It's been a long week for a number of reasons, and unfortunately it's been a hard time for the local community. Wednesday morning, Tiki the elephant died. You may remember that my first job at 17 was working at the local free-range zoo with the elephants. Tiki was the smallest elephant and the gentlest. She, along with Alice the other female, were 36 years old when I worked there, which is not even quite middle-aged for an elephant just like humans. She was the calmest, most even-keeled elephant at the park. As such she was the matriarch and the first one new employees got to be around and eventually, the elephant everyone learns to handle first.
She was such an amazing creature. She's been sickly for a long time and had ulcers on her front legs from laying down to sleep at night due to not feeling well. When we'd treat her ulcers a silent tear would slide down her cheek. I'm not humanizing her by saying she was literally crying as I am now, but when you look into an elephant's eyes, when you know what they're feeling, they do feel amazingly human. Tiki (along with her herd members Alice and George) taught me so much about using positive reinforcment training, they taught me about animal behaviour, body language, humanity, understanding, commitment, compasion. Handling Tiki was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done and I wanted so badly to go work with and get to enjoy her for one more summer. Unfortunately a woman severely misunderstood something I said and got me fired from the Safari in June not even 3 hours after I went back to work there. I know it's a part of the grief but my anger toward that woman for ruining the time I would get to spend with my Tiki is very very great right now as I know that next summer, even if I were to go back, nothing would be the same for my Tiki wouldn't be there.
At more than 4 tons she was one of the gentlest creatures I've known. I have a photo of her, with a small feather on her head and while it was just in the hay that she'd been throwing on her back it truly portrays what made Tiki, "Tiki".
While I haven't been near her in four years, my love for Tiki will never end and I will forever be thankful for the lessons she taught me. I just, I can't believe she's gone and I fear for the mental health of Alice and George as well as for the future of the elephant barn at the Wildlife Safari. Without a Matriarch... humans can only do so much. Maybe, just maybe I'll pull it together enough to go visit the memorial set up for Tiki and add some pictures from our time together. I think I should... or I'll forever reget it.
I suppose that now, and forever here-after, it will all just be a distant memory.