#15. wash and pet an elephant (preferably in Thailand or Africa)

I did it!

I pet an elephant AND I was kinda washed by him too.

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It was a pretty amazing experience!  This was at the Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, Thailand.  Just moments before this photo was snapped, I was snuggled close to my elephant friend and felt something warm and soft on my bent arm right at the elbow.  I looked down and saw that my arm was being engulfed by his adorable toothless mouth.  As you can see, both me and the elephant had a good smile about the whole incident.

So why was #15 on my list in the first place?  The short story is that I’ve had a thing for elephants as long as I can remember.  Probably since I saw parts of Disney’s Dumbo.  And you know something?  I’ve never seen the whole movie.  There’s one part in the movie that I couldn’t bare to watch as a kid and I haven’t steeled myself to go back to it.    When my mom and stepdad took me to Disney World when I was a kid, I got the stuffed Dumbo, not Mickey Mouse like most everyone else.

I don’t know.  I’m just a softie when it comes to elephants and always have been.  They are a pretty amazing creature with an amazing social structure and tribe mentality.  The way they care for each other and the gentleness of their souls… it breaks my heart to think of how we humans are destroying their habitats across the world.  We can learn so much from them too, especially the rogue elephants who have been orphaned, form gangs and go around terrorizing villages simply because they do not have ADULT elephants to guide them and provide a strong community.

When I was in high school I first started learning about the elephant’s amazing way of cultivating community and that’s when I was also first introduced to Richard Leckie’s work in Africa and his strides to save the African elephant.  I remember at the time passionately telling my high school sweetheart how much I wanted to go to Africa to see the elephants and work with them.

Well, life happens and sometimes we shelve certain dreams.  My destiny was not to go to Africa to work with elephants (though I wouldn’t ever shy away from the opportunity).  But when it came to making this list, I knew that I wanted to make good on what I told my high school boyfriend so many years ago — I wanted to have an upclose, personal experience with an elephant and somehow contribute positively to their welfare.  My desire to do that informed my decision to go to Thailand…  And the rest as they say is history.

I am so glad I followed through on this wish.  I have no words to articulate how much good it did for my soul.

-e

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