Elephant Tarra Mourns Bella the Dog


You may have heard about the odd couple in Tennessee.  Yes, the YouTube sensation from a few years ago that seemed to keep re-entering your inbox from everyone who knows your email address.

Bella, a stray dog and Tarra, a retired Asian elephant who live at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee became best buds.  They were considered inseparable.  They played together, ate together and slept together.  Their level of love and trust was something to behold.

That special bond was tested when Bella suffered a spinal cord injury a couple years ago.  Not able to walk, Bella was living inside the sanctuary office.  Tarra stood vigil outside for three weeks.  Staff finally carried Bella outside for Tarra to see.  It seems the unconditional love and dedicated caring helped Bella get better.

Watch Tarra lovingly rub Bella’s belly in a CBS follow-up video.  Trust like that is a rare sight to behold.  Eventually Bella improved and returned to her residence with Tarra and continued to frolic among the 2,700 acres of wooded land with her BFF.

Sad news was reported on Friday by The Elephant Sanctuary.  Bella is dead; the presumed victim of a coyote attack.  “As soon as we realized Bella was missing on Tuesday morning, the staff launched a Sanctuary-wide search, which continued into the next day. Late Wednesday morning, Bella’s body was discovered close to the barn Tarra shares with Bella and five other elephants,” states Steve Smith, Director of Elephant Husbandry.

Robert Atkinson, CEO of The Elephant Sanctuary, wrote a heartfelt Goodbye to Bella.  In it, he explains where Bella was finally found and why they believe Tarra was the one to initially find Bella and carry her back.

The extent of Bella’s wounds and the relative order at the site where she was found has the sanctuary personnel concluding Bella was moved there.  This assumption was further confirmed when blood was spotted on Tarra’s trunk and her seemingly disinterested behavior.  It is thought Tarra may have come across the animal attack on Bella and saved her from being completely devoured.

Staff are giving extra attention to Tarra in her time of grieving. Elephants are similar to humans in how they develop bonds with family and friends.  Because of this, they mourn in much the same way, as well. A sister elephant, Shirley, seems to be especially compassionate toward Tarra.

To honor Bella, you can participate in her tribute page.  Rest in Peace, little Bella.  You lived your life as an example to all.

Watch a loving video of Bella and Tarra:

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Alexandra G.
Alexandra G.about a year ago

This is so sad and touching story

Kim L.
Kim L.1 years ago

I knew of this story and the incredible relationship between Bella and Tarra. What I did not know is that Bella passed in 2011. It was so very sad to read how Bella passed but the most remarkable part is that Tarra would not leave her friend and brought her home. I realize that it's been 2 years now but from the sanctuary blog Tarra has been to where her friend was laid to rest.

Linda S.
Linda Anderson2 years ago

This is so sad . My thoughts and prayers go out to Tarra and all.. Thanks for sharing something so special. Hope Tarra finds comfort and maybe a new friendship with another dog.. This really breaks my heart..

Sherry C.
Sherry C.2 years ago


Edvanir L.
Edvanir L.2 years ago

Rest in peace sweetheart...

Lynn D.
Lynn D.2 years ago

My heart breaks for Tarra!

Duane B.
.3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Kathy Crews
Kathy Crews3 years ago

My heart is absolutely broken. I remember reading about this special pair many years back and seeing so many wonderful photos of them back then. I know that Tarra is heart broken as well....and she has a really big heart to be broken. What a wonderful tribute to Bella. That stray puppy sure did find a wonderful home there with Tarra and all of the other animals and staff of the sanctuary. Thank you for the story.

Kathleen S.
k S.3 years ago

There are so many wonderful friendships between different animals. If only humans could find their inner heart and learn from them. Bella and Tara will live on forever for animal lovers. Thank God for places like the sanctuary where this love was allowed to continue.

Margaret R.
Margaret Romano3 years ago

This is so sad for Bella and Tara, wish the dog would have been indoors during the night, save from any other animals. There is a lesson to be learned from animals, no matter what species, they bond and love one another. Too bad people can't learn something from this. I hope Tara finds another friend although no one else can replace his Bella. RIP Bella.