Belligerent Old Ladies?

Posted by – June 28, 2006

I had a bad dream about an elephant a couple of weeks ago.* I’ve had a couple of dreams in a row about not being able to keep animals safe (another one involving a calico cat), if anyone feels the need to be Freud – and after this one I woke up haunted by the idea of unhappy, angry elephants. I’ve always liked elephants – they’re peaceful, smart, social, familial. They talk to each other, and they’re otherwise playful and peaceful, even in the most extraordinary circumstances. As a way of purging my bad dream, I started wondering if there was anything I could do, and I came upon www.elephants.com, which is the website of The Elephant Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary takes in old circus elephants. It can only take females (because males don’t socialize with others), but it gives them free range, good food, and a safe warm place to sleep. Plus, friends – the other elephants, dogs and cats, their caretakers.

Elephants occasionally get labeled “dangerous” like Topsy did – usually when they have the good sense to smack down a mean trainer or two – and Winkie was one of the ones who did. At upwards of 7000 lbs., “aggressive” can mean “fatal” in an elephant. But since she’s retired, she’s been entirely peaceful, with no signs of aggressive behavior. There was just something about her story that speaks to me, so I thought I’d share it.

They keep blogs of the doings at the Sanctuary – both African & Asian – and it can be pretty heart-warming reading. I just really love the idea of these formerly cramped, chained-to-a-post, performing animals laying around, taking baths, eating berries, and occasionally chasing dogs (a game for both the dogs and the elephants, apparently). Like there’s some justice in the world, sometimes, for at least a lucky few.

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* The dream was a result of my having discovered the sad and unjust execution of Topsy the Elephant. Please don’t read the story at all if you’re fond of elephants, REALLY. I’m warning you. Her story has haunted me for three years, since I first read about the memorial to her at Coney Island. The short, leaving-out-the-gruesome-details part of the story is: badly-treated performing elephant kills three men and is electrocuted by the famous Edison, who was trying to prove that his form of eletricity was safer.

3 Comments on Belligerent Old Ladies?

  1. SavoyTruffle says:

    I didn’t know about the elephant; I had heard about Edison’s demonstrations with strays, in which he attempted to show how much more dangerous Westinghouse’s AC current system was compared to the DC system he tried to sell NY.

  2. SavoyTruffle says:

    in any case, yeah. Gruesome and heartless demonstrations.

  3. silvertongue says:

    It’s so funny that you would mention that today – I just finished reading “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen and this story was mentioned as one of the reasons she wrote the book. It’s an interesting (fictional, but based on fact) story of life inside a traveling circus from a veterinarian’s POV – definitely worth a read, I enjoyed it very much.

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