Pat Robbins loves elephants. That much is apparent the moment you walk into her Elmira home.
Over the past two decades, Robbins has amassed a collection of elephant items from the size of a dime – an ivory figure set on a tiny seed – to the size of a real baby elephant, in every material and colour, from every corner of the globe.
With upwards of 5,000 pieces in her collection – an estimate, “who has the time to count them all?” she laughed – beautiful elephant themed items are more than just a décor motif. It’s her passion.
Why elephants, you might wonder?
“Elephants are family oriented,” Robbins explained. “That’s why I am drawn to them. They are all about family, and that’s what is most important to me as well.”
She continued, “The females take care of the little ones. When a little one wants a drink, all of the females circle around him and protect him while he drinks and bathes. And lord help the alligator that wants to get between the females and their babies.”
And they’re highly intelligent animals – an elephant never forgets – that share numerous behavioral characteristics with humans.
“They also mourn like we do,” Robbins said. “If someone is sad, they touch each other with their trunks for comfort. … If they’re on a trek and they find the bones of an elephant, they stop and pick up the bones and they mourn; they cry like we do, they have tears like we do.”
Her collection began on a shopping trip with her friend Charlotte. The pair happened upon a shop at King and Victoria Streets in Kitchener that had a pair of porcelain elephants – a mother with calf – that really struck a chord.
They each picked one up, and the love affair really began for Robbins.
The connection culminated several years back with a ride on the back of an elephant at African Lion Safari near Hamilton.
“It was fantastic, but man, are they hairy!” she said with a laugh. “I had shorts on; that was a bad idea. Their hair is so coarse.”
Now, she enjoys perusing antique stores and gift shops, always with an eye for a new piece.
It’s not always easy to come across these unique items, but she’s got a lot of help from family and friends who are sure to pick up a special gift whenever they travel to bring back to Elmira for her.
“Those are the most special elephants in my collection,” Robbins said. “I have a lot of elephants from friends that have since passed away, and those are very close to my heart. And whenever anyone brings me an elephant from their trip, I am so thankful that they have thought of me.”
She’s easy to buy for, Robbins laughed, “Whether it’s Christmas or my birthday, I love when my family brings me elephants.”
As for Robbins, she’s more of a homebody. With rescue cat Emmerson to look after and five grandkids nearby, she’s more than happy to stay close to home where she can follow the Toronto Maple Leafs and watch football.
Oh, and she likes to stay near the thousands of elephant: pictures, lamps, blankets, ornaments, chess sets, stuffed animals, tables and jewelry – the list goes on and on – that make her home truly one of a kind.