Dogs, Cats and ........ Elephants!
Last month my husband and I took a dream trip to Thailand! The main destination was the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. Having been in the dog rescue world for so many years, I couldn't resist the pull of an elephant rescue. As an added bonus, they also rescue dogs and cats!
When we arrived at the Elephant Nature Park we were immediately able to feed the elephants. What an amazing thing to do! Being right next to a beautiful elephant while it reaches out with its trunk for the food in your hand is like nothing else! Since we were there for the weekend we sat with our guide for safety instructions and our itinerary, then we set out with our guide to learn about some of the elephants and interact with them up close. Since this is a sanctuary, the majority of the elephants have been abused or are very old. Learning the cruelties that these creatures have had to endure at the hands of humans is heartbreaking, but knowing they will never have to face pain again is thrilling. These elephants do not have to work anymore. No one rides them. They are free to be elephants. They form families of their choosing, their medical needs are tended to and they are - in a word - happy.
We spent our day walking with the elephants, bathing them in the river and feeding them. We also got to spend time with the rescue cats. There are approximately 500 cats on the property! All are spayed/neutered and vaccinated and so happy. Many were snoozing in the warm sun, and many were playing. Since we stayed overnight, we had a cabin and a cat moved in with us right away! He seemed to know when people were in the cabin and he made himself quite comfortable.
The park also has a dog rescue with approximately 250 dogs. Many are rescued "soi dogs" or street dogs from the cities. A large number also came after some major flooding a few years ago. The dogs are all spayed/neutered and vaccinated and they do adopt them out. Some of the dogs are in runs with other dogs but a lot have free run of the 300 acre grounds. They form packs and each pack lives in it's own section of the park. Watching dogs just be dogs is wonderful. They are so relaxed and happy! They get plenty of exercise and human interaction and fun with the elephants.
After a full day and an amazing dinner with a show by the local children we headed for bed. The elephants are put in paddocks at night for their own safety and a family of six were about 100 feet outside our cabin. Listening to the sounds of elephants in the middle of the night was amazing!
We woke in the morning to the elephants, our cabin cat and some friendly dogs. What a way to start the day! After breakfast we had another full day of walking with the elephants, preparing their food, feeding and bathing them. All the while playing with the dogs and cats. An animal lovers dream come true!
Leaving the Elephant Nature Park was hard because we had bonded with some of the dogs and cats and elephants and it was difficult to say goodbye. Knowing they will be safe and happy for the rest of their lives made it a little easier. For more information, please visit www.elephantnaturepark.org/
- Amy Hagan