I leaned in, gently touched my forehead to hers, and in a soft tone, said, “I love you Anusa.” My heart poured forth a loving energy that radiated from my soul. Anusa responded with a low rumble and the vibration pulsed through me. I glanced over at Primal, a Mahout, who broke into a huge smile and replied, “She’s happy!” I felt total elation!
I’ve adored animals since I was a child growing up on a farm in North Dakota. The idea of befriending an elephant on the other side of the world was not something I ever imagined was possible. Communicating and bonding so closely with such a majestic being was a profound experience — simply indescribable.
I spent two weeks in Sri Lanka volunteering with elephants and performing various daily tasks related to their care. I visited a second elephant orphanage on my free time, and it was there that I connected with Anusa, a 45-year-old Asian elephant. I was not a tourist. I spoke to her respectfully and asked permission to enter her personal space, requesting to spend time together. I even surprised Anusa one day with her favorite food. Pineapple! Not once did I feel fear being so close to these large animals. Why would I be afraid of these gentle, sensitive souls who could hear my thoughts, feel my energy and gauge my good intentions?
On my final day with the elephants, a strong sadness enveloped me. The time shared with them was a precious gift. I didn’t want to leave them. Suddenly, I sensed the presence of my mother, who passed away three years ago. I lowered my head and cried, missing my mom and telling Anusa, my animal soul mate, how much I would miss her, too.
When I looked up, to my amazement, a tear fell from Anusa’s eye. Was she an orphan who had lost her mother, too? Was she going to miss me? Elephants are known to be supremely intelligent and emotional. I didn’t need proof of that to convince me, but Anusa showed me anyway. The depth of her love and wisdom was evident.
Although her given name was Anusha — meaning “beautiful morning star” in Sanskrit, I misheard the pronunciation and always called her Anusa, which became my special name for her. In Sanskrit, the name Anusa also has a special significance. It means to follow one’s desires. Isn’t that what we are now called to do?
Anusa also sounds similar to Ahimsa, the Hindu practice I embrace of doing no harm to any living thing. That fits beautifully, because the elephants need us. I want to be a voice for them and encourage people to keep them in their hearts. Elephants are being ruthlessly slain for their ivory tusks and killed for eating farmers’ crops when their habitat has been destroyed and there is no other food for them. Some elephants are chained and kept separated from each other, when they desperately need physical contact and connection within a social system.
Fortunately, wonderful organizations are working to alleviate and end this type of life for them — but we can do more. Please send them love and support, in whatever manner you feel called.
I hope to return to Sri Lanka one day to see Anusa again. My new friend touched and opened my heart to a whole new level. She is an anchor for my soul to hold onto when the currents of life try to pull me off course.
I often speak with her telepathically to maintain our connection, and because it brings me joy. After all, love is love, and love never dies. Especially with an elephant. They have long memories and she won’t forget me. As I will never forget her.