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Tarra the Elephant Still Mourns Loss of Her Friend

Visits the grave of Bella the dog at Elephant Sanctuary

When Bella the dog died at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, last week, it was the end of a long friendship.

Eight years ago, when the stray mutt was first spotted on the grounds of the sanctuary, she attached herself to Tarra, one of the elephants.

Last year, Carol Buckley, founder and former President of the Elephant Sanctuary, talked about the unusual friendship.
“When it’s time to eat they both eat together,” she said. “They drink together. They sleep together. They play together.”

When Bella suffered a spinal cord injury and couldn’t move her back legs or wag her tail, she spent weeks lying motionless in the sanctuary office. And Tarra spent weeks holding vigil for her. Instead of roaming the thousands of sanctuary, she simply stood all day beside a gate, right outside that office.

Here’s what happened next, in a CBS news story by Steve Hartman last year:

The pair spent much of their time together, including sleepovers for Bella at Tarra’s barn. Last week, sanctuary caregivers found Bella lying motionless at the barn. But that wasn’t where she’d died. Now in her senior years, Bella had apparently been killed, probably by coyotes, out in the woods. Tarra had found her there, picked her up with her trunk, and carried her back to the barn.

“The idea that she couldn’t leave that body and brought it back home is just heartbreaking, but so inspiring,” said Robert Atkinson, CEO of the Elephant Sanctuary.

He said that Tarra has been reaching out to other elephants for comfort and support.

“Elephants need each other. That’s what’s happening now. That in her time of grief, she’s turning to her sisters for support, and that’s what elephants are good at, being a herd and being there for each other,” Atkinson said.


The Elephant Sanctuary has set up a special page in honor of Bella and her friendship with Tarra. You can also make a donation to the sanctuary. Here’s part of their tribute to that friendship:

What do you say? Have you known a remarkable friendship between two animals? Let us know in a comment or on Facebook.