I’ve been home for three days. Most of it I’ve spent sleeping. The rest of it, I’ve spent wondering how things can be just the same and yet so completely different. I am different, my life will be different from now on. I have officially thrown aside any fall back plans to return to life as usual. It still seems absurd even to me, but I will dedicate the rest of my life to captive elephants.
I have so many people to thank for making this life-changing trip happen.
First of all to Dr. Gay Bradshaw, who wrote the book that changed my life, took me under her wing, gave me all the knowledge and tools and then introduced me into the “elephant world.” When she proposed I go to Thailand and India as a Kerulos intern, my mouth dropped. But she gave me the courage to go.
To Katherine Connor, for showing me that one person with enough love can do so much. She is the matriarch of the most amazing team of people, human and nonhuman. This family welcomed me with open arms and gave me the most joyful month of my life, full of laughter and never ending kindness. To all the beautiful, brave, strong eles, dogs, cats, monkey, etc who never let go even in the worst conditions, who showed me that no matter how old or broken you are, life can begin again. To David Owen, one of the best people I have ever met, for being my guide and translator. Your loving spirit is infectious, there is no limit to how much you will accomplish and I am honored to be your friend.
To Suparna Ganguly, Anand Jacob, Shilpa Mahbubani, Supraja Dharini, John Flynn, Kishore Kumar, Pugal, Harif Parengal and everyone else from WRRC, CUPA, and TREE Foundation who took such great care of me in the culture shock that is India! Thank you for sending me off on an all India tour, for giving me the opportunity to witness what is hard, but so important, to see. For trusting me and letting me help and offering endless encouragement. Most of all, to the elephants I met in the temples, the riding elephants, the zoo elephants: I have seen your suffering. I won’t turn away, I won’t stop fighting. You deserve so much better, hang in there.
To my mom and dad, for trusting me and being proud of me for taking a step so far from the social norm! They are always there for me, loving me, listening to me, having faith in me.
To my sister, who first inspired me to look deeper, expand my circle of compassion and go vegan. This has given me such peace within myself. Also for being my best friend for 25 years and counting.
To the friends who are genuinely interested in my passions, who have real conversations about it, who never say silly things like “w\When are you going to get married?” Or “Why don’t you want kids?”
To Joseph for putting up with my “radical” ideas, listening to me, and bragging about me. For always being there to Skype and for taking the most loving care of the other man in my life while I was gone. Thanks to the other guy too, my Odie, for being the light of my life and waiting patiently for my return.
To my Canisius colleagues, all with big plans to help animals themselves, for following my journey and giving support. To the professors for being inspirational and overflowing with passion for what they do. Special shout out to Margo DeMello for introducing me to Dr. Bradshaw, and Paul Waldau for assigning the article “An Elephant Crackup” in my first class.
To the donors who financially made this trip possible. Who had faith in me and my mission and gave without questioning or judgment. I hope I have proven myself worthy of your graciousness.