Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

Wildlife Encounters, episode “Baby Elephant”

I mentioned previously that in the weeks leading up to my trip to Southeast Asia (which now seems likes eons ago) the other women and I had active conversations with each other about what we were going to see and experience. We also talked a lot about my butt.

Many thanks to those women for giving my older child a reprieve from that riveting topic. She owes each of you a card.

Laura Paker of the Exodus Road often jumped in to give insight as to the logistics of our schedule and mentioned that we’d have some downtime. She asked if there was anything in particular we wanted to see or do, and Jamie Wright said something about… wait… let me go find the exact email because this will help tie this story together in the end… oh, here it is:

I WANT TO SEE AN ELEPHANT THAT’S WALKING AROUND IN THE STREET LIKE IT BELONGS THERE. You know what I mean? Like an elephant that thinks it’s a donkey.

I didn’t capitalize those words, she did. Obviously, Jamie and I are pretty much on the same page when it comes to emphasis. However, I’m sure I’m far more guilty of overusing it. I bet there are more caps-lock sentences on my website than in all of the Facebook accounts of 85-year-old great grandmothers who have no idea how to turn caps lock off or think that people won’t be able to hear them unless they scream.

I thought Jamie was joking because where in the world do elephants walk around in the street? I’ve seen them in zoos and roaming a variety of habitats in Africa, but in a street? On purpose? Surely you are high, Jamie. Surely you stole someone’s Adderall, hopped onto email and are now screaming about urban elephants who are also so high that they think they are another animal.

I could not wait to spend six days with that woman.

We here are familiar with my experiences when it comes to wildlife. I attract it or they attract me or I was cursed in some previous life, but what’s the count now? Raccoons, birds, possums, mythical bobcats, squirrels, rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, strange dogs and frogs. I don’t have a link to my encounters with possums because both incidents happened before I started this website when I had first moved to Los Angeles. Possums? Possums walk the streets. Possums walk out into the middle of busy intersections (first encounter) and hide in the garbage can that sits next to the dryer in the shared laundry room of your apartment building (second encounter from which I still have not recovered).

On our fourth day in SouthEast Asia after visiting Thrive Rescue, we were driving to lunch when suddenly someone, I don’t remember who it was, pointed out the window and said, “Stop the car, there’s a baby elephant right there.” And oh my god, you guys, THERE WAS AN ELEPHANT WALKING AROUND IN THE STREET LIKE IT BELONGED THERE.

Emphasis entirely mine. Except, entirely not. Jamie is, like, a magician.

I have always loved elephants, used to collect elephant figurines when I was a kid, have always headed straight for that particular exhibit at the zoo. And here was a baby elephant walking down the street beside our car. My mouth went instantly dry, and you could see my heart pounding in the veins in my neck. Some strange visceral reaction was taking over, so by the time we’d all hopped out of the car I was on the verge of tears. I was the first person to approach it, and its owner? Handler? I’ll just call him “the dude chilling with the baby elephant.” He saw all of our cameras and pulled me over to have my photo taken with it.

Part of my visceral reaction was this crazy but totally serious thought I had that I was going to scare the poor animal to death with my hair. It was so hot and there was so much humidity in the air that I could not tame it or wrangle it or get it to stop jutting out and frizzing. The animal might see me approaching and think some towering, lanky monster with yellow corkscrews sticking straight out of its head was coming to skin its hide.

Thank god I handed my big camera to Laura Parker who snapped off the following shots. IT SHOULD BE NOTED FIRST, HOWEVER: What started out as a casual photo of me sitting on the knee of a baby elephant turned into, well, how do I even try to explain this? First, visceral reaction. Second, the dude chilling with the baby elephant physically moved me so that the elephant was standing behind me. I had no idea what was going on, and could only gauge by the reaction of everyone else and the sensation on my shoulder that the baby elephant was putting its mouth on my body.

But what you see is not panic, no. That look on my face is not distress or anxiety. Is it maniacal? Absolutely. But more accurately, that look is, “I did not know that being nibbled by a baby elephant was on the list of things I want to do before I die, BUT APPARENTLY IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN AT THE TOP.” I couldn’t tell if he was trying to kiss me or eat me, and if it was the latter, I thought, what a way to go!

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  • Stacey Myers

    I think that baby elephant wanted to take a bite of your butt! 🙂 Love the pictures!

  • kara_v

    THAT IS MY DREAM! I LOVE ELEPHANTS AND ALL I WANT IN THE WORLD IS TO HUG ONE. YOU LIVED MY DREAM! (emphasis mine. I do, in fact, know how to work the caps lock). 🙂

  • Valerie

    Is it weird that those pictures made me teary? You look so happy.

  • LuluinLaLa

    I don’t think I ever realized that elephants were so hairy!

  • Ari

    Best. Happiest. Thing.

  • Jeanie

    Oh, I am so jealous!

  • Jennifer Wells

    I was lucky enough to be picked up by a lady elephant when I was there. She just wrapped her trunk around my waist and picked me up like I was a twig. It was a visceral, unbelievable experience that I will never, ever forget as long as I live!

  • Elizabeth Beattie

    This makes me so happy! I love elephants the way you do. Just pure joy that is.

  • Jenna

    Me too. Teary. WTF, Dooce? I blame you.

  • He recognized you has one of the herd–your hair looks remarkable similar!! So very cute!

  • Frank Purrkins

    Oh, I’d be happy for both you and the elephant if the guy wasn’t holding that bullhook.

  • Mia

    I think you just lived my dream. I’m sure there would have been lots of squealing involved if I were there (just like there was in my apartment just now).

  • Sorry to be the joykill, but since you were over there in a humanitarian/activism capacity perhaps you should look into the massive abuses elephants in the tourism industry in Asia have to endure on a daily basis all day. That story about the crying elephant going around the internet at the moment…that will be this elephant in no time. Look into what they do to baby elephants to break them, it’s called elephant crushing, and for good reason. That hook in the handler hands…c’mon. It doesn’t look like you did anything in this scenario to contribute directly to the animal’s abuse ie. elephant rides, but that doesn’t mean we should be cavalier about the lesser and behind the scenes abuses and overlook a baby elephant being forcibly removed from it’s mother, likely having undergone horrific “training”, being physically and psychologically abused with a bullhook, and being paraded around the streets all day to beg for tourist money. I know it’s hard to resist the charms of an elephant, but I implore anyone considering visiting this part of the world to be responsible about the choices you make when engaging in animal tourism, because these creatures have even less choice in the matter than humans in exploitative industries.

  • Melinda

    heeeeeeeeeeheeheeheeheehee

  • dc

    that’s the first thing i noticed. the stick with a pointy, sharp metal thing on the end. i wonder whsat he uses that for? i wonder how he would FEEL if someone bigger and stronger and smarter than him took his stick and hit him in the back of the leg with the pointy end and said, “now you know how the baby elephant feels.”

  • Teal

    Seeing the look of joy on your face in these pictures made my day!

  • Sally

    Just love your pure happiness in these pictures. Keep these close by for the hard days so you can get a bit of that joy back.

  • Zan

    It’s purpose is to inflict pain in the elephant’s ear, mouth, or butt. Whichever sensitive part of the body where the handler can force the elephant to move so that we think its gestures are “cute”.

  • Kelie

    I’m really shocked that you posted a photo of yourself with a baby elephant who was walking down the street with it’s “trainer” who is carrying a bull hook. Which is used to abuse baby elephants. WTF is going on here? I guess humanitarian missions don’t include animal abuse?

  • Oh the delight! Love it, hey 🙂

  • Mel

    Dooce, I love you. I have loved you since I tuned in when Leta was born, I have defended you vehemently against all the lame jealous haters over the years, I have laughed with you & cried with you. But this? This is not cool. That poor elephant has been just as exploited and abused as the girls you were over there to see. Why is he valued any less than those girls? Why does he not deserve the same freedom & respect as human children? Not cool.

  • Jay

    Are you really this clueless? Do you see that bull hook? This post and pictures are disgusting. For someone who is all about “activism” now, you really need to educate yourself on elephant abuse in Asia.

  • evonna

    I am sort shocked too and have mixed feelings. On another hand would you all mind dooce having picture with baby cow licking her face? Are we better here than there. Kudos dooce in a way you raised awareness about baby elephants…

  • Missy

    Ditto!

  • Elaine

    DISGUSTING. I can’t belive you are even posting this, or that you even think it’s right to do so. I honestly thought you were a caring woman. I was obviously wrong.