It had been over three months since I tearfully said goodbye to my adopted dog Lady (along with the other animals at Lanta Animal Welfare) and headed off to explore the rest of Southeast Asia. I thought of her every day and as our reunion drew near my excitement was palpable. In preparation, I watched a bunch of those videos of dogs absolutely freaking out when their owners return from military service. I cried, a few times, and envisioned our glorious reunion—a volunteer would bring her to the front of LAW where I would be waiting and she would sprint into my arms, wiggling her butt and covering me with slobbery kisses. All the while, someone would be recording a video that I would post to Facebook and brag to the world about how much we love each other.
Well, here’s how things actually went down.
After a long day of travel, which included seven (yes, SEVEN) transfers, we arrived on Koh Lanta at around 6:00PM. I insisted that we go straight to LAW as the thought of being so close to Lady but not seeing her made me feel funny on the inside. Once we arrived, I walked in like I owned the place, introduced myself to a few of the volunteers as Lady’s adopter, and asked if I could see her… NOW. It was the end of the volunteer shift and was growing dark outside, so there was no time for messing around with a choreographed slow-motion reunion. As I turned on my camera to record a video, I realized that the battery was completely dead. Ugh, really? I walked down the dark corridor of kennels to Lady’s and it was empty—ummm, excuse me? Where is my dog? A volunteer then pointed out that I had cruised right past Lady’s new kennel without realizing it—I’m a terrible mother. And so there we were, face to face for the first time in months. I talked to her like a baby and opened the gate so that she could run into my arms… and she sprinted right past me and threw herself at the gate to the kitchen, which someone had (thankfully) shut. Bewildered, I walked over and sat down next to her to get her attention, and… still nothing. Not an ounce of recognition. I have never been so thankful for a dead camera battery in my life.
As I sat there, manhandling my dog so that she was forced to cuddle with me, I acknowledged that a small part of me had expected this reception all along. I had spent just one month with this dog before leaving her for several months. She’s become accustomed to a revolving door of volunteers, some who show her more attention and affection than others. Maybe I had convinced myself that we had something special when I was actually just another volunteer to her. My heart hurt, but wasn’t broken—I knew that with time we would get back to where we were when I said goodbye on February 10th.
The next day I returned to LAW to walk Lady and begin the process of convincing her to become “my dog.” Her pack was in a free-roaming area that I could see from across the Center, and so I stood and watched as they lounged in the sun, oblivious to my presence. At that moment, as if I had called her name, she sat up, looked straight at me, and feverishly wagged her tail. Oh man. Yes. We went down to the beach where she chased sand crabs and came when I called her (well, one out of three times). There was a glimmer of hope.
Three days, and three visits later, I stood at the gate above the free-roaming area where Lady slept, and called her name. She popped up, sprinted across the yard, and barked as she tried to shove her head through the small space in the gate where she could see me. She does remember our time together; she just needs to be reminded that she’s not just another dog to me—she’s my Lady, my dog. We will be heading to the US together on June 19th, and from that day on, she will officially be mine for the rest of her years. She’s the ultimate souvenir from a life-changing adventure and I feel quite lucky to have her around, even if she is playing “hard to get.”