My mammoth rescue mission

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An elephant has a cold and fears he'll be put down, so I help him

Submitted: April 04, 2017

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Submitted: April 04, 2017




I decided to go to Melbourne Zoo one day and as I was going past the “Elephant” enclosure and I noticed the cage only had one elephant in it and when I looked closer, I noticed that he had a runny nose and seemed to be endeavouring not to cough. Suddenly all his best efforts failed and I heard “Chauugh, chauugh, CHUUUUUAAAGH!”, and I saw him taking a very hurried, simply enormous trunkful of water and spraying it into his mouth. I called him over and said kindly “You’ve caught a cold, haven’t you? You poor elephant.” “SSSSSHHHHHHHH!” said the elephant “Yes, I have caught a cold” he explained “but it’s VERY important that nobody else knows. The reason why it’s so important is that my very best friend had a runny nose and had a coughing fit and one of the keepers took him away. About five minutes later I heard a gunshot and I haven’t seen him since.” I realized what must have happened and I thought “No wonder he kept gasping and dry swallowing, fighting like mad not to cough. No wonder he said “SSSSSHHHHHHHH!” when I mentioned that he had a cold. I can’t leave him here; one of the keepers is sure to find out and he’ll be destroyed. I’ll take him to the place they call “Zootopia” because they have a “No Kill” policy there.” A horrible thought crossed my mind and it was “But what if he coughs at one of the checkpoints I have to pass through to get there? Oh, I know; ask Dr Dudley.” I headed straight for Dr Dudley’s office and asked to see him and no other vet because Dr Dudley was the slowest vet to resort to euthanasia in the world. The receptionist said “Dr Dudley to the front office, please.”, and he was there in five minutes. He asked me what the problem was and I said “We’d better go into your office and I’ll tell you there.”. He was very surprised, but he agreed, took me to his office and shut the door. “Well, Dr Dudley, there’s a “fluey” elephant at Melbourne Zoo who’s going to be destroyed if I leave him there. The elephant had a best friend who caught the flu, and one of the keepers took him away and shot him, so I MUST get him out of there. I’m going to have to drive him through at least four checkpoints and while I’d probably be able to weasel him through with a runny nose; because even if there were any inquiries made I’d say “He’s got hay fever”, and they’d be likely to accept that, I could NOT have him coughing; that’d blow his cover immediately and they’d destroy him and fine or even gaol me on the spot. So what medicine do you suggest? I don’t really want to knock him out completely, if for no other reason that I don’t think he can breathe as well as he could without the “flu” and that could be dangerous.” The vet sat and thought. Finally he said “Well, there is a very strong throat spray that I will give you called “Phary-calm” which will totally anaesthetize his throat, so he won’t feel at all like coughing. It lasts for 24 hours, but there is always a catch. I would not recommend it except in extreme emergencies because it contains a chemical which is slightly carcinogenic.” I felt the small risk of the elephant getting cancer was well and truly outstripped be the benefits of not having the elephant cough and blow his and my cover. The vet also gave me an antiviral medication and said “Give him two of these pills twice a day until they’re all gone and if there’s no improvement by the third dose, bring him here for another check-up.” I took the medications and thanked him. I then drove straight back to the zoo, disguised myself as a zoo keeper and went to the manager to tell him that I was concerned about one of the elephants and wanted to take him to the vet for a check-up. Thankfully they let me and I gave the elephant a dose of the cough suppressant the vet had given me. When I was sure it had “taken” I walked the elephant over to where all the “Zoo” vans were parked and enticed him into the back. I made sure he’d have enough food and water in a container that would not fall over and spill which would make it so he’d be without water for the long journey. Having done that, I said kindly “Well, this journey might be a bit hot and stuffy for you, but it’s far better than being put down.”, and started on the journey. I soon came up to one of the four checkpoints. A security officer came out and asked me what I had in my truck. “An elephant, sir” I said in as carefree a manner as possible. He didn’t even want to look; he just waved me on, saying “Well, have a nice day” and the elephant and I went on our merry way. At the second checkpoint, the officer wanted to have a look, but thankfully the elephant seemed pretty dry-nosed and didn’t do any coughing, so we were once again free to go. About an hour after the second checkpoint, I saw a KFC and thought “This would be a good time for me to get out, stretch my legs, have a “Zinger” burger with fries and a Fanta and check on that elephant; make sure he’s okay. I might as well give him two antiviral pills while I’m at it.”, parking in the “Undercover” section so he wouldn’t be “baking” in the hot, harsh afternoon sun and going in to order my lunch. When I’d finished, I opened the back of the van, and the elephant was lying down and seemed to be sleeping. I debated for a few seconds and decided to be cruel to be kind and wake him up to give him his “antivirals”, so I did so and then continued on my journey to “Zootopia” On the fourth and final checkpoint, I had a terrible fright when the security officer said “I must get the resident vet to perform a blood test on the elephant.” “Oh, shit!” I thought “It’s going to show up the coronaviruses, rhinoviruses or whatever viruses are in his system and he’s going to be destroyed and I’m going to be in a whole lot of trouble.”. Nevertheless, I let the vet take the elephant away, my stomach feeling as if it was full of snakes. Five minutes later the vet came out and said “I need some help to keep the elephant still; and I think you’d be the best one to do it.”, and I followed him. When we got there, I found myself doing a double take at him and he said “What’s your name?” “Michelle Goodman” I replied “Well, Michelle, I heard you went to Dr Dudley about something and I’m his younger brother, Eddie. That’s the real reason I summoned you; to tell you not to worry; I’m not going to say it’s positive, even though it is “Won’t you get into awful trouble?” I asked in horror “Oh, no” he replied “Even if down the track, some other vet finds out he’ll think it was a false negative; it does happen and no-one will get into any trouble.” I was so relieved and soon the vet came out and said “Nothing on this elephant.”, and I was free to go. Thankfully there were no more checkpoints after that one and we made it safely to “Zootopia” where the elephant continued his antiviral medications and afternoon naps and quickly recovered. I was very happy to hear the news, but when I got back to Toowoomba, there was news there that I hoped wouldn’t be. I read the paper and there was the headline “MAMMOTH SEARCH FOR MISSING ELEPHANT.”, I explained the situation to Ruth and Russell and said “I’m going to own up to the zoo that I took the elephant, but I was really rescuing him from being put down because he had the “flu”. I don’t think they’d have me thrown in gaol for that.”, and went straight back to Melbourne to explain the situation. I went straight to the manager and said “I hear your elephant’s gone missing. Well, I’m responsible for that, but I wasn’t really stealing him; I was rescuing him. You see, he told me that some other elephant had the flu, and one of your staff took him away. He heard a gunshot and he never saw him again, which sounds to me very much like you destroyed him.” “Well, I understand” the manager said kindly “but that elephant was not shot because he had the “flu”. He was shot because he was threatening the life of one of our keepers by wrapping his trunk too tightly around her neck for too long, and there was no other way. As for wanting to rescue him; love of animals is laudable but theft is not.” “Well, if I pick him up from “Zootopia”; that’s where he is now and bring him back, that’ll make everything all right again, won’t it?” I said “Well, it may not be that simple” replied the manager “We’ve already contacted the police, and it’ll be at their discretion whether they take further action.” “Well, I’ll go and get him and then the police can decide; but I don’t think they’ll take any further action when I explain the situation to them. About six hours later, I was back at the zoo with the elephant and the police took me away to decide my fate. At the courthouse the judge said “Well, apart from the crime of “theft” and the crimes of “fraud”, your actions were not criminal and if anything quite admirable, and I’m glad you immediately owned up to the zoo and brought the elephant back, so I have decided on a very modest punishment of eighty hours community service; to be served at the zoo the elephant came from and no conviction.” I thought that that was quite fair, and I did the work I was required to do as efficiently, as quickly and as well as I could, and when I’d done the required number of hours of work, the judge said “You can start with a clean slate; we’ll forget that this ever happened.” “Thank you, sir” I said kindly, and headed home. As I was going home, I thought “Well, I hope that elephant never forgets what I did for him.”, and when I visited the zoo 29 months later, one of the elephants came straight up and poked his nose through the bars of the cage. He seemed to remember me, at any rate.


(By Shelley Goodman. Written on the 29th of August 2011

© Copyright 2018 Bill Shakepear. All rights reserved.

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