It has taken me several days to gather the strength to announce the news of Permpoon’s passing…. To say her death has hit us all incredibly hard here at BLES, is putting it lightly…
Permpoon was a lady of strength and poise. She represented patience, perseverance, determination and independence. Every time I watched Permpoon, gingerly make her way through the long grass, gathering big bundles and slowly stuffing them in to her mouth, I would always be filled with this overwhelming feeling of thankfulness. Her rescue was one of the most complicated BLES has ever embarked on. Egos, politics, drama and bureaucracy, stalled the rescue of Permpoon for three months. It was a very tough time for everyone involved, but no one more so than our pretty Permpoon. Tied to a tree, she stood in the same place, wondering why the world had forgotten her. She lost weight and her arthritic and achey body, suffered greatly from the lack of exercise and poor diet.
During those three months, I went to visit Permpoon to let her know we had no intention of giving up on her. We point blank refused to walk away from her rescue and I often get asked where I drew my strength from during those dark and confusing days. The truth is, I drew my strength from her – from Permpoon. Her deep, dark eyes were filled with such sadness, but when you looked past that, there was a shimmer of hope, a sparkle of determination and that was what kept me focused and driven – Permpoon’s staunch mission to survive and then thrive, under our care.
And thrive, she did! It really was such an honour to be around Permpoon. When she first arrived at BLES, she was a ball of anger and aggression. Her mahout, Phi Daam, fell in love with her instantly and was intent on building a friendship with Permpoon, based on trust and respect. I remember watching him, nervously reaching through the bars of the quarantine house, to feed Permpoon and every time she would lash out in his direction. He would respond calmly, telling her it was ok. Telling her, he loved her and would again reach out with his hand to offer her reassurance.
Permpoon was a tough cookie and it took Phi Daam about a week to gain her trust completely. I remember the tears of excitement in his eyes when he came to me and said he felt she was strong enough to join our other elephants on a walk in to the forest. Together, Phi Daam and I walked out with Permpoon. She was slow and so fragile, but – and this is the thing about her I will always hold on to – she was SO DETERMINED. Her delicate frame masked her fierceness. She had an inner strength that blinded us all, right until she drew her last breath…
Permpoon had been collapsing on and off for the past twelve months. Her ageing body, that had been through six decades of exhausting labour, was beginning to give out, but Permpoon’s will to live on, motivated us to keep on helping her stand and give her the best possible care we could.
On Christmas Day morning, Permpoon collapsed again. We all knew what we had to do and swiftly set up the tripod and hoist. It quickly became apparent that Permpoon’s body was not strong enough to stand and so, after several attempts, we agreed to remove the harnesses and let Permpoon rest. We surrounded her with blankets and rigged up a giant tent to protect her from the sun. I sat with her for hours, holding her trunk in both of my hands, telling her how loved she was and that it was ok to let go. Her breathing was laboured and she refused to eat or drink. As the sun set, so did my hopes of Permpoon ever standing again…
Permpoon’s mahout did not leave her side. He slept in a hammock, with a small fire burning beside them and kept a 24 hour vigil.
We all expected Permpoon to pass during the night, but we should have known better. The next morning, Permpoon was moving, swinging her legs and lifting her head up. She was trying to stand and as the mahouts speedily prepared everything, I held Permpoon’s trunk and told her that as long as she wanted to fight, we would fight with her.
We spent the next four hours cheering Permpoon on, helping her rise, allowing her intervals of rest and following her lead. We massaged her legs to encourage blood circulation and we supported her with all our physical strength when she searched for something to lean on.
Permpoon did stand again. Her legs were shaking and once again, her breathing was laboured. We could all see how hard she was trying and we all wanted to help her so desperately, but when I looked up in to her eyes, I could see straight away that her spirit was gone. I told the mahouts to slowly release the hoist and undo the harnesses. I was heartbroken, but knew that Permpoon’s time had come.
As she lay on the ground, motionless, Phi Daam went to her, with tears openly rolling down his face and whispered to her that he loved her. I believe it was at that very moment that Permpoon passed and am so proud that the last words she heard, were words of genuine and unconditional love.
One by one, the mahouts said their goodbyes, wishing Permpoon well and telling her to come back to them again. I waited until the very end and when they were all gone, I wrapped my arms around her head and sobbed uncontrollably. I am not sure how long I stayed there, embracing her… I just didn’t want to let her go.
We have buried Permpoon beside Sweet Sontaya, close to Sao Noi and Naamfon. Sitting amongst their graves, I am consumed with so much grief and heaviness, which is often hard to articulate. It is tempting to allow the sadness to consume me, but I hold these girls and all the other special souls we have lost over the years, so deep in my heart. I treasure the memories they have gifted us with over the years and I am just so grateful to be able to have given them back, what should have always been theirs, before it was too late.
2016 has been an emotional and at times, soul-destroying year. But in those moments of misery, I have searched for the lesson and I am thankful to be able to always gain something positive from my pain.
I am so sorry to deliver such sad news, but wish you all a wonderful, safe, happy and healthy new year. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for the constant strength and support you all give so generously to us – BLES is a family and we send love to you all.
Rest well Permpoon. You were SO loved and admired… We will never, ever forget you… xx