The Sweetest Elephant Ever – ‘Granny’ Thong Dee

Every now and then, you meet a soul that shines, a spirit that soars and a being, that despite all the cruelties life has thrown her way, is sweet and full of love…


Thong Dee was the sweetest elephant we have ever known here at BLES and I am still wiping away tears and shaking my head in disbelief, as I find myself sitting here, sharing the news of her passing…

Thong Dee was rescued by BLES, two and a half years ago. Her owners, who loved Thong Dee dearly, could see that she was getting too old and weak to continue giving rides to tourists. They, themselves, were also tired of camp life and so reached out to BLES and asked for our help.

Since her very first day at BLES, it was obvious that Thong Dee was warm hearted and had not let the cruelities of camp life, harden her in any way. She was playful, social and oh, so, curious!


Thong Dee quickly became a favourite with the mahouts. They all admit to having a soft spot for her and my two eldest sons, Noah and Arron, adored her so much, they always called her, ‘Granny’… Whenever not at school, they would go walking with her in the forest, cut down food for her and watch her gently move through the forest.


Thong Dee’s death, has hit us all incredibly hard, but my sons have been left inconsolable…


It was a hot afternoon and Dom, Thong Dee’s mahout, had been out walking with her. She had spent some time soaking her feet in the stream and throwing mud over her back. When she was ready, she turned towards one of the many hills surrounding our sanctuary and started to slowly, but steadily climb it.  Dom, tried to convince her to stay near the stream, but Thong Dee was determined and so Dom stood back and let her go. As she eventually disappeared in to the bushes, Dom, who was following her from a distance, saw her pause for a few minutes, as if she was looking for someone. Thong Dee took a few more steps up the hill and then turned to look at him, as he lay herself down on the soft, damp ground.

Dom instantly knew that something was wrong and so called me to let me know that Thong Dee was down. Phi Sot, Noah, Arron and I, jumped on a motorbike and sped through the forest, desperately trying to find them. When we did get to where Dom and Thong Dee were, Noah and Arron ran to her, and dropped to their knees beside her. She raised her trunk and reached out to them both, as they sobbed and begged her not to leave them. Noah buried his little face in to her and in whispered tones, that only Thong Dee could hear, he started praying. Arron, who had wrapped his little arms as tight as he could around her, removed the Buddah from his neck and placed it on her head.

After a few minutes, Phi Sot called the boys, saying it was time to head back home. Noah, who is eight and Arron, who is five, silently stood, wiped the tears from their faces and bowed their heads in respect, to their much loved granny. Thong Dee, raised the end of her trunk again and let out a deep breath…

I hugged my sons, kissed them both and told them how proud I was of them. Phi Sot put a protective arm around them both and ushered them back down the hill.

Dom, who had been sitting in the bushes, watching, gave me a broken smile and a nod, which I understood to mean that he needed to distance himself from the heartfelt  emotions that were racing around.

And so I sat, on my own, at the top of that hill, holding Thong Dee’s beautiful trunk in my hands. I could still hear Noah and Arron crying. They had only been gone a minute or so and then all of a sudden, Thong Dee’s grip tightened around my hands and her body started to shake. Within a few seconds, the shaking ceased and she let go…

Could it be that she was holding on to say goodbye to the boys? Could it be that once they left, she felt at peace enough to finally pass? Well, I believe so and I believe it with all of my heart.

After a few minutes of just being with Thong Dee, breathing in the power of her passing and appreciating the beauty that surrounded us, I softly called for Dom. Red eyed, he came. No words were needed… He knew she was gone and as he stood, staring at her lying lifelessly on the ground, he quietly asked me if any other elephant had ever died up where we were. I smiled and told him about Beautiful Boon Mee, who had died in almost the exact spot that Thong Dee chose to be her final resting place. Boon Mee had been one of our orignial rescues and at the grand age of 84, Boon Mee, just like Thong Dee, had walked herself up the same hill and lay herself down to rest. I asked him why and his reply stunned me. He said he felt like Thong Dee was looking for a long, lost friend…

We have no way of knowing if Boon Mee, who passed away seven years ago and Thong Dee had known each other. It is highly possible they could have worked together at some point over the years, but we will never, truly know…

Thong Dee has been buried right beside Boon Mee and it makes me smile, to think of them both, being together…. Maybe they were family… Maybe they were friends… It doesnt really matter. Now, they are angels, forever in our hearts.


(Pang Noi, Pang Suai and Sompord, stand by Thong Dee and Boon Mee’s burial sites, the day after Thong Dee’s passing)

BLES your beautiful heart and soul Thong Dee…. You have left this world a brighter place and we are better beings, because of you.


We will always love you.





  1. mariamauriblog · November 17, 2017

    This is unbelievably heart-breaking. Still reeling from the passing of Tong Jai, how can another beautiful soul take the journey so soon after!! Sincere and heartfelt sympathy to everyone who loved Thong Dee. Rest in Peace beautiful lady.


  2. kali dragonslayer · November 17, 2017

    a gentle passing for a beautiful soul, godspeed sweet girl


  3. Cristina Ribeiro · November 17, 2017

    I am devastated!!!! “My” sweetest Thong Dee is no more? I can’t believe! And so I will never ever whisper in her ears how much I have loved as soon as I read her tragic story! But I know that everybody at BLES gave her all the love and care possible.
    Thank you for having sweetened her life. I am looking at her adoption certificate which I picked up to answe Evely’s answer if I had one.
    Am unable to read the text right now.
    Am so so so sad but happy to know that she was loved and cherished by all and am sure she knew it. Will love you always ❤️ You introduced me to the terrific tortures eles suffer and the existence of the Sanctuary. Thank you dearest.


  4. · November 17, 2017

    I am so sorry, my heart goes out to you, Katherine, and the boys. Richie  


  5. Fiona macshannon-hirst · November 17, 2017

    Oh no, no, no!! Heartbroken for you all!! Xxxx


  6. Joanna · November 18, 2017

    Such lovely words. A fitting tribute to an angel.


  7. lori conley · November 18, 2017

    May blessings of comfort surround you all by the beautiful way she passed with loved ones around her. Sincere condolences going out to everyone at BLES xo


  8. Lena lowther · November 18, 2017

    I feel so sad for the loss of Thong Dee and that she only had a short time of freedom and contentment there with you at BLES. I wish so much that these magnificent creatures where not subject to “working” all their lives and it breaks heart. May she have found peace up there on her final climb to the hill and surrounded with your love ❤️


  9. Carole Kramer · November 18, 2017

    Thank you for the privilege of sharing in this extraordinary and beautiful experience. Your exquisite narrative has honored a great creature in a deep and meaningful way. Bless you for all you do.


  10. Pingback: Thong Dee : Elephant of the Week at Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary – BLES : Remember Me | Elephant Spoken Here

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