“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves memories no one can steal”
I have no idea how to convey the events of the last 24 hours… We are all still in a complete state of shock, which has shaken us to our very core.
BLES is a sanctuary for many different animals, including elephants, cows, pigs, dogs, cats and tortoises. All the animals in our care, become infused in to our family life and each individual touches our hearts in a way only they can. Many of the animals arrive broken. Haunted by the atrocities human’s have enforced on them. The BLES family has years of experience, patience and love to offer all the animals that come our way. Being a part of their recovery is a unique honour and it is a privilege to know these once terrified animals, are able to find it within their hearts to trust and accept us.
Working in animal rescue is not easy. There are extreme, joyful highs, and then there are severe, unfathomable lows… Yesterday was a dark day here at BLES. The grief we are all feeling is overwhelming and it is hard to carry on, as we must.
Friends and faithful supporters, there is no easy way to break this news… Somai, the grandfather of our BLES family, our founding elephant, our survivor, our hero, has left this world and joined Naamfon, Boon Mee, Star, Seedor Yai, Somsri, Seedor Gam and of course Boon Lott in the rolling green fields of Heaven.
Judging on the position of his body, we believe Somai had been lying down, sleeping. We think he stood up, but lost his footing and his legs gave way from underneath him. This resulted with him landing on his face and chest.
As heartbroken as we all are to lose our gentle bull, we are proud he was able to live out the last 12 years of his life in our care. Somai at the grand old age of 68 years old, died of natural causes, in the deep, dense, heart of the forest. He was surrounded by thick bushes, huge trees and there was a fresh water stream just meters away from where he was found. As painful as it is losing a loved one, this is the kind of death we wish for all the animals in our care. We aspire to ensure their final moments on this earth are ones of peace and essence. Every single day, we do all we can within our power to make sure our animals are at one with themselves and the world. Having been a part of Somai’s final years and seeing with my own eyes the satisfaction that oozed out of his every stride, I know that he felt respected and very loved.
The two main joy’s in his life were females and food and BLES gave him unlimited access to both! Somai loved nothing more than to flirt his mornings away with Pang Noi and Pang Suai. Somai also enjoyed playful interactions with Lom, but it was always Pang Tong, the mother of Boon Lott, who had his heart. These two wise souls had first met at the elephant hospital back in 2003. Pang Tong was there nursing her paralysed calf, Boon Lott and Somai was admitted in to the hospital with 3rd degree burns, after being stuck in a forest fire. The two elephants struck up a natural friendship that was to last until death parted them – a total of 12 eventful years.
In those years, Pang Tong and Somai over saw the erection of BLES. They were guests of honour at the wedding of myself and Anon and have watched our family grow and prosper. Pang Tong and Somai have been with us, every step of the way during this epic life adventure and I feel infinitely appreciative to have been able to stand in the awesome and impressive presence of Somai.
He was a gentle soul and his laid back nature was a credit to the care he received from his faithful friend and mahout, Phi Sot. Somai and Phi Sot were the ultimate duo. They shared a mutual respect and a silent understanding of each other. Yesterday, my heart broke for Phi Sot. A proud man, a loving father, a stable and reliable member of our community, a trusted friend and to me, a valued and cherished advisor – Phi Sot is a genuine and giving soul. Yesterday, we sat together and shared many stories and tears. Remembering Somai throughout the years and all the heartfelt joy he had graced us with. Phi Sot took a deep breath and admitted how much he was going to miss Somai. He said, “Somai has gone to join his friends now. All of them have died long before him and now they are reunited”. I asked him why he thought Somai had lived so much longer than the other bulls in the village and his answer was simple and sweet – “Because he got to be a real elephant again”.
Around 40 people from the village attended the funeral of Somai. Many people were inconsolable, including Anon’s grandmother and Phi Sot’s wife. Both of them lay their hands on Somai’s body and said, “We have been together for such a long time. You were not suppose to leave before us. We loved you and owe you so much…. Thank you Somai. We will never forget you”
After the monks had chanted and blessed Somai’s spirit, we all lay flowers and fruit on and around his body, saying our own private prayers as we did. I lay down five pink roses – a rose for every one of my children. I leant forward, stroked his face and whispered in his ear, “Thank you Somai, for gifting me with hope, peace, strength, fight and light. Thank you for bringing Anon and I together and for guiding us through the trials and troubles of life. Thank you for being a Father to us all and thank you for allowing us to walk beside you. We loved you and we will always love you Somai…. Thank you”.
Our sadness at losing Somai was intensified as we also had to come to terms with the loss of three more stunning BLES personalities yesterday. Those of you who have visited BLES will smile with fondness, when you read the following names – Hugh, Marmite and Peanut Butter. My heart aches and my face is wet from the tears that are still falling for these three beautiful boys as I type this. I am so sorry to share the news of their deaths with you. Our dog family experienced the biggest loss in history yesterday and we are still trying to make sense of what exactly happened.
At around 6am I could hear the dogs barking. I stepped out on to the balcony, holding Luke, my 6 month old baby and could see Hugh, lying on the grass. I was alarmed to see him there and then noticed he was having a seizure. I ran down the stairs, towards him, screaming at the top of my voice. He was foaming at the mouth and then I saw Peanut Butter exhibiting the exact same symptoms, but worse. He was fitting violently and breathing like he was about to explode. I raced around to the quarantine house, where Anon had spent the night with Tong Jai, screaming. Anon came rushing out asking me what was wrong and all I could answer with was, “Hugh! Hugh!”
Anon took one look at Hugh and Peanut Butter and confirmed my worst fears: The dogs had been poisoned.
I gave the baby to Anon and told him to stay with the boys. I ran around the sanctuary calling out for all the other dogs. I could see Choo Choo and Cha Cha. Din, Ommo, Brave Boy and Gumee were all still up in my house. iMac was in his enclosure and fine, though highly distressed at all the drama. I spotted Pizza over by the elephant medical hut and then saw Marmite. Pizza was standing over Marmite and sniffing him. I felt like I was going to vomit and prayed that Marmite was just napping as I charged over to them, but I knew it was too late. Marmite’s body was warm and floppy, but his heart had stopped. He was dead. I carried Marmite up to where Anon was and knew by the look in his eyes that something had happened. He couldnt speak. He just looked down at Hugh’s still and lifeless body – Hugh had died too.
I put Marmite’s body down and ran towards the car, yelling out for Honey, Lady and Sarabow. I got in the car and sped out to the village to get some back up. When BLES volunteers Katherine and David opened the door to their house, all I could say was, “I cant find Honey”.
The three of us raced back and I pulled over at a neighbouring corn field. I dont know why, but I just had this feeling that one of the dogs would be there. We walked through the corn and then found a body. It was still and black – It was Sarabow! I ran and scooped her up in my arms and then lay her down on the road. She was alive, but also fitting and foaming at the mouth. At the same time, Anon appeared holding a cat’s stiff carcass and Katherine and Hope ran down holding Honey, with Lady in close pursuit. We quickly identified that the cat was not one of ours and then rushed everyone back to BLES.
Lady was fine and showed no signs of poisoning, but Honey was shaking uncontrollably and had nothing but fear in her eyes. One of the housekeepers came down and announced, with tears in her eyes, that Peanut Butter had died and I decided to rush Sarabow and Honey straight to the vet.
It felt like the longest drive and Sarabow continued to have seizures. As soon as we got to the practice,the vet put Sarabow on fluids and gave both Honey and Sarabow an injection of Xylazine to make them vomit. Honey was sick, but Sarabow wasnt and so the vet pumped her stomach with charcoal. Her eyes were wide and glazed over. Her breathing was erratic. David and I held on to Sarabow and Katherine stayed with Honey, keeping her calm and monitoring her breathing. As I held Sarabow’s beautiful black face in my hands, I heard the driver’s phone ring and a sudden feeling of anguish rushed over me. I stepped outside, saw his face and all he said was, “It’s Somai”.
Not knowing if our two girls were going to pull through or not, I had no choice but to leave them there and rush back to BLES to Somai. Words can not express my gratitude to David, Katherine and Dr Penny, for staying with Sarabow and Honey and for seeing them through the treatment.
Honey was lucky and could only have consumed a small amount of poison. She is thankfully, now well and back to her usual bouncy self.
Sarabow, however, must have swallowed more as she is still not out of the woods. She is desperately weak and so far, has not eaten anything. We are currently monitoring her 24/7.
From what we can gather, one of our neighbours had been spraying pesticides on their corn plantation and the container had leaked. Not realising the danger, the farmer did not clean it up and then sadly our dogs, unknowingly, went for a morning play around in that very corn field and were exposed to high, concentrated amounts of the pesticide.
As soon as I arrived back at BLES, I was faced with the four stiff bodies of our darling Hugh, Marmite and Peanut Butter and the unknown cat. The mahouts helped my bury them and then we went out to find Somai…. The rest of this story, you already know…
As I sit here, typing up the events as they unfolded, I still find myself in utter disbelief. Life is so sacred and can be snatched away from us in an instant. Yesterday we lost four mighty and impressive beings. We are all mourning their unexpected deaths and feeling a huge loss within our family. BLES has been left feeling empty and we feel so sick about what has happened.
The Universe obviously has a reason for all of this, but I cant help but feel demoralised about it all. So many deaths, in such quick succession – it is heart breaking beyond belief.
This is why I turn to you, our dear friends around the world and ask for you to hold my team, my family and animals in your prayers. We are strong, but this has knocked us emotionally. Please think of us during your meditations and surround us with white, healing light. BLES has had a very tough time lately and yesterday will always be referred to as ‘The saddest day in BLES history’.
Those we love do not go away, they walk beside us every day. We may not see them, but if we close our eyes and lift our hearts to the sky, we will feel them… Hugh, Peanut Butter, Marmite and our dear old Somai – you were loved beyond measure…
Thank you for gifting us with your friendships xxxxxxx