As we have mentioned, Lady’s comfort level is cyclical – and some days are better than others. We work on her feet most days, with a foot soak and topicals in the morning, and scrubs and topicals in the afternoons.
The other day, while doing her afternoon treatment at the training wall in Yard 3, we asked for her foot. There is a footrest welded into the bars of the fence, at the “perfect” height for an elephant to rest their foot while we scrub, trim, inspect, or file. She picked up her foot, and, rather than putting it in the usual spot, she went the next section higher. This bar is relatively close to her chest height. It wasn’t something we asked for, but it’s a good muscle stretch, and she seemed comfortable. Apparently, it is where she felt her foot should be that day. We cleaned her foot, used the cold-therapy laser, and applied sprays while she comfortably propped it up nice and high.
When elephants with physical compromise do things like that, it makes us laugh a little. We have had people who worked with elephants saying that, during initial training, their elephant couldn’t lift their foot to the stool or the bar. If an elephant is in critical condition, this may be true, but most of the time, the elephants are playing their humans. They only lift their foot partway, and they still get treats, they act like it’s difficult, and they get praise and treats, all the while they are quite capable of lifting their foot that high and beyond. We have seen elephants pretend they can’t do a behavior with one person, only to have someone else walk up and they do it right away. They are smarter than many people give them credit for.
Elephants are very good at training their humans, and sometimes we let them when there’s no harm. But Lady is the kind of elephant who wants to show what she is capable of. Her feet may not be perfect, but she is strong, agile, and knows how to get extra handfuls of Froot Loops and lots of smiles. 😉