I found myself catching the end of the Nature 25-year retrospective on PBS tonight, with a story about Shirley the elephant. Confined for her past 22 years in the small, but caring Louisiana Purchase Zoo, Shirley was absent the companionship of her kind.
Finally, upon realization that they were doing her more harm than good, the caregivers at the zoo decided to free her to a wide-open sanctuary two states away in Tennessee, where Shirley was coincidentally reunited with a friend, Jenny, from a circus some four decades previous. Against all probability, the two recognized each other. The force of shared emotion in the reunion was so great that the two spent that first night trying so hard to get to each other that they bent the massive steel bars of the gate that separated them, something none of the caregivers had ever seen nor heard of in all their years.
At long last, a sanctuary worker managed to pry the gates apart and the two collided upon each other with great adoration and showering of physical affection. Images followed of the two walking step in step across the sprawling fields, lying and splashing in the small ponds dotting its landscape, and generally just being happy in each others’ company.
Goes to show you, as much as we might think moments are deep in our past, there are moments, places, and others that simply never escape our recall.
I’m not much of an animal lover, but I’m a lover of love, and that was as powerful a display as any I’ve seen.
Sadly, Jenny passed away in October of last year. Found on the sanctuary’s website was this portion of the eulogy on her passing.
At 6:35PM CST, on October 17, with her family at her side, Jenny’s breathing slowed and became shallow. She released a deep guttural sound from the base of her trunk, bringing Bunny and Tarra immediately to her side. Shirley had moved away, painfully sensing that Jenny’s death was very near; her sorrow was heavy. To lose Jenny for a second time was more than Shirley could bear.