"Dog's Best Friend" series – Bubbles and Bella



in North Myrtle Beach a Wildlife Refuge known as Tigers is home to more than 100 animals many of which are rescues with over three million visitors annually people come from all over the world for the unique opportunity to see the world's rarest Tigers roaming free on the property but what's really captured everyone's imagination here is a good old-fashioned Labrador Retriever and her special friend Bella is my black Labrador girl she's six years old she's my best friend and companion Bella and tawny do everything together from cooking and cleaning to just curling up in bed Bella's that always present extra character that's in Tony's life Bella is Tony's constant companion Bella's with me all day every day but she does get left in the house when I have to do the tourist tawny leads tours of the grounds and is an active participant in the care and maintenance of a wide variety of animals she prepares food and mixes formulas for the baby animals being hand raised on the property and like all young creatures these ones need caring for 24/7 the animals need us all the time so we have to be here all the time we don't take vacations they need bottles two or three times a day we have to wash it before you go to bed at night it's a serious commitment it's just like having a bunch of human babies but a bit more complicated tawny was born and raised here at the park alongside many of the animals her father doc handle runs the wildlife reserve and tawny is following in his footsteps I definitely aspire to be able to work towards what my father has created here over the last 15 to 20 years but as hard as they work Bella and tawny also needs some time to play Labradors are known to be excellent swimmers they have webbing between their toes but helps propel them in the water giving them great ability for aquatic activity they have a high tolerance for colder water our energetic and endlessly passionate about fetching swimming might come naturally to the 70 pound Labrador but it's Bella's 9,000 pound pool partner that's making the biggest splash of all bubbles the African elephant bubbles is the African elephant she is my big sister bubbles has been living with me for 30 years now it's the coolest thing in the world to have my dog Bella and bubbles the elephant two creatures that I love so much interacting together and it's amazing to be able to share these interactions with them Bella and bubbles have formed a strong bond over the past five years but it was a gradual friendship requiring constant supervision between a dog and an elephant that could clearly crush her one day we took Bella down to the river she was about seven or eight months old she jumped right into the water just like all labs will do but she was a little bit weary of the elephant at first but because I was climbing on and off of bubbles I was able to pull her up there get her comfortable and she learned to sit on there and that was a very slowly built friendship from that first moment Bella and bubbles relationship really wasn't instantaneous it took them a while to get used to each other especially for Bella to feel safe around a 9000 pound elephant the more my dog got comfortable in the water and she realized that the elephant was kind of a station in the water that she could climb up too and that built up the bond of being able to climb on to her then she started learning how to go up the trunk when bubbles notices that Bella is tired she lowers herself in the water to make it easier for Bella to crawl on her back bubbles will make it easier on Bella by dipping your shoulder down kind of lowering her back and allowing Bella to get on very easily and then she let her stay up there for long periods of time when he used to be just bubbles in the water you'd have to have three or four people down there to keep her entertained now we have Bella who's so full of energy he'll just stay in the water and play by themselves with or without bubbles and Bella will go down to the river and they will play down there for hours just the two of them hanging out down there with me just playing this obsessive fetch game as long as they're together having this great time on the water I think bubbles really enjoys the time that her and Bella play together elephants have an incredibly tough high that protects them against the wild African environment and in this case a certain four-legged friend for two different species to have a relationship together this is a great expression of it they have an incredible life together great game that they play it's got boundaries it's got structure but for them it's an ongoing enrichment but they are able to play and continue to do this on an ongoing basis there are big differences between elephants and dogs I mean just sighs to start with right I mean the elephants such an enormous animal it's interesting to me that they find particular pleasure in swimming together and I wonder whether that's because there is a situation where the dog and the elephant can see eye-to-eye in a way that when they're on land their faces are so far apart that it seems to me it would be a lot more difficult for them to make eye contact and face contact and and really connect with each other what makes this relationship even more endearing is given bubbles troubled past as an orphaned elephant nobody expected her to be able to interact so intensely with another creature bubbles came to us from Africa as this tiny little ivory orphan this amazing little girl came to us and needed our care bubbles mother was killed by ivory poachers thousands of elephants are dying in Africa from the ivory trade in the past and now bubbles was a little ivory orphan that was taken in by Rangers and she was brought into a holding facility we said we would take care of that little elephant we had a crate built for bubbles out of wood we got her into it we got her onto a 747 flew her from Johannesburg to Atlanta and then into our home elephants are highly intelligent and in fact their brain is similar to that of a human's in terms of structure and complexity allowing them to exhibit a wide variety of behavior for 30 years doc has been taking bubbles for walks to keep her stimulated giving enrichment to bubbles is a full-time thing we take her out into the woods where she looks for new roots and shoots and plants that she finds delicious different experiences of new sights sounds smells and taste that's what she needs to have enrichment an elephant's trunk is the most complicated organ in the animal kingdom there are 50,000 tiny muscles that allow it to move in many directions the trunk gives the elephant the ability to investigate her environment it's completely different than most animals have the ability to do including being able to play fetch with her buddy Bela bubbles and Bela are laying around together bubbles will pet Bela with a trunk pulled her little ears pet her tail almost is definitely interested in the structure of her fur and how soft she is especially how friendly and companion like a lab naturally comes off to be towards people bubbles is so intelligent I think that she reads the sociality of how sweet a dog is I think she definitely enjoys our company elephants are herd animals they always want someone with them I'm with bubbles all the time when she's out and about but you know over time I've become a little dull I'm not as interesting for she loves to be with me but she likes more Bella fills in that blank she's running around her feet doing stuff it keeps bubbles excited I was definitely interested in what Bella is doing all the time I think she looks at her as kind of her own little pet Bella is able to fill a need that bubbles has of needing constant companionship that's there for her all the time and always needing a sidekick there's enough overlap in the social needs of an elephant and the social desires of a dog I'm sure that for an elephant living alone without any other elephant company that the right dog could be a tremendous social enrichment for her dogs are just such social beings that they can form friendships over what might seem unbridgeable distances five and a half years after Bella met bubbles the elephant they seek each other out and splash around the river several times a week I think the relationship is very unique I haven't seen bubbles have that interaction with any other dogs and I haven't seen Bella have that interaction with any of the other animals either an elephant's lifespan is many decades longer than a Labrador Retrievers although bubbles is already 30 years of age she will likely outlive her canine pal elephants absolutely have the ability to grieve just like humans but I think that bubbles will be able to overcome that with human companions and maybe potentially another dog in the future for us at Myrtle Beach Safari bubbles and Bella together get to do so much more than they would apart they have a great time going out and having a life together without them being together neither of them would have as full of a life so it's a fabulous thing that they're able to have that time together there's nothing like a dog it has an incredible special quality to it that can't be found in any other animal when someone has a dog it can make them happier than any other friend in the world and that same caring sharing loving expression the dogs give us I think that the dog gives that same thing to bubbles she's an incredible animal and they have an incredible relationship

29 thoughts on “"Dog's Best Friend" series – Bubbles and Bella

  1. Bella will be gone too soon and Bubbles would really benefit from having Elephant company…Hope she can gets some.

  2. <3 Keep up you father's work! <3 I send hugs to everyone there. Animals have souls and you guys are showing the word this fact!

  3. Thank you so much for ALL of the great information! Their relationship is absolutely fascinating 🙂

  4. They love each other so much. Elephants are so kind and loving as are labs. This looks like a great place for animals to go, sure beats zoos or circuses. Thanks for rescuing the animals!

  5. Bubbles will be so incredibly heartbroken when Bella dies….if only dogs could live as long as elephants do 🙁

  6. Compassionate father and daughter. I hope this animal santuary last forever. May you all be well and happy.

  7. Btw, those are not 2 dislikes. That's how the 'likes' look down on the southern hemisphere so someone clicked dislike by mistake… 🙂

  8. So after the dog dies, they'll get the elephant another dog?  The elephant needs another elephant.

  9. Cute, but not surprising. Elephants are naturally social animals and dogs, of course, are pack animals, so once they were comfortable with each other, it went from there!

  10. So heartwarming. No doubt they are "friends" and "love" each other in as much as humans are friends and feel love. That is wonderful. Great story.

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