It’s 6:00am, and I am laying here with a perma grin on my face. Because among the pack of dogs sprawled around me is Rocky, one of the missing dogs that escaped almost two weeks ago. I can’t take my eyes off him as he sleeps peacefully beneath my feet. It’s as if he never left. If I could only pick his brain on where he has been these last twelve days, and if he could just tell us where his partner in crime was still hiding.
We handed out our final stack of flyers about five days ago. We tried one last ditch effort, and rode deep into the mountains through small villages that were on a back way track that led to Elephant Nature Park. The last few flyers held a significant meaning much deeper than a few pieces of paper. It was not us giving up, but leaving the rest up to the fates and the great people of our neighboring towns and villages. The last stop on our journey through the mountains, ended at a small shop with a group of teens and a few adults sitting around a table outside. We handed them a stack of flyers and a large poster to hang. They, of course, were more than happy to help, and we laughed as we heard the teenagers chatter over the 2,000 baht that was posted as a reward. I jokingly said,”It probably WILL be a bunch of kids that go searching for the dogs just for the cash”. We would have never guessed that I was about to be right.
Five days passed and we continued on with our daily routines, as Ryan received phone call after phone call of false sitings. We never gave up hope, but knew we had to keep our focus on the other 60 dogs back home. On day five, we went out to try and rescue a dog with severe mange and a large wound that took up its whole upper leg. While searching for the dog, many began to ask if we had found our own dogs. Salt in our own wounds, no doubt. After a failed attempt at finding the poor pup, we headed home. With the whirlwind events happening around us, we opted to stop and watch the sun set behind the convenience store. A good regrouping without the barking of dogs could do us some good. It was as if sitting at that dirty table looking over the rice fields was just what I needed to bring me back down to earth a bit. Everything happens for a reason, and I had been failing to remember that up until that exact moment. Moments later, Ryan’s phone rang. Another unknown number with a woman on the other end speaking in Thai. Only being able to understand some of what she was saying, we rushed home to have the on site Vet translate for us. I had already trained myself not to get my hopes up with every call, as they usually led to disappointment, but after he hung up the phone, neither of us could get back to the bike fast enough. After Dr. Rong was finished speaking with her, he attempted to tell us where she found the dog and where to go. Not being able to fully communicate in English himself, we decided to run with the information we had, and headed back out. All we knew was that the dog was found at an old, self serve Thai gas station.
Call it instinct, or just plain luck, but we found ourself stopping at a familiar house, that just a week prior had told us they saw the dogs running through the village. As we approached with polite greetings, the people sitting around the table were different from before, yet we pushed onward in hopes that they might still be able to help us. As Ryan spoke to them in Thai, I politely smiled, tried not to look like a complete idiot, and did what I do best…played with their dog. Before I knew it, the man at the table was on the phone with the woman who had found a dog she believed ours. He tried to tell us that it was too dangerous to ride there on motorbike at night, especially for foreigners, but we wouldn’t take no for an answer. After persistent convincing, he motioned for Ryan to go with him, and told me to stay behind with the women. If you know me, you know damn well it took everything in me not to resist the urge to somehow sneak on the back, but I knew if we had any chance of finding Rocky, I would do as I was told. Minutes seemed to drag on as the lovely women attempted to start conversation with me, and I could only respond with, “Im so sorry, I do not understand”, in Thai. Just when you think you are starting to get the hang of a new language, talk to a local, they’ll put you right in your place.
About 30 minutes in, and right as I as I was starting to get comfortable, a truck pulled up to the house. Six military men with 2ft long batons in hand jumped out of the back, and slowly approached. I made sure to take note of the reaction of the women I was with, as they didn’t seemed phase. The men were more than shocked to see a blonde westerner sitting at their table, and even more shocked as I greeted them and introduced myself correctly. The man in charge spoke past me, to the the women at the table. I couldn’t tell exactly what they were saying, but I knew the word “foreigner”, and they were most certainly not talking about anyone else besides me. A million thoughts were running through my mind. Did they want to take me? Could they take me if they wanted to? Why were they here in the first place? All these thoughts brought me back to the same answer: I was in their country, and they could do whatever they wanted, their rules, as my father would say. Just like that, they left as swiftly as they arrived, and disappeared into the night, leaving me with a lump in my throat, and my heart about to beat out of my chest.
There are two things that I have noticed about the people of Thailand, their days revolve around great meals, and good naps, I suppose that’s why I love it here so much. I can definitely relate. So, in true Thai culture, I ate most everything on the table offered, as I waited for the return of hopefully not one, but two of my best friends. After about 2 hours, and with an extremely full stomach, the ladies nudged me and pointed as we all heard the sound of a motorbike coming up the road. The man who took Ryan came bounding up the hill, but without my friend with him. Confused, I tried to listen close as he explained what would happen next. A neighbor of ours who had been helping us the last few weeks, had showed up in the mean time. She explained to me that Ryan had the dog with him and that they were on their way. This woman I barely knew had tears in her eyes with excitement, and wrote out in her translator app,” God Helped”. Boy, was she right. Whether it be her God, or mine, someone was looking out. Before I could join in her happy tears, a truck much like the one before slowly made its way up that same hill, except this time instead of Thai police, it was Ryan in the bed of the truck holding our Rocky. I had tried to imagine the emotions I would feel if we found one or both of the dogs, but after the weeks of exhaustion, all I could do was throw myself on the poor mutt and not let go. It didn’t feel real, and all I could think was how quickly we could bring him back home safely.
I immediately thought back to our conversation earlier while looking over those rice fields, about how everything happens for a reason. There are no mistakes. Whether it be a God, the Universe, or both, something much greater is always in the know. And once we stop trying to control it, we’ll be much better off.