Shirley the Elephant

This is one of the most deeply touching, tenderhearted short films I have seen. It is impossible for me to watch it without getting tears in my eyes. It features Shirley the elephant, who spent 22 years alone in a Louisiana zoo after being attacked and crippled by another elephant in the circus. Her only companion was her sweet caretaker, Solomon James, who said he sometimes stayed with her in the yard for a little bit to give her some company; to make her feel that she’s not alone. “At least I’m here to be with her.” When the zoo could no longer take care of her, she was transferred to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. After bathing her one last time, Solomon emotionally parts with his friend, knowing that she will be better off in a place where she will never be chained again and where she finally has the company of other elephants. “I don’t know who was the first to put a chain on her, but I’m glad I was the last to take it off. She’s free at last.”

The last elephant to return to the barn that night was Jenny. “Trumpets and rumbles echo(ed) into the morning.” After 25 years, the two elephants, who were once together in a circus when Jenny was only an infant, were reunited. During the night, Shirley and Jenny had bent the steel bars between them in an effort to get closer to another. They remembered one another after all the years spent apart. These very affectionate animals caress and hold one another with their trunks, walk side by side, and nuzzle their heads against each other. All living creatures on this earth need love and all need companionship.

“Life is a collaboration and no one should be at it alone.”- Stephanie Snyder

(I actually know someone who has been working at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee for the past several years- a fellow 2009 Appalachian Trail hiker!)


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