It’s 6:30am. I have already snoozed six alarms. Most days, I would have been up for an hour, caring for the animals, coffee in hand. Not today. Instead, I find myself paralyzed. My body is weak, my mind is exhausted, and my heart is heavy. We are now on day five of two of our beloved dogs missing. Five days. Five nights of unsure possibilities of where they have found shelter, what they have been eating, and if they are keeping dry and warm in the peak of this wet season. Rightfully so, our own priorities to eat, sleep, and take care of ourselves have fallen to the wayside until we know they are safe. I lay paralyzed as I watch Ryan, my coworker, walk by my bedroom window to let out the quarantine dogs with pneumonia. It’s 6:30 am, and I already can tell from the leads hanging around his chest that he has most likely been out searching for an hour, at least. If I know him like I think I do, and after over two months of working side by side during 14 hour days, seven days a week, I do; he has been up doing some of our morning duties just to even prepare for another day of searching. Because even though we must search, we still have 60 dogs to care for. He is probably letting the pneumonia dogs out now because he knows there won’t be another chance to have them free and clear of any other dogs around them. He is working before sunrise because he knows how exhausted and beaten we are, and how the more he can get done before I wake, the less I’ll feel the burden of. This isn’t abnormal for him. Since I first started, I was always woken by the sound of a pack of dogs following him to do morning therapy in the grass with his paralyzed dog. If I didn’t admire him then, I certainly do now.
So, as I lay here preparing myself for the day to come, I find myself unable to fully grasp any feelings or thoughts running through my mind. The only thing I see are the sixteen pairs of watchful eyes of the pack of dogs that are anxiously awaiting my two feet to hit the floor. Until then, they will patiently wait on their towels spread throughout the room (or all over my bed). Those sixteen pairs of eyes have been through far worse than I can even imagine, yet they are the ones comforting me. And with those 32 little reminders staring back at me, I know I have to get up and face yet another day of searching, hoping, and praying. The only smile I manage to crack is after I look down at my legs and think of when I fell on my roller blades and scarred up my knees when I was in the 8th grade. My mother told me that I need to start wearing knee pads if I wanted to have beautiful legs when I was older. Well, mom, I’m a site to see these days between the deep scratches running along my shins from searching through the jungles behind temples where someone spotted the dogs. And I can’t bear to think of what she would have to say about the black and yellow bruises spreading around my dog bite wounds on my legs from breaking up a dog fight. Something I would have never let happen before, but between the exhaustion and space cadet brain I’m currently functioning off of, I let my guard down and wasn’t thinking. Never the dogs fault, only mine. (Mental reminder to start antibiotics today). I thrive on self torture, lack of sleep, and long/productive days, but this is a whole new level. Yet through all of this, the only thing truly looming over me is the anxious dreading of my upcoming departure. How can I leave these animals? How do I trust anyone with the months of round the clock care I’ve helped give to ensure that these four legged friends of mine are safe and healthy? I’ll work that over with the control freak living in my brain another day. For now, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure these guys are ready for a new mom, nurse, and professional cuddle giver.
If you would have told me a year ago that my butt would be sore from riding for hours on the back of a motorbike through Thailand villages, temples, and jungles, I would have never believed you. I would have laughed if you told me that I would be flagged down on that same motorbike, by a woman wanting help for her dog, because word had gotten out that we were the good guys and I was the new Sai Moon Village Phyabal (nurse). I also would have never even been able to fathom that people I barely know, could show such kindness in a time of need to help us find our dogs. That a smile and bow of a head could fill my heart with such happiness after it is graciously reciprocated by an elder in the nearby village. No language barrier is too large for kindness. These have become my people, my home.
As I lay here, mentally preparing for the day ahead, I find that instead of wanting to give up, I only want more. There is always more work to be done, more lives to save, more patients to treat. With each day I feel more frustrated and exhausted, it is only feeding the fire to get that “more” done. So, more I will do. I want to serve the people of this beautiful country just as much as I want to help their four legged loved ones. And I will. Because so many others far greater than I are doing so much of that “more”, I won’t stop from attempting to do the same.
Find the things and the people that fuel you. That keep you going. Because in your darkest of moments where you feel like you just can’t keep going, I promise you that it is always possible to find one thing that mentally keeps your head and heart afloat. For me, right now, it’s an instant coffee brought to me by the same guy feeding my dogs for me so that I’m able to write this post. Great friends and mediocre coffee, I’ll take them both.