Adopting Ellie From Thailand

When my husband and I went on our honeymoon to Thailand, we had high hopes to be a flight volunteer for a dog that needed a home back in the States.

We had no intentions of adopting another dog because back home, we had our funny-eared, loving, playful, handsome Benji guy. He was trained, easy going and life was perfect for the three of us. But little did we know, life had a little twist in store.

Benji, 4 years old

We had decided to spend a week volunteering at The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai for our first week of our honeymoon. This place was really the dream volunteer project for me; one full week helping rescued elephants, and in our spare time we could walk the rescued dogs and puppies. In hindsight, my husband really should have known what he was getting himself into.

View of the morning walk on the sanctuary

Jonathan and I had a break one day between work for the elephants and decided to go help out the dogs. They have over 400 dogs that have been rescued from all over. Many have come from puppy mills and the dog meat trade, they also have stray dogs, surrendered dogs, and dogs from various other rescue missions.

Needless to say, each and every one of them needs a good walk and socialization with as many people possible. I was happy I was making a difference for these dog’s during the days we were there. I wanted them to feel wanted and loved, even if it was just for our 20-minute walk.

Jonathan and a paraplegic dog awaiting his walk in his custom wheelchair

I fell in love with pretty much every dog that I met at the sanctuary, but the moment I saw my little Ellie (then polka) I knew she was meant to be my baby. A dog walking volunteer had been walking Ellie and her brother Limbo when I first saw my little polka dotted, curly tailed, wiggle bum.

I felt an instant connection with this puppy; she was very shy, extremely quiet, super soft, and so little she couldn’t have been more than 12 pounds at the time. She would just melt into our laps like a little Hershey’s cookies and cream bar and watch the elephants go by even if it was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ellie, 3 months

That day we learned that she and her two brothers were found hiding in a drain at a Thai military camp, where they were planning to poison all the dogs.

The Elephant Nature Park Dog Project rescued almost 30 dogs from that mission that day but there were no signs of their mother. As far as we knew she and her brothers were born strays and had been without a mother as early as 2 months old.

Jonathan walking Ellie and her brother Limbo

A couple days later, and many convincing conversations later, Jonathan had agreed we could to apply to adopt her. (It also helped that all the other volunteers pressured him to get her too, thank you guys!!)

Soon enough, we got the exciting news that she was ours and she would be arriving home only 3 days after we got home!

Ellie sitting on Jonathan’s lap at The Elephant Nature Park in Thailand

Was it hard to adopt her?

Not at all, I mean look at her! Who wouldn’t want her? Okay seriously- no the actual logistical part of the adoption process and the transportation was very easy. And that’s the question we get all the time.

“How did you bring a dog back from Thailand?”

The Elephant Nature Park Dog Project took care of everything. They have the best coordinator, Sabrina, and a veterinarian clinic that took care of her. The veterinarians spayed and micro chipped her, and gave her all the necessary shots and documentation she needed to come home. From there, Sabrina coordinated a fantastic flight volunteer to get her to us. All of this was under $600 USD.

Ellie waiting to get on the plane to her new home. Photo credit: The Elephant Nature Park Dog Project

Was it an easy adjustment period?

Yes and no. Just like any normal puppy we needed to have patience with potty training, the incessant need to chew, vet visits, and overall training. But, Ellie came to us scared, confused, and very afraid of people.

She had a lot of mental trauma because of her rough beginning, and for weeks she would only let me touch her, put a leash on her, or even be around her. No one else (even my husband) could come near her, she would run away, bark, pee and poop herself, and hide out of fear.

We had to be extremely mindful of moving slowly when we were around her, staying calm, being very gentle, and being very patient. If I am being honest, Benji played a huge part in her adjustment.

I am so thankful that we had Benji first, because he is such a friendly boy and she just adored Benji from the start. She trusted him, his judgment and because of that she slowly became less afraid, more playful, more confident, so incredibly loyal, and the best little snuggler.

Benji and Ellie

Ellie Now

I watch Ellie now, running around, playing like a normal puppy at the dog park, making friends, snuggling with me and my husband, and getting so excited to see her family she wiggles her bum.

I can’t help but look at her and feel like I am important in this life because I helped create that happiness and love. And yes, sometimes it is hard and she can be difficult. She is still scared of a lot of things in this world and I don’t blame her. But I love her anyway and she knows that we are forever hers.

Ellie, 6 months

In the short two months we have had Ellie, she has taught me to be happy and love without limits regardless of what has happened in the past. She is so loved and will be for the rest of her life. I know that I may have not made a huge impact in this world, but when I look at that little face, I know that I made a huge difference to her. And that is what life is really about.

Me and Ellie at The Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

“You may find that making a difference for others makes the biggest difference in you.” – Brian Williams


If you’d like to watch Ellie grow, and see all the adventures in store alongside her brother Benji, following along on Instagram! @benjiandtheelliebellie

Alexandria Ronzio
Alexandria Ronzio

Rescue Dog Resources

Former Team USA Senior Pair Skater, Proud Dog Mom of 2 Rescue Pups, Wife, and Frequent Traveler

1 Comment
  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with Ellie. My husband and I also visited the elephant sanctuary and were amazed how well they were taking care of the elephants.
    Look forward to seeing you on the ice!

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