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I just this morning returned to a piece I had to set aside in late November and was at the section that talks about how empathetic elephants are. And I was just about to write about this retired circus elephant on a sanctuary in Tennessee who developed an inseparable friendship eight years ago with a little white stray dog named Bella. Last October 26, Bella was attacked by coyotes, who were driven off by Tarra, but Bella was mortally wounded, and Tarra lifted her up with her trunk like a grieving mother and carried her home, to the place near the barn several miles away where they had hung out.

But before getting into it, I decided to step outside for a smoke and I checked the mailbox and there was a letter from Rhoda Russell, an elderly woman in Austin, Texas, I’ve become pals with as a result of my Vanity Fair piece on elephants and the ivory trade. Rhoda is totally devoted to animal welfare. Every penny she can spare she sends to primate elephant and other wildlife conservation groups. “The world of people who care about all on this earth is really vast,” she wrote last year in a package in which she had enclosed a video by the Cheetah Conservation Fund. “Only those who destroy are even more vast. However, we do what we can all the time.” What a wonderful human being !

This time there’s only a letter, but Rhoda has enclosed a write-up about Tarra’s loving treatment of the dying Bella, which I had found on the Internet but have misplaced the printout. Talk about serendipity ! I call Rhoda and tell her about the amazing coincidence, and she says, “Well maybe we’re both part elephant.”

When you open yourself up to the kinship of all living things, the transmissions that are really going on across species, space and time and our individual identity, the particular body we happen to be in, become meaningless, and anything can happen. Nothing surprises me any more.


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