by Beth Dugger Brown
When I was a child, I wanted all kinds of pets. My family had dogs, cats, fish and a string of gerbils (that liked to die), but I wanted a tiger, a lion, and an elephant. I still would like to pet a sedated lion or tiger-and by sedated I mean one that is in a deep, deep sleep. An elephant, however, I would put in the backyard and name it Teensy.
Why would anyone want an elephant? Let me spin out my fantasy world and maybe you will understand.
Teensy, the Indian elephant, who lives in my backyard, is a great entertainer. She weighs in at about 6,000 pounds, but we haven’t been able to find a scale that she can use in many years! She loves to play soccer with the Labradors and my boys. One of her favorite things is to amble down to the pond and spray water and sling mud. Since she drinks around 50 gallons of water a day, she is down at the pond quite a bit. She is always the prankster and thinks it’s very amusing to spray me when I least expect it.
When I take my elephant for walks around the property, we always keep an eye out for tasks that she can help with. After the crazy storm that blew through the other night, there were trees down all over the neighborhood. Teensy used her big trunk to pick up huge limbs and downed trees and stack them in a brush pile. Occasionally, she would help herself to a snack of leaves from the downed limbs. If a tree was too heavy to lift, she rolled it. Her hard work saved all of our backs, and she enjoyed herself. She likes to feel useful.
Sometimes, Teensy carries me for walks – literally. She will kneel down and let me climb up and perch behind her big ears. This is my favorite! It’s an easy ride with her slow, steady gait, and it makes for a great view. I can give her commands to steer her where we need to go. Sometimes we go to the pasture to check on the cows. She’s better than a 4-wheeler because she’s safer and quieter – most of the time. We are able to get closer to the herd and count heads and check on mamas and calves much easier. At first the cows were a little nervous about this massive beast, but now they have accepted her as some kind of over-grown bovine.
I like to pamper Teensy from time to time. I’m always rubbing her skin, but it’s so tough, I’m not sure she can feel it. It’s not particularly rough to the touch, but it’s definitely tough, an odd combination that one would only find in nature. She does appreciate a good ear scratching from time to time: elephants struggle with scratching their ears. She requires her toenails to be filed, and sometimes I will put baby oil on her skin to moisturize it. Filing her toenails is not as hard as it sounds. The file is like the rasp used on a horse’s hoof, and she will lift her feet and put them on a stand on command.
She uses her trunk like I use my hands. She lifts things with it, uses it to bathe, and also uses it to eat. When it’s time to eat, things can get a bit interesting. Teensy eats around 200 pounds of hay, foliage and feed pellets a day! The food bill is upward of $12,000 a year, but she is worth the money. Teensy can also use her trunk to give a hug, hold my hand, or give me a playful smack. When she’s walking with me she likes to keep her trunk on my shoulder in the same way that a child holds hands with friends.
At night I tuck her in the barn and shut the doors so she won’t be bothered by any creatures. She has a few windows that are high enough to keep critters out, but not so high that she can’t see out. Elephants have emotions like people. They can be happy, sad, or depressed and can grieve. Teensy gets depressed when she can’t see outside.
I expect Teensy to live to be around 48 years old before she leaves me for greener pastures. We take care of her as well as we know how, and she repays us with her hard work, loyalty and entertainment. It’s a great life to have an elephant as a pet.
See what I mean! Isn’t my fantasy pet fun? Now you want a pet elephant, too. I don’t think it’s legal to own one, and I hear that some organizations are upset with elephants being used in circuses. These folks would be very upset if you or I had a pet elephant in the backyard. In reality, I rode an elephant once at a circus, and it was as amazing as I’d always thought it would be. I was grown, married and had two kids, but while sitting on that elephant, I felt like a little girl again. I would love to ride an elephant again!