We’ve briefly mentioned it a few times, but we wanted to dedicate an entire post to Lady’s emotional growth. Talking about emotional milestones are different because they are not tangible wins. Something like touching Lady’s foot for the first time, or her learning a new behavior, is a precise moment. It’s harder to talk about milestones that are shifts in how they perceive things since those shifts can’t be quantified in the same way a physical touch or behavior can be.
Emotional milestones also seem to ebb and flow a little – they aren’t linear in the same way. Elephants at sanctuary often come with a lot of baggage. Emotional healing, like grief, is a process. We want to make sure we honor her process by bringing attention to it. To gloss over the reality would be to diminish who she is, the depth of her emotions, her emotional scarring, and the depth of what captivity has done to her. We don’t want those who read our day to day posts on Lady’s incredible growth to believe she is recovered or emotionally healed. We’ve seen so much growth, but there is still so much further to go.
What we see now is very different than what we saw initially. It’s even very different from what we saw when Karissa was recently here in late-February/March. During that time, we honestly weren’t sure when Lady would be comfortable with us touching her feet, which now we can do.
Lady’s overall comfort level with us has grown significantly. She seems more accepting of us in general. Sometimes, we do things that she may not care for, but now there is an ease to her demeanor when we try new or different things. We have worked with elephants who have taken years to build up trust and confidence, and Lady is making remarkable progress in just months.
She is beginning to realize and fully believe that our hearts and intentions are good. She sees that she can trust that we will listen, that we will not push too far, and that her comfort matters to us. This is an enormous step for her after the life she has led. With this acceptance, we are seeing her confidence and trust grow at an exponential rate.
Those two things are not the same things as love. She doesn’t truly love us, not as most people define love – and that is OK. That’s an openness she’s simply not ready for yet. We don’t do what we do for her love or her adoration. We, like each of you, just want to see her happy. We want to make sure she is receiving the care she needs, and living the life every captive elephant deserves. We don’t need or want anything in return. It’s her choice and prerogative who or if she loves. Our love doesn’t come with expectations or conditions. It just is.
We are grateful for her growth every single day.