A Need to Taste Everything


Lady likes to taste pretty much everything – many elephants do, it is why we ensure that all treatments we use (even the bug spray) is non-toxic and safe for mucous membranes. Lady poked her eye on a branch when she was exploring Yard 5 several weeks ago – it was a minor scratch. Still, we treated it with an herbal wash just to make sure it remained a minor issue. The herbal spray dripped in her mouth one of the first times we used it, and Lady decided it tasted delicious. Ever since Lady has wanted to eat everything we use on or around her face. If it is anywhere near her head, she opens her mouth for a taste. It’s pretty cute, but not the best behavior to encourage for safety reasons, so we try not to laugh and act as if it’s not as charming as it is.

Since arriving at the sanctuary, Lady loves standing in the middle of bushes and getting full body scratches by moving around. She leans, wiggles, rubs, kicks, and moves all of her body to reach all of the good spots. It’s one of her favorite pastimes, so it’s not a huge surprise that she gave herself another minor scratch. This time it’s on her eyebrow area.

In her decades before Sanctuary, Lady didn’t have any direct exposure to trees or bushes. She either lost the instinct to avoid scratching her face with trees, shrubs, and sticks or she simply doesn’t care. Elephant skin is very thick on most of their body, but it’s thinner on her face, belly, and ears.

Her new scratch is a few inches above her eye, and, after some discussions, we decided to treat it with a topical ointment. When Kat went to apply it for the first time, Scott was giving Lady treats. The technique is similar to what was shown in her foot soak videos: Scott has Lady rest her trunk in her hand while Kat treats her eye. Lady knows she is supposed to stay until the whistle is blown, telling her the behavior is done.

Kat verbally let Lady know it was coming. She clearly stated, “Ok, Lady, I’m going to touch your eye now” and moved towards Lady. Lady, having become accustomed to the herbal eyewash, assumed she was going to get a yummy herbal spray again. Lady closed her eyes and opened her mouth. Kat applied the ointment directly to her face using her (gloved) finger and stepped back. Lady didn’t move.

Scott blew the whistle, signaling to Lady that the action was over, so she would know to open her eyes for a treat. Lady immediately looked at Kat. She had an expression of, “OH MY!! DO YOU KNOW YOU JUST TOUCHED ME?!?!?! I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO SPRAY ME AND YOU TOUCHED ME?!?!?” It’s wasn’t an angry or worried face; it was a shocked face. Despite her surprise, she still enjoyed her treats from Scott and we tried to stifle our giggles.

To make sure that Lady was comfortable with allowing her eye to be touched again, now that she knew what was coming, Kat repeated the application. Lady leaned in and closed her eye, expecting a touch this time. Once Kat applied the ointment a second time, and Scott again signaled that the behavior was over, they had a little party – with handfuls of cranberries, some watermelon, treats, and human silliness.

That was the end of the treatment session, so Kat and Scott opened the chute for Lady and packed up the supplies. As they walked away, Lady gave a sort of head-nudge/bump, as if she suddenly realized she wasn’t supposed to allow what had just happened. It seemed like she wanted to make a point of making sure that they knew that she knew she was supposed to be mad. At no point did Lady seem angry or upset, which made her head-nudge/bump fairly endearing.

It’s such a difference of who she was a little over three months ago.

Photo: Lady enjoying a meal in the habitat.

March 12, 2020


Read More About Lady Here →



  1. REPLY
    Rand Cooley says

    My horses did same thing get poked near the eye so I had to go around 5 acres and cut every branch sticking out cuz if there’s a way to get hurt a horse will figure it out. Not practical for you I know but something to be aware of now. Lady from my perspective is a unique soul, I know she thinks “Hey these humans really care about me!” She’s also very sensitive and intelligent. I love these stories and watching her wander around her domain

  2. REPLY
    Barb says

    Gracious I love these stories! I will be smiling all day thinking about the Lady and treatment episode. You need to put these in book form for the World to enjoy.

    • REPLY
      Tammy says

      That’s a wonderful idea Barb I’m sure they have many tales to tell I hope they do it I’m already planning on buying a few LOL enjoy those horses too another beautiful animal!

  3. REPLY
    Julie says

    Sigh! I just realized I hold my breath while reading posts about Lady. Then because she’s in awesome human hands, I let out a good sigh and smile. Thank you for sharing! ❤️

  4. REPLY
    Sherry says

    Yes, she was saying, what is next or what are you doing to me? The treat makes everything alright. I love my treats!

  5. REPLY
    Bobi StaySee says

    This is so, so beautiful…Mouth open, eyes closed, surprise! This is a huge success in an opportune moment, and shows how the smallest step leads to the next giant leap. Sweet that open, shocked reaction, but more so her willing acceptance of the second touch ~ this time with awareness. We’re all so proud of her! Understanding more the gift of the shrubs and the scratchy-itchy-feels-so-good on old, neglected skin on the mend. Such a wonderful description. (They all are!) Thank you.

  6. REPLY
    Nancy Jordan says

    Such an amazing step just happened there – touch and retouched. She is really letting go some of her fear and learning more and more to trust. I love how you all have to stifle the giggles too. You all are wonderful

  7. REPLY
    Carey says

    My goodness, as you say, what a huge difference since the early days, she is “growing “so fast, how wonderful to learn about these huge changes

  8. REPLY
    Patricia says

    Mercy, I just love these stories! Every time I think, oh yeah, I know they are SO smart, they blow my mind again! Lady, I am so in love with you. Scott and Kat, thank you for the opportunity to experience these things from afar. Actually, I am so grateful for you all and send big hugs to everyone! ???

  9. REPLY
    Heidi says

    Such a display of trust! What a great story. I am already growing attached to these ladies. I developed an interest in elephants after watching ‘Holiday in the Wild’ on Netflix. Watching your elephants eat watermelon, I now think of them as “The Ladies Who Lunch” (a reference to the movie).

  10. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman Eaton says

    That Lady has spunk!! She is such an endearing soul that has captured my heart as well as hundreds of others. A big step from a lady that has endured so much pain from humans her entire life. Thank you GSE for your tender care and understanding of her.

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