Lady spends much of her time in Yards 1, 2, and 3. Those are the smaller yards and closer to the barn, so she does not spend much time in Yards 4 and 5, which are the big yards. Some of the reasoning behind keeping her in the smaller yards is not only because of the importance of daily foot soaks, but also because of the dynamic between her and the other girls. Recently Lady has been expressing interest in spending time in the bigger yards, looking out over the gates into Yard 4.
So, one day, after her foot soaks, we opened the gate to Yard 5 and, as soon as she saw it, she was on a mission. She didn’t rush toward it, but just stepped into the space and started enthusiastically grazing. Scott went out a little while later to put out some additional food for the girls and saw Lady in the bushes, still contentedly grazing.
Giving Lady options like this allows her to express a different side of her personality than she normally does and lets her have room for more emotional exploration. Until the new chute and treatment area is completed, we won’t have the ability to perform her foot soaks so far into the habitat, so that creates a challenge with giving her access to the larger yards more often. Once that project is finished, she can be allowed more time in Yards 4 and 5.
Like all of the elephants, Lady needs this sort of balance in her day-to-day life. That’s part of how we approach treatment here; we can’t focus only on her physical health, but have to nurture her emotional health as well. Even though she does walk around quite a bit in the smaller yards, she gets much more mental stimulation when in the larger yards. In these moments when Lady explores the bigger spaces, we see a sort of spiritual change in her. It is difficult to describe, but she seems more connected to what is around her and at peace. We often speak of the importance of choice in sanctuary, that allowing elephants the autonomy to make decisions helps them to heal in deep ways. This was a perfect example of a restorative moment and how listening to Lady gave her space and time to feel more freedom.