The “What If’s” of life. They can drive you crazy. I’ve found that the “What If’s” in a foreign country, a place where you don’t yet know the language or the way around daily life, are even more daunting. I try not to think about them, rely on our preparation and research, and hope that we will just figure it out when and if something happens. We had our first challenge with the unexpected when we got a late night phone call during our first road trip outside of Chiang Mai that Zeke was lost.
So, what if your dog runs away?? In rural Thailand?? Something that I rarely think of, especially with Zeke, because even on off-leash walks, he is never more than 20 yards away from me. We were handed our first test…and the “What if’s” became frighteningly real.
Last week, while being boarded at the best kennel in Chiang Mai, Zeke bolted. Frightened by thunder or the daily fireworks, he lost it and ran. Learning curve note, fireworks are a daily occurrence in rural Thailand. They are set off for funerals, weddings, birthdays, I even saw some adds for marriage proposal firework displays. Pretty much any occasion is enough to set off a few fireworks, day or night. We know Zeke hates fireworks. It never occurred to us that this would be his response.
We rushed back to the kennel the next morning to start our search. A lot of leg work had already been done by the kennel themselves. Fliers in Thai were already up in the 3 neighboring villages. The heads of the villages had been notified and they were sending the information out on morning loudspeaker announcements. We were offering a 2000 baht ($60 US) reward, low because Zeke had been fixed, which greatly lowered his market value, but enough to motivate the community. It had already been more than 24 hours with no sign of him.
More terrible “What If’s” started running through my head . . . Pythons?? A python near our house in Sai Kung used to get a dog almost every year in May when they come out of hibernation. What if he was kidnapped? In Hong Kong it was common for dogs to be kidnapped and held for ransom. I had seen an article on Flipboard just the week before about how a black market dog meat salesman in northeastern Thailand who kidnapped dogs was caught by the police. While dog meat is illegal in Thailand, we are just a few hundred miles away from southern China where dog meat is legal and quite prevalent. The possibilities were endless and the clock was ticking with no sign of him.
After combing the area, calling him, making sure people knew what we were looking for, we realized there was nothing more we could do. And we had no good news. This is when you have to stop and have faith, review everything you have done, and let common sense give you hope. There are few animal shelters in Thailand, so we couldn’t notify them. His International microchip was pretty much useless in this situation. Our only source of hope was the village network.
Later that afternoon, the village network started to work. There were reports that he was seen drinking out of a bucket at an empty house. Then he was spotted, twice, in an unplanted rice field behind the same house. We stayed out in the field until dark. Nothing. We left his blanket and a pair of Frank’s socks (as many of you know, these are his favorite) next to the water bucket and went home, tearful but also hopeful that he would recognize the scent of the blanket and socks and make a connection that we had been there. It was now 48 hours that he’d been alone in the jungle, with no further sign of him.
We were back at dawn the next morning. There were muddy dog prints on his blanket that gave us some hope. I walked through the field clanging his food bowl and calling his name. We knew that by this time hunger would be a big motivator for him to come out of hiding. Still nothing. A few hours later, while the rest of us spread out again through the villages, Frank stayed at the empty house hoping for a glimpse of him in the only place he had been seen so far. Suddenly, a man living next door called to Frank and pointed to the side of the house. Zeke came around the corner, saw Frank and the neighbor and promptly began to bolt. When Frank called to him, he stopped, and immediately ran to him, whimpering and shaking. He was muddy and covered with burrs, with a few scrapes on his chest, but he was fine. He’d spent three nights on his own in the jungle and managed to avoid the worst of my fears. We were very lucky…and very, very grateful to have him back.