I get asked all the time, “Why Thailand?” This question is often times followed up with, “There are so many dogs here in the states that need saving”. Trust me, I am well aware of the overpopulation crisis in America, and every waking second that I am there is usually spent in some capacity trying to assist in said crisis. When asked this question, I have always had a response. The response usually goes along the lines of, “Yes, but while there is so much work to be done everywhere, I feel drawn to the place that needs more bodies on the ground to get the work done to have the biggest impact possible”. Even then, it is significantly difficult for many to wrap their heads around the fact that I am willingly moving to a different country just to do the “same thing” that I could be doing with the comfort of a paycheck and air conditioning. I myself, had never even given any of that a thought. That was, until, about a week into my arrival back in Thailand.
It had poured rain all day, so the bugs were in full force. I laid in bed on top of the covers because I was sweating my face off at 10 o’clock at night. It had been a significantly stressful couple of days, as we had just moved to a new location, and the dogs had to be kept in cages while we built a proper fence around the property. They were unhappy, and we were exhausted. Between the stresses of moving with thirteen dogs, adjusting to this new life of mine, and the unknown of what would lie ahead in my time here, I broke down. I laid in the dark and tears rolled down my face as I tried to push back the questions and doubts from my peers back home. “What the hell AM I doing here?”, I thought over and over as my tears and sweat joined forces at my ears. I had never questioned myself before, so why now? I’m not sure if I was more upset from sheer disappointment in my own self doubt, or that I truly had lost sight of exactly what I planned to do in this damn Country. I squeezed my eyes shut, and imagined I was on my freshly washed, cold sheets back in Colorado after a long day in surgery. Surely, I just needed to get through that small breakdown, and then I would be fine.
Even that following week, with two of my friends and coworkers in town to help us out, I still had the aching longing to be back home. How the hell did I willingly choose to leave a place that I was comfortable both financially and physically, surrounded by most everyone that I held dear; just to move to a Country where I am not necessarily welcomed as a Vet Tech with open arms. It was made clear in the first few weeks that this would not be a walk in the park. Did that mean that the help wasn’t needed? No. Did my self reminder of that make anything easier? No.
One of the things I struggle with most, is accepting that even though something is difficult at first, doesn’t make it the wrong direction to go in. I have never been one to choose the path of least resistance, but often times I find myself questioning my chosen path when things don’t go as smoothly as anticipated.
So, as the weeks progressed, I became increasingly disheartened with my questioning of my purpose here.
It wasn’t until today that I was smacked in the face with one of my biggest realizations thus far. Since my arrival, we have been treating a group of mange ridden pups and their mom. Ryan had messaged me about these six puppies before I had even arrived. He asked the best advice to treat severe infestations of fleas for puppies that were barely four weeks old. The pictures of these pups were horrid, and their mom put them all to shame. Nests of fleas took over their noses, ears, and backs. Although their mom had fleas as well, the severe demodectic mange that took over her entire body was by far overpowering the minuscule fleas. I gave the best advice I could, but the puppies would have to wait until my arrival for further treatment. When the day came that I got to meet these scraggly dudes, I felt as though I already knew them. We rounded the bend on the dirt road down the street from where Ryans house was. A large barn presented itself with not a dog in site. I was unsure if any dog was there at all, but Ryan was confident as we approached. Sure enough, one by one, tiny, mangey heads poked their faces out from under the black mesh protecting the rows of hanging garlic inside. Mama dog came running up to us first, and my heart dropped to my feet. With a big grin, she came barreling towards us. When she made it to where we stood, she tucked her tail and rolled on her back to expose her completely hairless, inflamed stomach. Open sores covered her entire body, and I winced as all the puppies came tumbling over and began aggressively nursing their frail mother. The look in her eyes was nothing short of helplessness and strength. We stared at each other for a few short moments, as I understood that she was begging for our help, even if she didn’t know it.
The weeks progressed and we were able to deworm and treat the fleas on the puppies, and give their poor mama a good dose of a flea and tick medication to help get rid of the mange overtaking her body. Between vaccinations and twice daily antibiotic trips, we had become very close to this mangey crew. No matter what else the day held, the consistency of seeing them every morning after we fed our dogs on site, and every evening after their dinner, was the one sure thing in every day. Every day, as we rounded the corner, the mama dog and pups began to recognize the sound of our motorbike, and would come running to meet us. If I ever came without a smile, they would be sure to make sure I left with one. Through the month of their treatment, I myself was healing just as much as they were. I just didn’t notice it until today. Today, we gave all of the pups their final booster vaccine. Now, although this may seem like a fairly routine healthcare treatment, it was a moment of solidification for me. I had spent the whole month searching for the question of why I was here. During my search, I had completely lost sight of what got me into the field in the first place. Six years ago, I quoted something on Facebook that was my driving force for getting through schooling, and would now be the fuel I needed to set me straight and keep pushing forward.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever”
The quote smacked me like a ton of bricks. This entire time I had spent wanting to do more, to do it all, right now. But I was missing the entire point of why I chose to be a Veterinary Technician, and pursue rescue work. I was looking past what was right in front of me to try and make things happen that didn’t need to happen right now. These dogs- these healthy, flea free, fully vaccinated dogs were happening right now. That was all I needed. If for some reason I was sent away out of the country, or something happened where I needed to leave, these dogs made the whole trip worth it. Seven lives whose worlds were completely changed, and those seven lives will forever mean more to me than they will ever know.
I will no longer look at anything as minuscule compared to what I “should” or “could” be doing. One animal at a time, with every life meaning just as much as the next. Who knows, maybe one life will turn into ten, and ten into one hundred in this little Thai town. Until then, you bet your ass you can find me loving every moment of being completely enthralled in every animal I care for.