Delving into my photo box today I chanced upon these pictures and as there is a tale to tell about them, I give it to you here.
Once upon a time in Thailand, there was a baby bear who, for a short time, lived near a friend of mine with a couple who had been looking after it since it was found wandering near a village. They were kind to the bear but as it grew older it became unmanageable and they were at a loss to know what to do with it.
In Western Europe we can approach a zoo or an animal theme park to ask for help but there was no such thing in Thailand at that time (I’m thinking it was around the 1970’s because it was about then that I first started to visit there). So my friend adopted the bear and looked after it as well as she could on her large acreage but eventually, she had to find another home for it.
So the bear went to live in a Temple.
Monks in Thailand look after any animal that is no longer wanted (Buddhism holds all life sacred), and the bear, although probably larger than anything they had taken in before, found a home with them. He had to be kept chained up for most of the time, but he was taken out for walks every day and didn’t want for company. A sad life we may think, but there was no alternative at that time, and he was treated kindly.
What the bear looked forward to were the visits of my friend once or twice a week when her work permitted. She always arrived with his favourite food, condensed milk, which she fed to him out of the tin – he could scoff 3 tins of the stuff in one visit – and some apples.
I accompanied her a few times but I never had the nerve to approach too closely, she had a special bond with the animal but I felt our acquaintanceship didn’t go back far enough for him to embrace me with the gentleness he did her. OK, I was a coward.
The animal lived for over 30 years and was a placid old bear right to the end. The monks were very fond of him and he had a good rapport with some regular visitors, and he always showed affection towards her when she went to see him.
I suppose she was the nearest thing he had to a parent.
Animals in captivity are not something we like to think about, but I felt that this bear had a good life (just look at that glossy coat) and he was treated with dignity and respect because the monks had him in their care. There were alternatives but you can guess how awful they were. So, a Happy Bear Story, I hope.
The End ….