If you’re ever in need of an escape to reset your head and find a little bit of peace in the chaos that swirls around you, I highly recommend Thailand. I have lots of stories and photos to share about the elephants I met, but today I have a different story to tell.
Although not quite intentional, when I planned this trip I realized I was returning the day before my son’s tenth birthday, which is also the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. To spend the two weeks leading up to it in a dream fugue of green hills and silent Buddhas was a serendipitous gift that I really needed, because otherwise I would be at home, reliving those long painful days.
Partway through the trip, our group left the elephant sanctuary for the day and travelled to a small offshoot, where the park personnel were working with a large group of macaques. These monkeys, over a hundred of them, had been seized from the streets of Bangkok by the Thai government and were set to be sold to a laboratory before the park founder intervened and took them in to the sanctuary with little more than two weeks’ notice.
It is, to put it mildly, a large undertaking.
When we arrived, a small cadre of volunteers was upgrading the enclosures and getting a handle on one of the first orders of business: neutering the male monkeys. This is necessary for a variety of reasons; behavioral, and the fact that as adorable as all the babies were, they didn’t need to add more to the mix.
But needless to say, the monkeys themselves were not as thrilled with the idea. They are smart. They know what the little blowdarts mean: someone gets sleepy and goes away for a bit; and they were really, really good at evading them.
Two unsuccessful hours in, as we were still watching the goings-on and waiting for someone to neuter, a small motion caught my eye. It was a bright orange butterfly.
Butterflies have long been my mother’s favorite creature; it is impossible for me to see one and not think of her. They are, and always have been, her avatar. And I, who had been studiously avoiding getting into my head on the topic, had no choice but to sit and think about her.
The butterfly eventually flitted on further into the field, slowly and lazily as if to wait for me to get the hint, so I followed.
I vaguely heard people calling after me as I wandered off, but my attention was turned elsewhere: The field this butterfly had led me to was alive.
I had never seen so many different butterflies all in one place; the green ones that looked like leaves caught on the wind; the orange one that flew like scattered flower petals; the small grey ones on the ground that sat like pebbles until, unfurling their wings, they revealed themselves to be blue.
I didn’t even notice the one on the left at first; a camouflaged creature, hiding in plain sight, watching over the three remaining orange butterflies.
When I saw it, so hidden yet just as real as the remaining three, it hit me so suddenly that my breath caught. A whisper on the wind as clear as day: She is here. She is always here, all around you, and your dad, and your sister.
I hadn’t been expecting such an obvious revelation, and certainly not in what appeared to be an empty field, but I seem to require very deliberate signs from the universe in order to pay attention.
Eventually Teri came bushwhacking to scrape me off the riverbank and let me know a monkey was ready for a neuter. I had found a riverbed where the butterflies swirled, and in that silent contemplation, I was able to get up and go back to the insanity of our lives.
Striking poses and championing a paws cause in the process, Instagram icon/puppy mill survivor Toast has unleashed a new book that will help dogs in need turn the page to a new chapter in their…
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Dogs can inspire us to be better people and there is no better proof of that than when troubled kids in juvenile centers and jails can help train dogs.
One program in Amarillo, Texas called Unlocking Hope pairs local shelter dogs with juvenile inmates who help socialize and train the pups to increase their chance of being adopted.
“Here they learn to reach out and put some of their needs aside for the betterment of another individual, in this case a dog,” Joe Barton, Chief Juvenile Probation Officer for Randall County, told Newschannel 10. “They’re learning to be responsible. They’re learning to open up and trust. They’re learning to show care. It’s a very experiential, real-life set of skills that they can parlay over to people in their community.”
Plenty of kids apply for the Randall County program but only two were selected for this round. The selected kids have responsibility for the dog. “The dog lives with them, sleeps in their room with them and the kiddo is in charge of the dog,” says Barton.
The above is image is the reconstructed skeletal remains of a Hesperocyon. The Hesperocyons were the first recognizable dogs in the fossil record, which first appeared 35-40 million years ago in North America.
I’ve decided to use this image to tell you something very simple:
This is no longer a dog blog.
I’ve not written anything serious about dogs in a very long time. I know that most of you came here for those posts.
There aren’t going to be any more of those. I’m sorry.
I don’t think I’m qualified enough to discuss the subject matter. When I was younger and cockier, I thought I knew enough. I don’t know enough.
I wrote this blog because I was questing after ghosts. I was questing after dogs that have long since passed from this mortal coil but who still cast a deep shadow into my psyche.
I was also questing after myself. The happiest time of my life was my childhood in the forest with dogs.
In both quests, I have found other things.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that as authoritative as I’ve sounded here, I’m really not qualified to talk about it.
Dogs have become one of those topics, like politics or religion, where you just don’t want to talk about them or only talk about them with guarded company.
Things have just become so complex and fractious now that I don’t know if I consider myself a dog person anymore.
Many people will say that they can never live without a dog, but I’m coming to the conclusion that for the sake of the dog and for me, it’s better that I not have them.
Miley is doing well. Don’t worry about her.
But there won’t be another dog.
I admire animals, but I know that I just don’t have what it takes to be a great dog person.
I’ll leave this up for people who know more.
I’m really sorry that I have to leave it here. I had hopes and dreams. But I know they can’t be realized with my level of skill and knowledge.
Enjoy what I’ve written here thus far. It may be inaccurate. It may be accurate.
But I’m not putting any additional content here that relates to dogs.
I have come to the conclusion that I have failed, and that I need to step way back.
Yay, big news I finally get to announce-
I’m a Season 3 Expert on Nat Geo’s Animals Gone Wild!
I shot the episodes over several days at the end of last year, giving commentary on a bunch of wild animal videos. (None, by the way, showing people harming or doing irresponsible things, which was a condition of accepting the gig.)
It airs Fridays at 9/8 C on NatGeo Wild starting this week- please tune in!! I hope you enjoy it! And for those of you who are in on the bandwagon of the Instagram celeb vet who used to be a model, he’s one of the other experts too, so there’s something for everyone.
But if you tell the channel how much you love the experts, do me a solid and add in “especially the lady vet.”
A red-shouldered hawk comes by to eat chicken livers left out for coyotes and foxes: