It’s Over When I Say It’s Over


Lady is a character. She’s only been at Sanctuary for a few months, so she is still figuring out who she is. We can see Lady growing into more of herself as she feels more comfortable and learns who she is for the first time. We are continuing to fall in love with who she is showing herself becoming each day.

She has become a bit of a pleaser, as in, she wants to please her people and make them happy. She seems to enjoy her verbal praise as much as she enjoys her treats – which is saying a lot because she LOVES her treats.

As part of her desire for us to constantly tell her what a good girl she is, she has now decided she doesn’t like it when her training sessions finish. We aren’t extending her sessions – we don’t want to push her, and we need to acknowledge that she may not know her limitations. Besides, she is here to be an elephant, and that remains our top priority.

Some days, her training sessions are just off and don’t go particularly well. It may be that she doesn’t quite understand what we are asking for, maybe we aren’t asking correctly, or she doesn’t really feel like giving us what we are asking for. It’s not a big deal when they don’t go ‘well’ – not every session can be a “rockstar session.” We understand that, but it seems Lady may not fully grasp that concept.

On “off” days, we try to stop before she gets frustrated- we would do this with any elephant. In general, training sessions are always short, no matter the species. One of the goals is to end on a good note and a big reward. We try to set her up for success by asking for things she already knows if she is struggling. Even if things aren’t going well, she doesn’t want us to stop. She wants us to keep going until she earns a jackpot and a “Lady party.” (If we give a “jackpot” reward of food and praise when she doesn’t earn it, it undermines the entire reward system.) She still gets plenty of treats and praise, but she knows and wants the jackpot.

Days that she’s having a great session, we are also seeing that she doesn’t want the session to end. Lady will have a rockstar break-through and will get a whole bucket of fruit and heaps of praise, and we will end the session on that positive note. She will stand there, look at the bucket of fruit, and then look at us as if to say, “….but I’m not done- I can give you more?”

We’ve never seen an elephant not want training sessions to end in this way and this consistently. Other elephants we have worked with are thrilled with their jackpot and are content with that. It’s strange and cute and charming, and another way that Lady is stealing our hearts and earning all the love, praise, and treats we have.

Photo of a very happy Lady, getting a drink along the fence.

April 7, 2020


  1. REPLY
    Rand says

    She’s a very smart elephant and I’ve seen it even through her pictures. I knew there was something different about her. She is generalizing behavior which is an indicator of a very intelligent creature and soul. So get ready to be very surprised by her learning curve 🙂

  2. REPLY
    Alana says

    I think she genuinely Loves her human friends. Who could blame her.

  3. REPLY
    Heidi says

    This great story made me smile. And seeing Lady’s smile made me smile all over again. Thank you for making her so happy!

  4. REPLY
    Lynn says

    How could anyone not love Ladybug?

  5. REPLY
    Kelejan says

    She seems to be one of a kind. Very intelligent indeed. Love all you reports on her, as well as all the others.

  6. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman Eaton says

    LadyBug wants what she wants when she wants it! Her wanting to manipulate the situation shows her intelligence and independence. It will be so much fun watching her grow into her true self. So thankful GSE has the knowledge to guide her with sensitivity and love. THANK YOU GSE.

  7. REPLY
    Julia Eden says

    It’s because of the loving way you speak to her I’m convinced ! Who wouldn’t want that verbal praises as well as a bucket of fruit Scott ! What a wonderfully endearing tail of Lady who tripped over her’s a short while ago !…She’s truly a diamond ? amongst elephants ?❤️?

  8. REPLY
    Rosie P says

    It never ceases to amaze me how much empathy and patience you show these beautiful creatures. You recognise their sensitive natures, each a character and each one allowed to be who they were born to be. I am in awe of you all. This is what true animal lovers want for each and every animal on this planet, to be understood and be allowed to be themselves. Lady is gradually showing progress in her trust of humans. She is beginning to understand that she is being shown love. Thank you a million times over! XXXXXXXXXX

  9. REPLY
    Kelejan says

    That is a lovely reply, Rosie P. I could not put it better.

    • REPLY
      Rosie P says

      Bless your heart, Kelejan.

  10. REPLY
    Will Parker says

    She’s a beacon of hope in a nervous and straining world. Wonderful if Lady is having quality time to make up for her difficult past. The right phrase must be are humans smart enough to understand how smart Elephants are especially one callled Lady!

  11. REPLY
    Carol Anderson says

    Of all the elephants in sanctuary, it seems that she is the happiest one to be there. Or smarter than the average elephant.

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