As the weather shifts each year from the dry season to the rainy season and then back to the dry season, our footwork on the elephants also shifts.
We are currently in the middle of the rainy season, which means we are using our rainy season routine. For our elephants with healthier feet, very little changes. We do more footwork on them in the rainy season than in the dry because the rain makes their nails and pads much softer. Significantly more changes for Lady due to the condition of her feet and her complicated routine.
In the dry season, everything is so dry. We need to use lots of topical conditioners for Lady’s cuticles and nails to keep them moist to prevent them from cracking or breaking. In the rainy season, it’s the opposite. Her feet are routinely wet from the mud and rain. As her muddy feet dry out (which usually happens multiple times per day), the mud helps draw out impurities and helps her feet dry. We also use more drying foot soaks this time of year.
We regularly get asked for updates on Lady’s feet, but her feet issues are a life-long condition. It’s a hard question to answer because her feet will never be “good.” They will cycle through different issues for the rest of her life. Regardless, she is almost always more than willing to soak her feet in the jacuzzi and be hand-fed treats. She seems pleased to prop her feet up on the bars and let us file and trim away, to do what we can to maximize her mobility and minimize her discomfort.
Her rainy season schedule is to do rounds of trimming every few weeks. We alternate between her front feet and her hind feed, so there are breaks on each foot between cycles of trimming. We are very observant of her front feet as we work on them. We frequently will trim one tiny section and ask her to put her foot back on the ground. Scott will crouch down, squinting to evaluate it from a few angles to determine where her weight is resting. Then, he will ask her to present her foot again to make another minuscule adjustment. We will do short sessions like that several days in a row until Scott is satisfied, and then we will give her a break. It’s a long slow process, but it’s the best way to do it. Her foot trimming is not done for aesthetics it is done for health and comfort.
Photo: Lady giving us her cutest scrunch face. And the ‘goo’ on her cheek is ointment we use around the outside of her old facial abscess.