As Bella the dog sprints through a wide-open field, her ears flap wildly in the wind and her face suggests a feeling of joy. Her breed is indistinguishable, but she appears to be a Labrador retriever mix, with maybe a hint of golden retriever. She won’t be entering any dog shows, but lives a happy life on 2,700 acres of space to roam.
And that big galoot running behind Bella? That’s her best friend Tarra. Tarra the 8,700-pound Asian elephant.
Bella and Tarra have formed an unusual bond at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn. Bella is one of more than a dozen stray dogs that have found a home at the sanctuary. But while most of the dogs avoid the elephants—and vice versa—Bella and Terra are inseparable. They eat, drink, sleep, and play together. “Bella knows she’s not an elephant. Tarra knows she’s not a dog,” says sanctuary co-founder Carol Buckley. “But that’s not a problem for them.”
Their bond was never more evident than a few months ago, when Bella suffered a spinal cord injury. She couldn’t move her legs or wag her tail, and for three weeks lay motionless in the sanctuary office. And for three weeks Tarra held vigil by standing in a corner just outside the office, ignoring the abundant roaming space. One day, sanctuary co-founder Scott Blais carried Bella onto the balcony so she and Tarra could see each other. They continued these daily visits until Bella could walk again.
With Bella back at full strength, the pals have plenty of time to keep each other company. Bella even lets Tarra pet her tummy with the bottom of her enormous foot. It’s that kind of trust that illustrates the bond between these best friends.
Click here to watch a video report about Bella and Tarra.