Regardless of how old he gets or how much his appearance
deteriorates changes over the years, I will always see him as the likeable Price Is Right host who happily reminds us to help control the pet population by having our pets spayed or neutered.
Having said that, though, I can't say I agree with his recent plight to have Lucy, the Asian elephant at our local Valley Zoo, relocated to an elephant sanctuary in the U.S.
Barker was in town yesterday to meet Lucy and to plee for her transfer, and although I know he means well, he is, quite frankly, wrong in this situation.
As a Wildlife Biology grad, I spent several years volunteering at theValley Zoo where I got to know Lucy and many of the keepers while working on the elephant shift.
Put simply, Lucy is magnificent.
She is a gentle soul who is far more intelligent than any of us can comprehend. And she appears to believe she's human. The keepers are her family, and they care for her as though she is their child. They are inseparable.
In a perfect world, Lucy would never have been orphaned at a young age. She never would have been brought to Canada to live out her time in a less-than-adequate facility. And she never would have been separated from other elephants for such long periods.
But she was brought here during a different time, and we can't change what's already taken place. And while Barker argues that we should finally do right by her and have her transferred, he seems ignorant to the fact that the move would more than likely kill her.
Veterinarians have examined Lucy and are in agreement that the stress of a move like that would lead to her demise. She has some serious health issues that are currently under control, and although the circumstances under which she lives here are less than ideal, she is unmistakably content.
Lucy gives hugs and "purrs" while quietly being held in an embrace by her keepers. She takes lengthy walks each day and freely explores the trails and vegetation on the west side of the Valley Zoo property, away from the public eye. And she playfully turns the water hose on her keepers -- or in my case her
slave volunteer keeper -- when we attempt to give her a bath.
There is so much care and interaction occurring behind the scenes with Lucy, and it's impossible for outsiders to appreciate the bond she's developed with the staff of the Valley Zoo. They are her companions, and to separate them by moving her to a new facility would undoubtedly endanger her life.
I realize that Barker and other protesters only want what they feel is best for Lucy, but they've failed to realize that what's best is for her to remain with her family at the Valley Zoo.
As a volunteer at the Valley Zoo, I was fortunate enough to witness Lucy painting some of her sought-after portraits. The above is the scanned image of a Christmas card that was given to me one year by the elephant shift staff, and it features a reprint of "Ode To Joy", one of Lucy's many pieces of work.