Who could resist this face? That amazing, multi-tasking nose? And, oh, those ears! In a small town southwest of Nashville, The Elephant Sanctuary has become a safe and restful home for 13 beauties who, after years of performing in circuses or entertaining patrons in zoos, can finally just chillax in solitude.
Most elephants love to swim, and Misty routinely takes dips in one of the ponds, creeks or even the 25-acre lake. The water's buoyancy allows elephants to move more freely than on land, and a trunk makes a perfect snorkel. Swims are typically followed by a nap, of course.
Asian elephants tend to be "touchy" with each other. A pretty thorough trunk-sniff is a common greeting from one elephant to another. Debbie (left), the tallest elephant at the Sanctuary, and Ronnie, the shortest (elephants are related to mice, you know), are BFFs.
At 66, Shirley is the Sanctuary's oldest elephant, having survived a fire in which her circus cruise ship sank; being held hostage; and sustaining an injury to her back leg. Even with her distinctive limp, she's still spry and living proof that you're only as old as you feel.
Now 40 years old, Tarra was the first elephant to retire to the Sanctuary in 1995. One of the Sanctuary’s more, um, full-figured girls, she often helps herself to others’ food – a perk, perhaps, of being a “founding” elephant. You've probably seen videos of her with her beloved canine buddy, Bella.
Frieda, who spent much of her life inside barns, is treated to frequent foot soaks with warm water and Epsom salts to relieve her severe foot problems - the leading cause of death for elephants outside the wild. She skips the traditional pedicure, opting for a more natural look.
Sissy (front) and Winkie arrived at the Sanctuary in 2000 and became fast friends. Both were captured in the wild while very young and grew up in zoos. Sissy miraculously survived a major flood by breathing through her trunk while completely submerged under water for more than 24 hours.
African elephant (the big ears give her away) Tange is treated to a refreshing "firehose shower" by caregivers. This is usually followed by a self-coating of dust, using the trunk, that layers the skin in mud, offering protection from insect bites, and helping the elephant keep cool in the sun's heat.
Elephants spend around 16 hours a day eating, and peanut butter is a universal favorite. Tange is partial to sugary cereals, and will usually fall asleep in a food coma after indulging. One likes bananas; another, barbecue sauce and pickles. If they don't like what they're offered, they'll just chuck it.
The mission of the Elephant Sanctuary is to provide a natural refuge for sick, old and needy elephants and raise awareness to keep the species alive and thriving. Help by making a donation, "adopting" an elephant or signing up to volunteer. Follow the girls on Facebook, Twitter and the Ele-cam.
When she's not traveling around the world - and even when she is - Lois blogs at Midlife at the Oasis. An empty nester, she can now be found surrounded by elephants in Africa rather than little kids in the school drop-off lane.
The reigning champion of Blogger Idol, she is the winner of three BlogHer Voices of the Year Awards and was named Humor Writer of the Month by Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.
A former New Yorker, Lois now lives in San Diego where she's turned into a weather wimp and is still searching for a good slice of pizza.