In our cruel, clinical and impersonal world, where we no longer communicate with each other in person and rely on IMs and Blackberrys to convey our emotions, may we present to you the glorious examples that are Tarra and Bella. These are animals, not humans.
So why do act more humanely than many humans I know? How is it possible that a bond between two entirely different species of animals can transcend well, a lot, and also remind us that some things simply may have no explanation. Living beings are who they are, with emotional cores and beating hearts, and yet animals, like human beings, also require love and affection to sustain each other. Each experiences emotions –the longing, the hurt, the magical power of contact. There are mortals who could stand to watch this and reflect on just how far removed they seem from their lives (and from other humans) each day. They hide behind computer screens and believe that what they are expressing are real emotions, when in fact all these technological gadgets and media make us overcompensate, both in positive (“I love you!”) and negative (“F*** you!”) ways. And yet, really nothing can replace a “hello”, a hug, a set of friendly, welcoming eyes, a pat on the back.
I invite all of you to watch the following video clip and I defy you not to be affected by what Tarra and Bella, an elephant and a dog, portray in what appears to be a simple, yet profoundly meaningful relationship. This clip appeared on the CBS Evening News on January 3 and has been making the rounds in the cybersphere, recently picked up on the Entertainment Weekly website.
The reporter, Steve Hartman, is a sorta-Charles Kuralt-in-training, producing gentle and sometimes witty (like his colleague at CBS, Bill Geist) human-interest stories that tend to close the evening newscasts. You know the ones: the grandma who goes back to school at 77, the plucky teenager who is battling cancer, etc. This story goes far beyond anything Hartman has done, and to his credit, it is the way he presents the story, and some miraculous moments, that completely drive this very much a human-interest story into the stratosphere.
The story takes place in Hohenwald, Tenn. Where Tarra, an 8700-lb Asian elephant has been sent to an elephant sanctuary –you know, where pachyderms spend their final years. We learn that there are a lot of elephants there and that elephants like companionship –we see many elephants paired up with another. But not Tarra. Her companion happens to be Bella, a stray dog that enjoys the company of an animal many more times her size, for one thing. They spend all their time together, just like friends would.
Now the kicker. Bella got sick, suffering a spinal cord injury that laid her up, motionless for a little while. As Hartman deftly explains, she couldn’t “even wag her tail”. We then see Tarra literally standing near where her friend was, leaning against a fence next to a balcony where Bella lay still, waiting for her to get better. The wait is heartbreaking. Tarra has “2,700 acres in which to roam” but for three weeks she held vigil. She surely sensed that her friend was sick. Like a gentle friend, she stood by her side.
Wait –there is more. Try to stifle your emotions when you see the immobile Bella being brought out, crying out to Tarra because the two simply needed each other, they needed to have a moment to connect, to say everything was going to be all right. You won’t be able to. Go ahead –let it all out. It was the first time Bella had wagged her tail again. Bella eventually recovered, and all is well with these two entirely different but completely gentle friends. And these words make it all that more profound:
They harbor no fears, no secrets, no prejudices. Just two living creatures who somehow managed to look past their immense differences.
To my close friends who mean the world to me, I dedicate this moving story. I may get too busy, or too impersonal in the way I connect with you, but really this tremendously moving example of friendship and honest affection is what it’s all about. It’s what our lives aspire to be, and our need to preserve the human contact we constantly crave. As humans, we still have much to learn.