My Friends, My Family

When I first arrived at Boon Lott’s, I mostly aimed for photos of elephants without people or dogs. Before long, I realized that such photos don’t do BLES justice. These elephants come from captive situations, having spent their whole former life being commanded by and working for humans- some in fairly good conditions (like the four bulls that arrived in December) and others in very abusive situations. An elephant with such experiences can’t just be expected to immediately act like an elephant again in a sanctuary setting. They need the calm guidance of dedicated mahouts. The mahouts of BLES use no cruel tools, but instead facilitate a trusting relationship so that the elephants respond to voice commands- directing them where to go for food, shade, water, or a bath. The relationships I witnessed between mahouts and elephants were beautiful and deserve to be documented. Here are a few photos that I think represent the special, trusting bonds here at BLES.


The great tusker, Tong Jai, receives a thorough shower from Anon. Photo credit: David Owen.


Phi Toiey gives Wassana a refreshing drink as she gets her foot treatments.


On this day, Boon Thong was feeling under the weather. She was constipated and dehydrated. Phi Shat never left her side.


Phi Daam cuts up jackfruit for sweet Permpoon to try.


As I’ve said before, BLES is a family, and one that I was warmly welcomed into. I was invited into the homes of many members of the BLES community, sharing deliciously authentic Thai food, not so deliciously authentic Thai whiskey, and sharing in the warm smiles and laughter that Thailand is deservedly famous for. I feel like I have a second family in Thailand now- a family that I have promised to visit again!


Fun on the back of the Thai truck after a corn run with Phi Shat, Phi Joop, David, and Phi Do.


I helped David teach English one Friday afternoon at the local school, where I met this bunch of great kiddos.



A low quality photo of a high quality night at one of the mahouts homes: Lung Bunchu, David, Phi Joop, Phi Sot, and Phi Dam.

Let’s not forget the furry friends that warded off any semblance of homesickness. BLES is home to a lovable, diverse group of dogs and cats (not to mention the pigs, cows, monkey, and tortoises) that are always ready to snuggle and play. Like the elephants, some of them come from abusive backgrounds, and yet still allow and trust us to love and care for them. BLES would not be the same without this ragamuffin group!


My dog “husband” Ton. This beautiful boy survived terrible abuse but is still a sweetheart.


Uncle iMac and Aunt Ommo are excellent puppy sitters. Here they play with cuties Winter and Ruby. Winter has returned home to her family but Ruby is a permanent resident.


Lady and her cat friend, Paws, break the “no animals on the table” rule, making Gummee look innocent 😉


I didn’t even know I had enough room in my heart to love so many people (human and non-human) alike so much.

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