America’s Odd Couple … still going strong

If you haven’t visited The Elephant Sanctuary at, get on over there. It is such a wonderful place, doing very important work. I have long been captivated by the Odd Couple story of Tarra and Bella, blogging about their story beginning in January 2009.

Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends, a book about their special union, was published in September 2009. It is simply fabulous and filled with lots of incredible color photos. Although a children’s book, it is a book that anyone would want in their library to share with others.

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This is their official story:

Tarra the Elephant Forsakes All Others for Canine Love

On January 2, 2009, the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric aired a piece by Steve Hartman, (The Animal Odd Couple) about the unique and enduring friendship between Elephant Sanctuary resident Tarra, a 34-year-old Asian elephant and Bella, a rescued mixed-breed dog.  This story was then posted on and suddenly went global, becoming the most-watched video on the network news website, in addition to becoming a viral phenomenon on YouTube.  The Elephant Sanctuary was flooded by book, television and film offers.  The Tarra and Bella story was featured on websites around the world including Iran, Russia and Australia.  When the Sanctuary posted additional footage on our YouTube channel, the video quickly became the most featured video in over 23 countries.

Tarra was born in Burma in 1974. Shortly after Tarra’s arrival in the US, the Asian elephant was declared an endangered species, and all future importation of Asian elephants into America was halted. For the next two decades, Tarra traveled throughout the world entertaining audiences in circus, amusement parks, zoos, on television, and in motion pictures with Carol Buckley.

On March 3, 1995, Tarra’s growing disenchantment with an entertainment lifestyle inspired the creation of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee to rescue old, sick and needy elephants. While she may not be aware of her influence, the Sanctuary has now grown to become the largest of its kind in the nation. In 2002, Tarra again entered the spotlight as the subject of the children’s book “Travels with Tarra” that told the story of her life, written by Carol Buckley.

Bella, the canine half of this odd couple was found abandoned on some newly purchased Sanctuary land, apparently guarding a bulldozer. Bella continued to show her propensity for guarding large “noisy” things, as she then fixated on a 4-wheeler and finally on Tarra. Tarra was ecstatic and the two became inseparable.  Bella finds shelter from the heat under Tarra’s ample belly, and they share a stall in the barn with Bella sleeping on a pile of hay. In April of 2007 Bella suffered a spinal injury chasing wildlife in the habitat and spent several weeks immobile in the barn office.  In the second week of Bella’s recovery, Tarra returned to the barn and uncharacteristically stood silently under the office/recovery ward balcony window.  Caregivers picked up Bella and took her to where Tarra waited, and their reunion was sweet and respectful. This daily reunion took place over the next several days until Bella was able to return to the habitat with Tarra.

Operating on 2,700 acres in Hohenwald, Tennessee, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has been developed specifically to provide a place for traumatized elephants to recover from the debilitating experience of captivity. The nonprofit organization, accredited by The Association of Sanctuaries and licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, is designed specifically for old, sick or needy elephants that have been removed from zoos and circuses.

To find out more about the plight of captive elephants, and to monitor the progress of Tarra and Bella and all the residents of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee please visit our website at


UPDATE: I am back blogging about this special duo as The Elephant Sanctuary just updated their status:

It’s been well over a year since Tarra and Bella became celebrities, thanks to their “Odd Couple” story broadcast by CBS News, which is still making the rounds on YouTube. The Sanctuary continues to get inquiries and emails from people around the world, asking if Tarra and Bella are still together and how they are doing. The answer is right here in video, with new footage recorded just this past week. They are both doing great!

As I wrote before, I continue to be concerned about how Tarra will handle one day losing her Bella, as elephants’ life spans mirror ours and Bella’s, of course, is significantly shorter. Elephants, who cry saltwater tears as we do, grieve deeply for those they love. So, I hope the folks at the sanctuary will be able to help her through the process.