27 July 2006

Patsy the Elephant

This image is from The Toronto Star - www.thestar.com

The death of Patsy the elephant was actually front page news in the Toronto Star yesterday. She was 40 years old and had to be put down primarily because of arthritis caused injuries that she'd suffered from fights with another elephant. In the article, they discuss how the zoo keepers left Patsy in the pen in order for the other elephants to know that she wasn't coming back and pay their respects by touching her with their trunks and tusks and feet.

I started to fall in love with elephants when I heard two things. One was a description of Muhammad Ali, "he's like a sleeping elephant. You can do anything to an elephant but when it finally gets mad it tramples everything in it's path. " I love that image. I can relate to it. Keep pushing me and then whatever I do to you is your own fault.

The other thing that made me love elephants was finding out through a documentary that all the women elephants take care of the babies. I always believed that if my mother and all my aunts continued to live on the same street like they did when all of us children were little, they would have had an easier time raising us. When we all lived on Decarie Boulevard in Montreal, if one of our aunts caught us doing bad, that aunt would discipline us. They were beatings in those days, mind you, but we all knew the street had eyes.

I most recently watched another elephant documentary on angry elephant attacks. Elephants around the world have either been attacking their trainers or in India, I believe it was, come running down a path and trample a man to death. As they got more into depth about the elephant attacks, you learn that just like with other animals, we are encroaching on their space. We're killing their babies for eating our gardens or coming in our back yards. And the adults are retaliating. In this documentary as well they discussed how elephants will touch the carcass of an elephant and mourn its death. It was beautiful. It was about their connection to each other. The kind of connection humans are supposed to have. The kind of connection all living things are supposed to have.

What inspired me about the article is that it is one instance of showing people that animals have their place here too. We are not the rulers of this planet. We have to find a way to share it with the animals. We have to pay attention to bear attacks and foxes running down the street and elephants needing to mourn in their special way.

It's funny how the discussions have been about how human like the elephants are. We want to humanize the animals when maybe we need to realize that we do things like animals.

The latest thing that I love about elephants is that the two elephants that had altercations with Patsy did not go over to her to pay their respects because they still had hard feelings. No bullshit like humans. No pretending that Patsy was a proud elephant, she was a great elephant, like humans say about people who've died that they hated. Instead their attitude was, "we fought with her and we're still mad at her."

Okay I had to humanize them myself!

My friend told me recently, after I shared my anecdotes about all that I've heard about elephants, that if you blow into an elephants trunk it will remember you for a life time. How inspiring is that?


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