Tarra the Elephant and Bella the Dog: Best Friends Forever!
Veterinarian Reviewed on June 11, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Everyone knows that true friendship knows no boundaries. The same holds true for best friends Tarra and Bella. However, what is unique about their friendship is that Tarra is an 8,700 pound Asian elephant and Bella is a mixed breed dog!
Both animals live at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, where every elephant roams around in two’s; usually with another elephant at their side. But not Tarra! Her best friend is a dog.
Co-Founder of the Elephant Sanctuary, Carol Buckley, explains: “Every elephant that comes here searches out someone that she then spends most all of her time with.”
Almost like having a best girlfriend, Buckley says: “Somebody they can relate to, they have something in common with.”
The only thing that Tarra and Bella have in common though is the fact that they both have four legs, a tail, and that they live at the Elephant Sanctuary. Apparently size doesn’t matter to these two friends. The trust between the two is so great that Bella even allows Tarra to pet her little, furry tummy with her big, enormous foot!
Buckley explains the unique friendship by simply stating that Bella is Tarra’s friend.
“Her friend just happens to be a dog and not an elephant. Bella knows she’s not an elephant. Tarra knows she’s not a dog. But that’s not a problem for them.”
“When it’s time to eat they both eat together. They drink together. They sleep together. They play together,” Buckley says.
Although Tarra and Bella had been close friends for quite a few years, no one at the Elephant Sanctuary really knew how close the two were until Bella became ill.
Whilst out chasing wildlife on the Sanctuary grounds, Bella suffered a spinal injury and subsequently spent a few weeks laying immobile in the barn office. Bella wasn’t able to move her legs or even wag her tail. Instead, she just lay motionless up in the sanctuary office.
During the second week of Bella’s recovery, Tarra came back to the barn and remained standing quietly under the office’s balcony window.
Buckley said that, “She just stood outside the balcony – just stood there and waited. She was concerned about her friend.”
Then the Sanctuary’s other co-founder, Scott Blais, gently picked Bella up and carried her onto the office’s balcony so that the two friends could see each other. Almost immediately, Bella had a positive reaction!
Blais explained that: “Bella’s tail started wagging. And we had no choice but to bring Bella down to see Tarra.”
He took her down to where Tarra was patiently standing vigil and continued to do so every day until Bella was able to walk on her own again and return to the Sanctuary grounds to walk alongside Tarra.
The Elephant Sanctuary is home to about 17 female, Asian and African Elephants that are now retired from a life of entertainment, circus shows, zoo’s and other forms of life in captivity. The Sanctuary sits on 2,700 acres in Hohenwald, Tennessee, with the Asian habitat being 2200 acres, the African habitat being 300 acres, and the Quarantine facility being 200 acres.
The Sanctuary is a non-profit organization that is accredited by The Association of Sanctuaries and is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. It is also the nation’s largest natural habitat refuge that was specifically designed to care for endangered African and Asian elephants.
Founded in 1995 after retiring her elephant, Tarra, from the entertainment world, Carol Buckley and Scott Blais opened The Elephant Sanctuary to initially care for sick, old and needy Asian Elephants. They have since extended their care to include African Elephants as well.
According to The Elephant Sanctuary website:
The Elephant Sanctuary exists for two reasons:
*To provide a haven for old, sick or needy elephants in a setting of green pastures, dense forests, spring-fed ponds and heated barns for cold winter nights.
*To provide education about the crisis facing these social, sensitive, passionately intense, playful, complex, exceedingly intelligent and endangered creatures.
As a non-profit, The Elephant Sanctuary looks to volunteers and supporters to help keep the Sanctuary going. It currently costs $125,000 to keep the Sanctuary going annually.
You can help out by pledging to feed Lottie, Minnie, Ronnie, Debbie, Frieda, Liz, Billie, Tarra, Shirley, Bunny, Sissy, Winkie, Dulary, Misty, Tange or Flora, “In Barbara’s, Lota’s, Tina’s, Jenny’s, Queenie’s, Zula’s or Delhi’s Memory.” for one day for $30.
Or you can feed two elephants for one day for $60 or all 17 elephants for one day for a mere $540.
Other ways to help is to become a yearly member of The Elephant Sanctuary, send donations of gift items that the Sanctuary needs and has listed on their Gift List, or shop their Gift Shop online.
Photo Credit: Elephants.com
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan