Dolly was an elephant.
She was a wonderful elephant. I got to know Dolly in 1977, when I worked for the Famous Hunt Circus (which wasn't particularly famous). She was only two years old when I got to know her, so she was a little elephant.
My great good friend Shad took care of Dolly and the rest of the circus menagerie. Shad is a lovely person, sweet and kind and generous. We hung out together, especially after my then-sweetheart got fired and left the show.
I used to sit on the edge of Dolly's truck stall and let her run her trunk all over my head. It felt like she was petting me. Elephants have a little appendage on the very end of their trunks that's just like a finger. Dolly could pick up the littlest things with this finger; things like peanuts or sticks or blades of grass. Shad was her best friend, I think. She didn't have to use the bull hook to lead Dolly; she just picked up the end of Dolly's trunk and walked with her, almost as if they were holding hands. Dolly would wrap the end of her trunk around Shad's hand and go wherever Shad took her.
When she was a really little elephant, Dolly had an abusive, alcoholic trainer who used to beat her to get her to do her tricks. He was quickly fired as soon as the abuse came to light, but Dolly never forgot. In the circus back yard, Shad would stake Dolly outside so that she could get fresh air and sunshine. Shad always put up fence around Dolly to keep the townies from getting too close. But there was always an idiot or two or three who thought they could mess around with her. Most of the time, these idiots had been drinking.
And as soon as Dolly smelled the alcohol on their breath, she'd reel them in. She'd grab their hand or their arm with her trunk and pull them toward her. Then she'd let go, pull her trunk back just like an arm, and WHAM! She'd let them have it upside their heads with her trunk. She could hit a person hard enough to knock them out.
One gazoony on the show was this old guy (old -- he was probably in his 50s, heh) we named Dads. Dads had very few teeth, bad eyesight, and a very definite taste for cheap wine. He was assigned to clean out Dolly's stall. We all told him not to go near her if he'd been drinking, but the warning never quite sank in. Neither did he clean the stall when Dolly was staked outside or during the show; he was too busy getting his drunk on during those hours. So every night he'd clean the stall while he was plastered, and every night Dolly would just beat the snot out of him.
And he never hit her back; he just pleaded with her to stop. We'd hear him every night: "Oh Dolly, oh Dolly, why you do me like this? Why you hit me all the time? Come on and stop it, Dolly! Come on now, don't be mean to me! I love ya, Dolly, I do!"
One night at winterquarters, in the middle of the night, the owner of the show woke up to some strange noise outside around the ring barn. She got out of bed and went outside to investigate. The groom (not Shad) hadn't locked up Dolly's stall properly, and Dolly had gotten out. Dolly had left her stall, walked to the ring barn, gotten in, and was in the circus practice ring.
She was doing her act. Right there, in the middle of the night, in the darkness of the ring barn, just doing her act.
I like to think it was because she loved the circus.
Dolly was an elephant.