Well, here we are… now just over two months removed from our unbelievable year on the road (gosh, it feels like just yesterday we were packing our bags to leave). Rather than wistfully typing from the stiff seat of a bus negotiating a rutted-out road through central Laos, or the reclining armchair of a 737 soaring sleekly above Australia’s eastern seaboard, I am instead clicking away from the tufted, slate gray cushion of my brand-new sectional sofa (does anyone else hear Rod Roddy’s voice?). And while the new lounge is certainly plush and inviting, I can’t say I entirely prefer it over either of the former selections. But such as it is, we are now reestablished back in the Raleigh area, with feet firmly on the ground enough to furnish our cozy, new apartment. While I refuse to concede that we are settling back in (that word makes me feel so claustrophobic and constrained), we did just put pen to paper on a one-year lease, and will quite likely be staying put for a while beyond that as we stash some dough and eagerly plot our next great adventure. This time, however, wherever our next journey takes us, it will no longer be just the two of us…
Back in April, we spent an indescribably inspiring week volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in rural, northern Thailand. Home to more than six dozen pachyderms rescued from the tourism and logging industries, Elephant Nature Park is not only a haven for the large animals, but is also a refuge to some five hundred stray dogs. With a pressing need for volunteers at the sprawling canine shelter, we eagerly devoted a chunk of our time to helping care for the loveable pups. On our first morning, one of the volunteer coordinators directed us immediately to Open Run 5, where we were to spend some time socializing with the seven or eight dogs in that pack. We’d hardly yanked the chain-link door shut behind us when a scruffy, pale-coated mutt raced over to me, ears laid back submissively and rump wriggling uncontrollably with excitement. She quickly cemented herself to my side, not once detaching herself from my company for the duration of our visit. When we ultimately left the enclosure to socialize with the dogs in the neighboring run, I could hardly bring myself to leave her – her expressive brown eyes pleaded for human companionship unlike any of her pen-mates. As we exited the simple but spacious enclosure, we noticed a collection of faded Polaroids hanging near the door, each displaying the dogs’ names and portraits. On one of the snapshots, the word ‘Sanchez’ was scrawled in black marker – the given name of my affectionate little friend. I called out to her as we left, and as her scraggly tail twitched back and forth expectantly, my eyes welled with tears.
Each day in between our elephant chores, we’d head over to the dog rescue for a few hours to walk and socialize with the furry friends. What is more, each day I’d make a special visit to Open Run 5 to spend some time with my buddy Sanchez. Lamentably, though, our moving week at ENP eventually had to end. As we crammed our mud-spattered clothes back into our packs on the first sunny Sunday afternoon in May, my heart ached at the thought of saying goodbye to my new friend. Just before clambering into the van for the hour-long trek back to Chiang Mai, we raced back up the winding dirt road to the dog shelter and grabbed an adoption form. That one week spent within the protected hem of Elephant Nature Park resonated within me in a way that still seems almost too great to understand, and I knew I couldn’t leave every bit of my heart behind in northern Thailand…
On a raw, New England afternoon in the middle of January – a strange antipode from that which we left behind eight months prior – Stephan and I anxiously hopped into our timeworn Subaru and headed ninety miles east to the bustling hub of Logan Airport. We were brimming with both excitement and nervousness as we paced outside the immigration gates, armed with freshly-baked cookies and bottled water for an international passenger named Shane. Shortly after 5 p.m., the hefty, metal security doors promptly swung open, revealing a weary but smiling gentleman hauling a bulky, blue-trimmed, plastic crate. And just as our lives had been irrevocably changed some months ago, our world was once again turned upside down. We knelt down gently and peered through the stainless-steel lattice – right into the timid, brown eyes of our faithful friend, Sanchez.
One month later, the three of us are now settling into our new home in North Carolina. Predictably, our furry little friend is still a bit apprehensive and uncertain, but she seems to be pretty happy with her new people, and is wholeheartedly embracing her new life. As for us – well, we couldn’t be more grateful to have a such a cherished companion to accompany us on whatever journey life has in store for us.
A PUP’S PERSPECTIVE
Hi everyone! I am so excited to introduce myself to all my mom and dad’s dedicated blog readers. I was born in September 2014, and arrived at Elephant Nature Park with my mom and four siblings when I was just a young puppy. I grew up at ENP’s dog sanctuary, running around with my pack of friends by day, and listening to the elephants trumpet by evening. During my two years at ENP, I especially enjoyed spending time with my best buddy, Loch. While I loved my carefree life in northern Thailand’s peaceful forests, like all dogs, I was also eager to find a forever home. As luck would have it, some loving volunteers stumbled into my run one day under a blistering April sun, and decided they wanted me to go live with them in the U.S. Eight months later, the following January, I began my journey overseas. After getting a revitalizing bath, a bit of grooming, and saying goodbye to all my pals (both canine and human), I headed to Bangkok, where I spent a few days with James. James helped finalize my export paperwork and also got me settled on my long international flight to Boston (more than 21 hours with a layover in Tokyo), where my generous flight volunteer, Shane, ultimately escorted me to my forever family.
My first few weeks in the U.S. were wildly different than my life in Thailand. When I arrived at mom’s parents’ (Mama and Papa Stone’s) house in New Hampshire, the ground was covered with a blanket of peculiar, cold, white stuff. It felt really strange on my paws, and I gazed up at my mom and dad with bewildered eyes. They looked back empathetically and assured me it was okay. Apparently, it’s a familiar type of precipitation in colder climates that is called ‘snow.’ I guess it wasn’t so bad, especially not with the warm jacket I had, but I do think I prefer my warm, Thai sunshine. I stayed in NH for about three weeks while my dad hunted a new job, and I had a really fun time there, following fox and deer tracks through their snowy woods and going on long walks through the nature trail. During my visit, I quickly realized that not only is Papa Stone a pretty amazing chef, but he also is a sucker for cute canines. I totally played up my adorableness and sat back shrewdly while he served me a smorgasbord of scrambled eggs, fresh salmon, plain chicken, and even a few tastes of his killer homemade vanilla ice cream. I also got to meet my Uncle Jeff and Auntie Kate during my stay in NH. They brought me a ton of awesome presents, and spent two whole weekends hanging out with me. And while everyone sure did treat me like royalty during my stay, I have to say, I’m not sure I enjoy their company quite as much during football games. I’d never seen American football before, but I learned that they cheer for a team called the Patriots, and that this team happened to be in the Super Bowl – apparently, that’s the biggest game of the year. Uncle Jeff sure is passionate about his beloved Pats, as he did a whole lot of overwhelming jumping and flapping during the three-hour contest. While I was somewhat alarmed at his unpredictable flailing, I tried my best to support his excitement from my hiding spot behind the hassock. Ultimately, though, I was relieved when the game – and concurrent chaos – was finally over.
After getting acquainted with my new, crazy family members for those few weeks, my mom and dad packed up our Subaru, explaining that dad had found a great job, and that we were moving to North Carolina to begin a new adventure. While I wasn’t too excited about the 12-hour drive south, I sure was looking forward to a change in climate – sunny and 20–25˚C is my kind of weather! I’ve now been in Cary for about two weeks, and am once again readjusting to my new surroundings. It’s a bit more busy and urban here, but I’ve found a couple of quiet walking trails that I quite enjoy, and I have a beautiful picture window in our second-floor apartment where I can vigilantly watch the squirrels or take afternoon naps in the warm sunshine. I’m also looking forward to trying some cool new activities with mom and dad, like hiking in the mountains, swimming in the lake, and playing at the beach (I’ve never seen the ocean before)! Even though it’s been quite a different world from everything I knew in Thailand, it’s been a pretty incredible journey so far, and I am so thankful to have found my forever home.
Adoption date: 16 January 2017
Likes: belly rubs; walks through the forest; fresh salmon; snuggling with my family; my comfy bed and bone pillow; mom’s homemade doggy treats; (all-natural) peanut butter; watching squirrels from my special window
Dislikes: artificial noises (including, but not limited to, television, the vacuum, various kitchen appliances, and the opening of carbonated beverages); frozen precipitation; fresh fruit; the ‘Daily Double’ noise on Jeopardy; Papa Stone’s Steve Grogan jersey; not being allowed to chase the aforementioned squirrels
A WORD OF THANKS
We wanted to extend our heartfelt appreciation to Sabrina, Carolina, James, Amy, and all of the others at ENP and beyond who made Sanchez’ adoption possible. We know how hard everyone at the dog project works, and how dedicated everyone is to caring for and finding forever homes for ENP’s hundreds of loveable pups. We could not be more grateful for everything that you guys do, and we are sincerely humbled and honored to be a part of ENP’s tremendous story, if only for a brief paragraph. All our best to everyone, and cheers to the continued growth of the ENP Global Pack!
If any of our readers are interested in learning more about the foundation, or supporting the project through dog adoption, sponsorship, or a general donation, please check out the following website: