Saying Farewell to Sweet Sao Noi…

There is such an intense and overwhelming ache in my heart right now. It consumes my entire chest and sits, stagnant in my stomach, along with the bundle of knots that have been increasing in size over the past few days…

Life can seem so unfair at times and I have found myself spinning in a non stop cycle of confusion and frustration to relief and understanding.

Here at Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES), we pride ourselves on taking in elderly elephants and giving them back what should have always been theirs – their freedom, their dignity, their right to chose… We cherish every moment of discovery as the elephants regain their strength and recover from the trauma of working in the tourism industry. Each elephant reacts to their retirement differently. Some of them form firm friendships, some of them focus on eating and replenishing their exhausted bodies, some of them explore every inch of our forested land and walk several miles each day… it can be an emotional rollercoaster walking side by side with our elephants as they go from strength to strength. All of us wish more than anything that their time with us will be long, that their days will be many and their lives will go on and on.

Sadly, this is not always how it works.

Sometimes, when we watch our fragile new arrivals take their first few shaky steps of freedom, we burst with pride for them. Yet, at the same time we share a silent sadness, because we all know that despite our tireless efforts, expert care and endless amounts of love, these beautiful old and oh so wise souls, will not be with us for very long.

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This was the case for our most recent rescue, Sao Noi. Her skeletal body told the unthinkable horror stories from her past that none of us wanted to hear. Her tired eyes were filled with haunting shadows that tore at your soul. But, her smile, sweet, warm and gentle, reminded us that no matter how incredibly tough life seems at times, there is always hope and there is always BLES.

Sao Noi’s health has been a big concern for us and we have kept her on round the clock care since she arrived just over one month ago now. She has blown us away with her inner strength and determination to live every day as if it were her last and now, as I sit here, typing about her passing, I wonder if she knew, more than we did, that her days on this earth were coming to an end.

Sao Noi loved being out in the forest. She would explore every little bit, of every bush, every tree, every puddle and field. She loved the company of people and would often approach us, just to be close to us. Sao Noi also loved the company of her own kind, Boon Thong and Permpoon being two of her closest friends. Sao Noi loved her food and would make quick work of the healthy options we offered her. She loved to smother herself in thick mud and she LOVED a good scratch!

Sao Noi loved her life and we loved watching her live every meaningful moment.

Sao Noi has taught us that the true meaning of contentment, is living, breathing and feeling every single moment. Being in the moment and embracing what it brings….

These past few days have been some of the most emotionally exhausting for the BLES family. We have all been hands on, supporting Sao Noi in her moments of need and doing everything we possibly could to make her as comfortable as possible. She stood so paitently when the vets from TECC came to administer emergency IV fluids and she trusted in us so whole heartedly when we were hoisting her back on to her feet, after she had collapsed.

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The moment she passed from this world on to the next, will always be etched in the depths of my heart. With her eyes closed, she let out a deep and long purr… I sat with her, stroking her and told her over and over how very loved she was. I closed my eyes and listened to everything she was listening to. The playful songs of the birds, the rythum of the raindrops, the gentle breeze – all we could hear, as we lay on the ground, were the sounds of nature.

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I am so proud of the easy passing Sao Noi made. I am grateful that we were able to watch her thrive and I am thankful for every precious moment we shared. My heart is full of thanks for my mahouts and their genuine compassion and incredible dedication to Sao Noi’s wellbeing. As always, I am indebted to you, our wonderful supporters around the world who made the rescue of Soa Noi happen. I am so appreciative to Sao Noi’s previous owner for letting her go.

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We held a beautiful ceremony in celebration of Sao Noi’s long life. The head monks from our local temples came and blessed her body and then we buried Sao Noi in the forest, beside beautiful Naamfon, who passed away in October of last year.

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We all made offerings of fruit and flowers and Phi Sot, our head mahout, covered Sao Noi’s eyes with a small towel, as he didn’t want the dirt to spoil her pretty eyes. As he lay the towel down, he touched her cheek and told her to go and find Somai. He told her that Somai would take care of her.

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Once the digger truck had finished covering Sao Noi’s body, Phi Gom, Sao Noi’s mahout, planted grass and pineapple heads in a circle for her. Even though the time they had spent together was short, the impact Sao Noi made on Phi Gom was profound. Wiping away tears, he told us that he would never forget her sweet smile.

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None of us will ever be able to foget Sao Noi and the joy she brought to our lives. Although my tears are still falling, I sit here and smile, as I imagine her walking through the long grass, together with Somai, Naamfon and all the other souls we have been blessed to share our world with. I miss her so much, but I am also filled with a sense of relief for Sao Noi. She is no longer trapped in this life that wore down her body and broke her spirit. She is well and truly, free….. God bless her beautiful being.

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