Touching Story about Shirley the Elephant

August 19, 2008 – 3:09 pm

elephantIn the world of corruption, not-so-nice people, and evil empires, its heartwarming to hear  stories of friendship and love that exists in the animal kingdom.

Shirley, an Asian elephant, was adopted by a small Louisiana Zoo from a Circus when she was 30. After 22 years of care at the Zoo, with no contact with any other elephants, the Zoo decided to let her go to a nearby elephant sanctuary so she can socialize with other elephants.

The tearful goodbye between the trainer and Shirley tugs at your heartstrings. But even more so, Shirley reunites with an old elephant friend, Jenny. Almost 23 years prior, Shirley and another elephant, Jenny, had worked together for only a few weeks in the circus and Shirley had been like a surrogate mother to the then baby Jenny. In their reunion at the sanctuary, its apparent they remember each other and their bond is reestablished.

Sadly, a 10 years later, Jenny became ill and passed:

When she grew too weak to roam the hills and hollows, Jenny trundled toward a shady valley, found some soft, beaten-down underbrush, and lay down. Shirley stood vigil night and day, using her trunk to help her friend to rise and even shift her weight. Also by Jenny’s side were two other sanctuary friends, Tarra and Bunny. At one point, the four spent three hours vocalizing and trumpeting—the vibrations felt by every living being in the sanctuary. In all her years of working with animals, Buckley had never seen anything like this joy-filled celebration of Jenny’s life.

The next day, October 17, 2006, the great animals continued their vocalizing. There was nothing urgent in their song. It was soothing. Still, it was too much for Shirley. About to lose Jenny for the second time, she retreated to a nearby hill to grieve alone. In her absence, Bunny and Tarra comforted Jenny by stroking her. They rested like that for some time, Bunny calmly answering each of Jenny’s rumbles with a crescendo trumpet, while Tarra accompanied the duo with high-pitched chirps. That evening, at the age of 36—young for an elephant—Jenny died. Tarra and Bunny stayed at her side through the night. But whereas Jenny’s suffering had ended, Shirley’s began.

Elephants wear their hearts on their trunks, as it were, so it was easy to tell that Shirley was not coping well with Jenny’s death—her shoulders slumped, her eyes were half shut and her trunk dragged on the ground. She wasn’t eating or vocalizing. She was depressed. Bunny followed her to the hill, where the two stayed for days before finally returning to the barn. There, a new arrival had made her presence felt. Another circus outcast, Misty is a gregarious bundle of energy who literally jumps for joy. Even Shirley couldn’t ignore her raucous spinning and loud, jubilant trumpeting. With her spirits restored, Shirley, the oldest and largest elephant at the sanctuary, began to eat and play, and even picked her trunk off the ground. She was backwith the herd, where she belonged

-Readers Digest

Shirley still lives happily at the sanctuary with her other surrogate elephant family members.

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