The animals speak/The elephant of the Gruss family

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It was the elephant of the Gruss family who invited me to write this book a few years ago. I had come to spend a beautiful summer day with my daughter, at the Alexis Gruss park in Piolenc, France. The afternoon was devoted to children, in a pedagogical way. They showed not only their circus performances, but also how they trained and how they lived with their animals. The dance master honored us with a waltz lesson to his horses. They obeyed each of his looks, for a few pieces of sugar. I do not know if human beings could dance as well as they. But the most impressive of all was the elephant. Under the tent, more visible than her prowess was her confidence for her mahout. Or rather her love, it seemed to me. She threw him on her head, vigorously placing her foot on a springboard, and proudly received him on her shoulders, looking at us majestically.

After work, pleasure. The mahout was tenderly tending his elephant and gave her every day an hour of mud-bathing, in a stream of water, in freedom in the park, in front of everybody, without any barrier, because she could not hurt a fly. I stared at her for too long, enough to irritate her, without doing it on purpose. Her gaze showed me her nervousness and I said to myself "she is conscious", which is obvious, for who has not lost his common sense, but not for a scientist, trained in Cartesianism (animal-machines, etc.).

My astonished reaction calmed her. I stayed calm and she too. She even showed me her humor. An eight-year-old girl turned her back on her and had not seen her approach. The elephant cuckooed the little girl with her trunk over her shoulder, and slightly frightened her, then she threw me a complicit look.