A dog named Pancake has been a vital member of an elephant sanctuary in Thailand ever since she was spotted as a stray three years ago.
“She was a stray on the beach who was picked on by other dogs,” Katherine Connor, founder and CEO of Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES), told The Dodo.
When a fan of the sanctuary saw Pancake, she asked Connor if she would take the dog. “Of course I said yes!” Connor stated. “Pancake has been my shadow ever then.”
The staff and animals at BLES are no stranger to the arrivals and departures that occur there, especially because the sanctuary concentrates on taking in senior elephants after they can no longer work.
For instance, a few of years ago, when an elderly elephant named Sao Noi was passing away, her buddy, an elephant named Boon Thong, was observed standing next to her, caressing her with her trunk to soothe her.
Suddenly, over two years later, Boon Thong’s own hour of need arrived. And happily she had individuals who were there by her side, the way she had been for her buddy.
When Pancake discovered Boon Thong wasn’t feeling well, she raced to be with her.
While she is far from being an elephant, Pancake has also relished the quiet and calm of the sanctuary, and this creates a feeling of connection among the creatures saved by BLES.
And so Pancake and Connor both stayed with Boon Thong for hours this week, while they did the most hardest labor of all – recalling her life and eventually saying goodbye.
Boon Thong, who was in her 60s, spend the final five years of her life at the sanctuary after being liberated from a riding camp, where she was forced to offer rides to visitors.
“She was used to carry visitors on her back for hours on end and after doing this for almost 30 years, she nearly shattered her back,” Connor added.
By the time Boon Thong arrived to the sanctuary five years ago, she was fatigued.
But soon Boon Thong understood just how different the sanctuary was from the life she had known.
In the sanctuary she was finally allowed to be free, to understand her likes and dislikes, to roam and forage in the forest – all things she hadn’t been able to do for much of her life.
“She was free to be in control of her own life, to make her own decisions, to express herself,” Connor wrote in a tribute last week. “Boon Thong was a creature of habit. She had her favorite sites in our release zones that she would always gravitate to during our regular walks. She constantly scratched on the same tree and she always stopped at the same point in the stream to fling mud all over herself.”
Boon Thong wouldn’t have given up her life at the sanctuary for anything — and when she laid down last week, it was only because she finally had to let her life go.
Connor and Pancake waited with Boon Thong for nine hours until she slowly died away.
“Pancake, with that amazing heart of hers, did not leave Katherine or Boon Thong once,” BLES posted on Facebook. “She understood she was required, to provide comfort and she silently laid next Boon Thong, till sunset – until the dying breath.”
Boon Thong’s remains was buried on the sanctuary grounds, surrounded by fruit and flowers, and near her old pals — including Sao Noi — so she can always be close to the individuals who loved her.