Thanksgiving is a day that is essentially ‘assigned’ for people to be thankful. Which is somewhat strange, but it does give individuals a reason to verbalize some of the wonderful occurrences, beings, and people in their lives. We are very far from home, in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and with it being 82 degrees out, it certainly doesn’t feel like what we remember Thanksgiving feeling like- but our hearts are still grateful.
There have been many times in our careers when we look around at our situation and just laugh. Working for animals isn’t glamorous or financially prosperous. Whether elephants, dogs, or bears, when you truly dedicate your emotional and physical being to their care it’s exhausting, dirty, and on some days heartbreaking. You sacrifice a lot, but what you can give back to those you care for makes it unquestionably worth it.
We are beyond thankful for the time we have been able to spend in the presence of elephants and for playing even the most miniscule role in their healing (they themselves are genuinely responsible for most of it). As anyone who spends time around elephants knows, nothing compares. There is something incredibly awe inspiring just being in their presence. We talk about how they put us to shame sometimes and people laugh, but it’s true. They are incredibly giving- they will sacrifice themselves by giving up whatever is needed for the well-being of a herd mate. We watched Sissy give up time with the other elephants to be able to comfort Winkie, we saw Misty give up wandering further distances when Delhi’s feet would not allow, and we watched Shirley give up her meal if Jenny was hungry enough to eat both of theirs that night. They are the most selfless beings we have known. Their capacity to forgive is just as deep. Somehow, they can forgive decades of abuse and neglect, and learn to let yet another human into their lives, hoping that this time they will not get hurt. They have no ego and no judgment, just an open compassionate spirit that is loving and supportive beyond words. And we, very humbly, get to share their space and try to return to them the dignity that was taken away so long ago.
If this blessing wasn’t enough, we are also graced with those who believe in us, in the healing sanctuary brings, and support our work, making it possible to give captive elephants a second chance at life. There are many who have known us for years and trust our intentions and abilities explicitly, but there are also new faces who are just awakening to the reality of captive elephants and finding their voice. Captive elephants need all of you to change their future. Through donations, education, advocacy, and sharing, we are all part of a positive tomorrow for elephants around the globe.
And on a more personal level, I am eternally grateful for being able to experience this journey with my husband and partner. It is hard to accept the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week schedule that those of us who do this kind of work, keep. This work is a dedication of your life, and to do the elephants justice, it needs to be. It is impossible to convey to another human being the depth that this work touches your soul and how it shapes who you are, unless they too have been there. To have that hand to hold, while sisters mourn the passing of a herd mate, or while watching an elephant that has been alone for 40 years sleep with another elephants standing guard over her, has an immeasurable value and brings an emotional completeness to it all.
So, on this day of thanks, we express our gratitude to the elephants, to those in our community who have also dedicated their being to helping all elephants, and to you. Captive elephants are in desperate need of a better life and with all of us working together, it will happen.