Thursday, January 17, 2008
Being a rabid animal lover somedays I get very down in the dumps when I think about all the terrible things that are done to the lovely creatures of the world - it's depressing, sad and sometimes I feel like I am one of the only people that cares. Now I know that's not true but when you hear about the things that happen every day to animals you have to wonder how people can be so cruel. However occassionally I hear a story that convinces me that all is not lost. This is one of them.
Back in 2006 Ed and I were lucky enough to work in Thailand as volunteers at the very amazing Elephant Nature Park http://www.elephantnaturefoundation.org/ which as the name would hint rescues and rehabilitates abused asian elephants. It's a wonderful place run by the inspiring Lek Chailert who apart from her love of elephants has also rescued a motley collection of other animals from cats, dogs and even a couple of little cows that fell off the back of a truck on the way to the abattoir one day.
The 39 dogs in particular are a big feature of park life. They are everywhere..sleeping in the shade of trees, running about, chasing sticks, dodging swipes from elephant trunks (who hate dogs) eating, squabbling, barking and generally having a very good doggy time of it. However as Ed and I quickly discovered life in Dog Paradise is not always so great for some. With a well established pecking order the dog pack had its underdogs.These poor bedraggled underlings were constantly monstered by the big bullies of the pack - the sinister "Big Head" and his general "Bite Bite" and lived a life in the shadows skulking around, eating last, living life on the fringes of dog society. One such underdog was a young pup called Belly. Not only was Belly somewhere on the last rung of the pecking order with the dogs but he was none too popular with several of the humans at the park too including one Thai mahout who would chuck stones and threaten him.
Belly didn't have a lot going for him. He had a short shout and bulging blood shot eyes, coarse ginger fur and funny floppy ears, short legs and freckles. Like a dog made out of discarded parts of other dogs. Belly also didn't have a very lovable personality, he was nervous and insecure which often manifested itself in growling, snapping and even biting. He just wasn't a Hallmark greeting card kind of hound...as an American volunteer observed one afternoon "even his butt is ugly". And it was true - some kind of skin disorder had defoliated his bum leaving it pink and scabby looking.
Despite all of Belly's shortcomings there was a quiet dignity about him - it was like he knew he didn't have much to offer but he was proud of who he was. Over the days Ed and I made an effort to get to know him and he would often come and sit with us. He would let us pat him but he always seemed tense and on the lookout. As time went on Belly trusted us more and he used to escort us home through the dark to our treehouse in the evenings. Later, for a couple of nights he even had a sleepover in our room nestled at the end of our bed. You got the sense that Belly, if he had his very own people to love, could be a better, happier boy.
Well the latest from the Elephant Park is that we weren't the only ones to see something in young Mr Belly. A lovely American couple called Jess and Tim worked at the park for a few months and fell in love with the naked bummed Belly and asked Lek if they could adopt him. She said yes and the wheels were set in motion...this couple flew back to the states to make arrangements and then flew back to Thailand specifically to go and get Belly and go though the rigmarole of quarantine to allow a Thai dog into the States.
So now Belly lives in the lap of luxury in the US - in Washington of all places. Having once been a jungle dog apparently he has had to get used to life walking in snow and ice, touring landmarks like the Capitol building, living in an apartment and going for walks on leads...but overall what I can't get over in the picture above is just how happy he looks. It warms my heart too to think that rather than buy some fabulous looking designer pet this couple spent thousands to make this funny little grumpy dog their own. Good on you Belly boy, I wish you a very happy life, and here's hoping that hair on your bum grows back before you freeze it off in the snow.