Best friends no more

This was one of the feel-good stories of 2009. Bella the dog and Tarra the elephant were best friends, to the point that the elephant even held a vigil for the dog at one point.

“Bella knows she’s not an elephant. Tarra knows she’s not a dog,” the elephant sanctuary co-founder said. “But that’s not a problem for them.

Word reached us today that Bella has died.


I write to you with very sad news. Tarra’s little dog Bella has died. We found her body on Wednesday and have been dealing with the aftermath ever since, trying to work out what happened while we look after Tarra and each other.

We noticed Bella was not with Tarra at breakfast on Tuesday and later that morning she still had not appeared. Tarra and Bella have always spent short periods apart as one goes off exploring briefly on their own, but this longer absence worried us deeply and a search of the property was started which continued into the next day. The search ended tragically when Bella’s body was found close to the Asia barn that had long been home to Tarra, her five sisters and Bella. During the time of the search our usually social Tarra chose to remain alone, watched over by concerned Caregivers.

Dr. Scott, our vet of sixteen years, examined Bella for the last time and, with advice from the experts from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, determined the probable cause of death was an attack by animals, most likely coyotes. We have sent off samples to see whether there were any other contributory causes.

Having carefully examined Bella’s wounds and the place where she was found, we concluded that Bella had not been attacked near where she was found and neither could she have walked there.

As these investigations were taking place observant Caregivers, even more watchful of Tarra than usual, noticed blood on the underside of her trunk, evidence that pointed us in the direction of what likely happened that fateful night.

The most probable scenario is that during the night Bella strayed from Tarra briefly and was set upon. Tarra arrived too late to save her but was able to stop further damage being done to Bella’s body. With deep sadness and deeper wonder we come to comprehend what likely happened next–that Tarra picked Bella up and carried her home.

Further evidence in support of our belief for what happened comes from Tarra herself. After Bella had been found, Caregivers ensured Tarra had every chance to inspect Bella’s body before it was buried and to come to terms with her death, as this is an important part of the grieving process for elephants. But Tarra was not interested in either Bella or the group of Caregivers who would normally have drawn our inquisitive Girl to see what was happening.

It was only later when we had pieced together the whole picture that Tarra’s behavior at Bella’s grave made sense. Our poor, brave, loving Girl knew what had happened to her beloved Bella and, in the dark hours of the night as she carried her body home, had come to terms with her death.

Tarra’s sisters will help her through her sadness. Although we cannot take away Tarra’s pain immediately or the pain of all those that knew Bella, I do know Bella knew true love and true freedom. It will always be so for animals that find Sanctuary.

The sanctuary set up a tribute page here.

(h/t: Tom Weber, MPR)

  • Cara

    That’s such a touching story.

  • http://www.skyseastone.net/jvstin Paul (@princejvstin)

    Awww, So sad that a friendship has untimely ended.

  • Jennifer

    Wow. That’s really sad.

  • Kim E

    I’m crying as I write this. So beautiful and so sad. Animals are so much smarter than people give them credit for.

  • marilyn gould

    Could you imagine that? Even some animals knows how to love, better than humans!!!!

    This is a bitter /sweet story!!!!