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PRIDE OF PORTLAND. The birth of Packy on April 14, 1962 — the first elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years — catapulted Portland from relative obscurity to the city with "the world’s preeminent captive elephant breeding facility." Packy, pictured above at his first birthday, has served as an ambassador for Portland for 49 years. Packy & Me: The Incredible Tale of Doc Maberry and the Baby Elephant Who Made History recounts, with great visuals, Packy and Doc Maberry’s groundbreaking journey. (Right photo/Christina Christensen, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo)
From The Asian Reporter, V21, #10 (May 16, 2011), page 18.
A cliffhanger of elephantine proportions
Packy & Me: The Incredible Tale of Doc Maberry and the Baby Elephant Who Made History
By Dr. Matthew Maberry, with his wife, Patricia Maberry, as told to Michelle Trappen
Arnica Publishing, 2011
Paperback, 180 pages, $19.95
By Josephine Bridges
The Asian Reporter
If you don’t already know how the story of the Great Portland Elephant Watch ends, the cover of Packy & Me will give you a big hint, as will the book’s first sentence. If you’re still not sure, you can visit the star of this story at the Oregon Zoo, where Portland’s premier pachyderm recently celebrated his 49th birthday.
Nonetheless, Doc Maberry, Packy’s veterinarian, managed to craft well over half of this tale into a cliffhanger of elephantine proportions. Settle into a comfy chair for the first 94 pages of Packy & Me. Turn off your phone. You won’t want any interruptions.
Doc Maberry has a self-effacing nature and a splendid sense of humor that combine to make this book stunningly easy to read, at least when you’re not doubled over laughing. In the second chapter of Packy & Me, Dr. Maberry describes his credentials: "Now before I share the particulars of the Great Portland Elephant Watch, first let me explain what I knew about elephant breeding and birth before Packy’s arrival: Pretty much nothing."
Back before Packy, on the rare occasions that elephants gave birth in captivity, they were chained and isolated from other members of their herd. Dr. Maberry decided that Packy’s mother, Belle, should be free from chains during her labor and accompanied by her girlfriends, who, it was hoped, would not only support and comfort the new mother, but also become "aunties" to the new baby. And when, on January 18, 1962, Belle began to have intense labor pains, the good doctor determined it was time to break the news of the impending elephant to the public. How was this information received? Said Dr. Maberry, "All heck broke loose."
And unknown to anyone, Belle would be in labor, off and on, for nearly three more months.
If it’s history you’re looking for, you’ll find plenty here. The first zoos, back around 3500 B.C.E., were private, and for the enjoyment of the wealthy and powerful only. In addition to animals, they contained deformed humans. The first public zoo opened in Vienna in 1765; nearly a century later, New York’s Central Park was the site of the first zoo in the U.S. Portland’s zoo, "reportedly the first zoo west of the Mississippi River, got its start in 1888."
Packy & Me is jam-packed with great visuals, including a 1920s picture of Rose Festival princesses posing with the residents of the zoo’s bear pit, a series of four 1959 photos of "elephant moving day" from the old zoo to its present location, and a candid shot of Doc Maberry asleep in a pile of hay, not to mention more incredibly cute baby elephant pictures than you can begin to imagine. There is even a link for those wishing to view footage of Packy’s birth. Do you suppose elephants experience embarrassment?
Packy’s birth catapulted Portland from relative obscurity to the city with "the world’s preeminent captive elephant breeding facility." It is fitting that Arnica Publishing, a Portland company, has brought us this story full of global ramifications and local pride, wonder, and affection.
Dr. Matthew Maberry and his wife Patricia want to be sure that credit is given where credit is due.
"There are so many individuals who need to have their names in print so they become a part of history," said Dr. Maberry. "They were really great people. It was as a team that all of them helped, and contributed a great deal."
Patricia singled out elephant owner Morgan Berry, physician and zoo pathologist Dr. Marlowe Dittebrandt, zoo director Jack Marks, and Eloise Berchtold, widely known in the 1970s as "The World’s Greatest Female Animal Trainer."
Following the publication of Packy & Me, said Patricia Maberry, "Even people who thought they knew us quite well were surprised at the details there."
A special Oregon Zoo edition of Packy & Me is available for purchase at the Zoo Store. To buy a copy, call (503) 525-4220 or visit <www.oregonzooshop.com>. To learn more, visit <www.arnicacreative.com>.