Three years ago, a stray dog was rescued from a beach after being “picked on” by the other dogs. She now lives at Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Sukhothai, Thailand. From that moment on, she has spent her time with the rescue elephants and has been a source of huge emotional support for them.
A supporter of the sanctuary found her, naming her Pancake. She asked Katherine Connor, founder and CEO of the sanctuary is she would take the dog: Connor said to The Dodo:
Of course I said yes! Pancake has been my shadow ever since.
The animals in the sanctuary, which are mostly elephants, are used to the numerous arrivals and departures that occur there. For instance, Sao Noi, the elephant who was rescued from a tourist camp in Thailand, resided at the sanctuary. Only weeks after she arrived at the sanctuary, the elephant, who was too weak from a life of enslavement, died, surrounded by her friend Boon Thong who was another elderly elephant there.
Two years later, it was Boon Thong’s time to say goodbye to the sanctuary. Just like her friend Sao Noi, she wasn’t alone in her last moments, having Pancake by her side right to the end.
The dog, who saw that the elephant wasn’t feeling well, stayed by her side for more than nine hours, with Connor, in order to support her and reassure her in her last moments. The animals at the sanctuary live in true harmony with each other, creating a real sense of community. In this peaceful and welcoming environment, the animals support each other no matter their species or age. Spending the last five years of her life at the sanctuary allowed Boon Thong to quite literally take the weight off her shoulders, with tourists no longer exploiting her for rides.
She was used to carrying tourists on her back for hours on end and after doing this for almost 30 years, she nearly broke her back.
The elephant arrived at the sanctuary in a completely deplorable and exhausted state. But she soon got used to her new life at the sanctuary, making the most of her total freedom for the first time.
She was free to be in control of her own life, to make her own decisions, to express herself. Boon Thong was a creature of habit. She had her favorite spots in our release areas that she would always gravitate to during our daily walks. She always scratched on the same tree and she always stopped at the same spot in the stream to throw mud all over herself.
Katherine and Pancake stayed by her side for nine hours while she slowly passed away.
Pancake, with that beautiful heart of hers, did not leave Katherine or Boon Thong once. She knew she was needed, to offer support and she quietly lay beside Boon Thong, until sunset — until the final breath.
The elephant’s body was then buried on sanctuary grounds, surrounded by fruit, flowers and her old friends including Sao Noi, who she can now always be close to.