Kinship Circle
9,000 Miles For Love
Thailand Flood Report #15

DATE: January, 2012
LOCATION: SCAD Foundation shelter, Bangkok, Thailand
SUBMITTED BY: Sister Michael Marie, Kinship Circle PIO
Brenda Shoss, Kinship Circle executive director Mabel Update: Home In USA!

Fear. Then cautious relief. That's what we see in animal disaster survivors. A tail wags. Eyes soften. A faint purr…neigh, grunt or moo. All animals want to live. Mabel came to symbolize that will.

Skeletal and listless, Mabel's pelvis was dislocated when she was rescued from a bridge over Thailand floodwaters. At the disaster shelter in Bangkok, Mabel's tail rarely wagged. Yet she got all goofy when she heard her name. Mabel taught me about resilience, and then glued herself to my heart.

Once stable, Mabel flew 9,000 miles from Thailand to join my pack of 3 cats, 3 dogs, a child and husband in the U.S. She claimed a doggie-bed as Mabel Turf, and dug up long forgotten toys to stash in her safe space.

The Bangkok street dog was unsure how to be a "pet," so she eyed my other dogs (the cats, not so much): Liberty, a beagle; Mandy, a Lhasa Apso; and Ethel, a 1.5 year-old Lhasa mix, horribly killed by a speeding car just weeks after Mabel arrived.

Despite this unbearable loss — that still brings sorrow unlike any I've known — Mabel evolved into a lovely Basenji mix with deer-like grace and soulful eyes. I am her anchor between two vastly different worlds, yet she is patient with my despair. In bed each night, she coils her lanky limbs into a tiny snuggle ball.

Her personality continues to emerge. Mabel dances and springs when happy. She enjoys stir-fry (a veg-protein-rice dish Thai volunteers made for animals). Mabel is a daily reminder why Kinship Circle travels halfway around the world to reach animal disaster victims. Each one is a story, filled with intimate detail and great capacity to love.

Mabel and Kinship Circle director Brenda Shoss reunite at the airport when Sister Michael Marie arrives with her from Bangkok. Photo (c) Kinship Circle, Thailand Flood

Waiting to go home. (c) Kinship Circle, Thailand 2012

SCAD Operations Director Matt Backhouse and his wife Lindsay, Operations Manager, updated Brenda as she waited for Mabel: Mabel plays well with other cats and dogs, scrunches between them on the sofa, and does her business outdoors. She is brighter, stronger and more energetic than a month ago, when rescued with a dislocated pelvis. Photo: Thailand Flood 2012 / Wendy Edney

Mabel spent her last Thailand weeks at SCAD's shelter, where rescues moved after the flood shelter closed in early January. (c) Kinship Circle, Thailand 2012 / Sister Michael Marie

Anxious (and still underweight) Mabel takes cover in the folds of Sister Michael Marie's habit, before snoozing while they await export papers. (c) Kinship Circle, Thailand Flood 2012

Mabel bids farewell to the only land she's ever known, in the arms of SCAD Foundation founder Wendy Edney at the Bangkok airport. At a layover in Narita, Japan, with Kinship Circle's Sister Michael, an earthquake struck! Photo (c) Kinship Circle, Thailand Flood 2012 / Sister Michael Marie
From The Other Side Of The World

She is a "Thai Soi Dog Mix," maybe a bit beagle with the fawn-like build and pointy ears of a Basenji. Rescuers found her on a bridge over floodwaters with a dislocated pelvis, possibly from swift debris as she paddled to higher ground. The dog cried out in pain. She could not move much and would have died from starvation and dehydration if not found.

I met the skeletal girl in Thailand with Kinship Circle for animal flood aid. She stared through crate bars into a crowded shelter, her eyes fixed on volunteers who walked, fed, watered, medicated and cared for hundreds of animals.

Her chart said "dislocated pelvis" and "do not walk." Her thin body revealed an asymmetrical pelvis. A Thai veterinarian manipulated her head of femur bone back into its socket. But it quickly dislodged. She endured chronic pain.

The dog and I negotiated the least painful position for carrying her out to pee. She told me in growls and snaps: "Do not put pressure on my back legs." With her head relaxed against my shoulder one day, I thought she needed a name. "Mabel" came to mind. I whispered the name in her ear. It seemed to fit.

Soon I noticed "Mabel" penciled in over the ID number on her chart. And so, Mabel she became.

Love comes in many forms. People prefer to compartmentalize it as romantic, parental, maternal… The love between a human and nonhuman animal is often marginalized. How then, can it be so powerful?
I don't know exactly when I began to love Mabel, but do recall that I gave her extra walks and a Thai tea cookie at bedtime each night.

When in the field on food and rescue runs, we sometimes returned to the shelter late at night. I worried about Mabel's bedtime ritual amid tired
volunteers craving food and showers. Everyone wanted to get the day's rescues settled and head back to the hotel. Meanwhile, I scrounged for tea cookies in the dark. Eventually I kept some in my pocket at all times.

During my last few days in Thailand, I noticed Mabel's face brighten. The listless look gave way to an alert countenance, as if she finally saw a chance for something better in her hard life. When I approached, she got all wiggly and waggy-tailed.

On departure day, I'd planned to stop by the shelter on the way to the airport. I never made it. Business matters — a driver and lodging for incoming teams, funds for the rest of the deployment… — stole every minute. We had to leave or risk a missed flight. I felt unusually sad.

In the last two years, Kinship Circle has deployed to Chile, Brazil and Japan. We always align with a local rescue group for international animal aid. In Thailand, we worked with SCAD (Soi/Street Cats and Dogs Bangkok) Foundation and Save Elephant Foundation. These folks are among the nicest, most sincere, skilled and devoted we've met anywhere in the world. And very funny. Lots of laughs and bonding. It keeps you going.

So I assigned my tears to all the leaving — Mabel, new friends and colleagues, the disaster itself and so many more animals in need. I cried from Bangkok to Hong Kong. Then I realized: I miss Mabel. Too much.

A second thought occurred to me: My husband will go ballistic if I bring a seventh animal into the home herd. So I waited until his plane headset blocked sound and phoned Matt, SCAD Operations Director and head of the flood shelter. "Matt, I am in Hong Kong and really sorry we couldn't stop by for goodbyes…Is Mabel okay? Has she asked about me?" I blubbered.

"You know," Matt replied, "SCAD does adoptions to the states all the time."

In that moment on the tarmac in Hong Kong I knew one thing. When love is real, take it. Corny, yes, but valid nonetheless. If I fell for every animal encountered as an animal rights activist and rescuer, I'd be a hoarder. Caring for four dogs, three cats and a young son while running Kinship Circle is intense.

But Mabel is…well, Mabel. A tiny heart from the other side of the world — a love I can not live without.

Leaving The Only Land She's Ever Known

Mabel had much to do before a nearly 9,000 mile journey from Thailand to the U.S.

She accompanied SCAD's Matt and Lindsay to the vet for health certificates. Days later she got export papers with Sister Michael Marie from the Department of Livestock Development airport office. Sister is a Kinship Circle disaster responder and vet tech on her second trip for Thai animal aid.

Sister writes: "At the airport, Mabel was a bit nervous and I carried her down the hallway. The rest of the time she pressed into my leg and somehow folded herself into my habit! The Livestock Export Division head examined her briefly and asked about her breed. I used the term in her papers, 'mix.'"

"The vet grinned knowingly, 'Ah! Thai Soi Dog Mix'To Americans, this sounds quite grand. Eventually Mabel fell asleep on the waiting room floor — even dreaming, with her legs and ears twitching."

Mabel Is Home

Sister and Mabel departed from Suvarnabhumi Int'l Airport in Bangkok on a typically hot, sunny day in Thailand. At their first layover in Narita, Japan, an earthquake shook the ground, perhaps an aftershock from the 7.0 quake here on New Year's Day.

After the longest in-flight stretch, Sister greeted groggy Mabel in customs at Chicago O'Hare Int'l Airport. Then Mabel experienced a first-ever: A blast of frigid, wintry air.

Fortunately, SCAD Foundation sent a fleece-lined doggie vest decorated with an Australian flag, General Manager Wendy Edney's home country. Mabel is so fashion-forward!

By 6:30 that evening, Kinship Circle director Brenda Shoss and her son Elijah eagerly waited for Sister in baggage claim at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Several sandwich cream cookies were stashed in Brenda's pocket. Not the exact Thai tea cookies, but close enough thanks to Three Dog Bakery.
Mabel was disoriented when wheeled in from United Airlines' freight area. The rush of smells? Elated to hear Sister's voice? Surprised to see Brenda? Whatever the reason, Mabel began to scream. A loud, skinny dog with a big pink bow (courtesy of Sister in honor of Brenda's birthday).

People gathered as Brenda said, "She's from Thailand. Never seen America or felt cold weather…rescued from floods." Ah, onlookers nodded, as if this were cause to shriek. Brenda's vet believes she is part Basenji, a breed with unique Scooby-Doo style vocalizations.
Mabel feels her first cold temps outside Chicago O'Hare airport. A leg that extends from a dislocated pelvis bears no weight. She is in pain from flood trauma. When stronger, Mabel will have surgery to remove her femoral head. (c) Kinship Circle, Thailand Flood 2012 / Sister Michael Marie

Sad Mabel is a much happier girl nearly two months after Kinship Circle Field Response Manager Ron Presley snapped this photo at the emergency flood shelter in Bangkok. Photo (c) Kinship Circle, Thailand Flood 2012 / Ron Presley

"Mabel" Means I Matter

How am I here? This strange barking place. Canopies and bamboo. Table after table. Strange stuff, these bottle, needles, rolls. So many people. Serious but kind.

They are at my cage. Gentle hands. But, ouch! My back leg doesn't work. Wobbly. I remember running fast. I dodged cars. Looked for high places over water, the bridges. Didn't think about my legs then. But now pain shoots out my right hip. And the leg doesn't fit. Like it's stuck to me, but not mine.

The hands that help me are friendly and careful. I hear words: "Dislocated pelvis. Veterinarian popped back into place…Slipping…No muscle, fibrous tissue to support the leg…"

A lady who comes here a lot calls me "Mabel." No one ever said that before. It makes me happy to hear the sound of Ma-bel wedged into all that noise. Cries, barks, whimpers, voices…then: Mabel.

It means she'll open my cage. When she first tried to lift me, I got mad. It hurt. I had to show her. So I growled and got snappy. That way, she knew what positions hurt. Now, she cradles my upper body against her chest so that my legs dangle freely. No bending or pressure. We figured that part out.

She carries me to the grass so I can do my business. And she kisses my face while we walk. Weird. No one ever did that. But it makes me feel good. At first pee-poops were quick. Now she stays with me longer each time. She lays me down in my cage, but strokes my chin from noise to ears. Just right. I fix my eyes on hers. This is my way to thank her for attention in this busy, loud place.
mabel is rescued from floods and comes to USA
I ran from the water. I had to then. And I looked for food. But I am small, so bigger dogs got the scraps. There wasn't much to begin with. People are gone. The old food places are soggy. Dark water everywhere. I just kept moving. Till the back part of me finally caved. So hard to get up. I dragged along, best I could.

I am away from the water now. At this place with so many dogs and a few cats. Most cats are at a different shelter, which is perfectly fine with me. Dogs look hungry, tired, sick or hurt like me. The voices seem to be about us. Each day: Food, water, walks, medicines. They write on paper that hangs from our cages. Voices, footsteps…containers open and close, trucks, cars. A hum that never stops. And then, Mabel. A bump in the noise.

Mabel. The sound feels warm like food in my belly. I lift my head when she speaks to me. Mabel means I matter.

Thailand Photo Diary

Jan-Feb 2012, Brenda Shoss
Jan 2012, Sister Michael Marie
Jan 2012, Wendy Edney
Nov-Dec 2011, Cara Blome
All thumbnails click to full size photos.


Photo (C) Kinship Circle. Thailand Flood 2011-12
See all flood images in field reports!

Or, visit our Thailand Flood Photo Gallery.

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