cab to take them back to their hotel.


Austin also asked people at nearby businesses if they knew the dog, but no one claimed her. Austin and Chong, who gave the dog the name Frida after the famed Mexican artist, believe she might have been dropped off at a nearby temple where other stray dogs congregate.

“She had this fighter spirit,” Austin said, referring to Frida’s attitude on the drive back to their hotel. The dog, she said, calmly sat in the car and looked out the window.

Chong, an OB-GYN, said they didn’t realize the extent of Frida’s poor condition until they took her back to their hotel room. Ticks covered the dog’s body and her paws were covered in dirt as a result of dragging her body, she said.

An X-ray at a 24-hour hospital just outside Chiang Mai later revealed Frida had a lumbar fracture and is missing several bones in her paws. She didn’t have any fur on her paws at the time.


(Photo courtesy of Tara Austin)

“She was really infected,” Chong said. “You could just feel the heat coming out of her legs, that’s why she was panting. She didn’t even know how to drink water. She had been a street dog for so long she only understood how to drink water off the pavement. She didn’t understand the concept of a cup of water.”

Chong said hospital staff recommended amputating Frida’s hind legs, but Chong wanted that option to be the last resort. She said they had hoped Frida would one day walk again.

The two visited Frida in the hospital for several hours every day during their trip. They noticed a slow shift in the canine’s behavior. It was apparent to them she was gaining more confidence. Fur started to grow on her two injured paws.

Chong said the decision to formally adopt Frida was gradual. They realized the dog likely wouldn’t be the first choice for adoption by a family. They also didn’t want to financially burden the animal sanctuary by lodging Frida there, she said.

Before they left Thailand to head home, they purchased a dog collar with a tag embossed with Frida’s name as a promise they would soon return for their four-legged friend.

Chong brought Frida home on a first-class flight from Thailand to Los Angeles last week. Frida is currently lodged at the Two Hands Four Paws Foundation, a animal rehabilitation facility in L.A. where she’ll learn how to walk again before moving into Chong’s home in downtown Huntington Beach.

Chong and Austin’s shared love for animals has led them to spend more than $13,000 to give Frida a second chance at life. Fundraisers are being planned to pay for medical costs as they see if doctors can help Frida use her two hind legs to walk again.


They created an Instagram account to document Frida’s journey and a GoFundMe page to gather donations.

“Part of me is sad knowing [Frida] is leaving her homeland and she’s leaving everything she’s ever known but I think she has a bright future ahead of her,” Chong said.

To help Frida, visit

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