It’s hard to know where to start when talking about Lady. When you acknowledge an elephants’ individuality, all elephants are complex, yet some are a little ‘harder’ than others. Lady is amazing, she gives you this wide eyes, crooked smile look, and you can’t help but melt. She’s silly and playful, and sometimes sweet, but she has some deep-seated fears from her past that she struggles with. Certain aspects are worse than we’ve seen with any of the elephants we’ve worked with, yet some, she is starting to let go of. This type of recovery can take years, while some elephants from our past never entirely walked out from under that shadow, but Lady has made some tremendous strides in the past few weeks.
MORE RELAXED WITH TOUCH NOW
About a month ago, Lady started to become a little more relaxed with touch, and it seemed to have shifted overnight. One day she didn’t want us to put our hands on her feet during training; the next day, she preferred hands to the target. Just like that. We figured it might be a fluke, but we found instead that it was the beginning of a shift. What started as putting a hand on her foot for one second turned into holding it on for 10, then rubbing her foot and manipulating her pads with our fingers. Lady continued to be trusting and at ease with all of it, so we decided to take the next big step, gently introduce her to foot care tools while they were in position.
WE STARTED TRIMMING ON HER BACK FEET
Everything has been a slow process with Lady (which we don’t mind and is what she has needed), so we moved forward with a plan to take things step by step, but it seems Lady had her own ideas. We started with her back feet, since they are safer (for the humans involved) and generally easier for most elephants. The first day we used the square blade to softly scrape the pad of her foot to see her response. She received her big reward and significant praise and was great with it. Those little scrapes were to get her used to the feel but didn’t take anything off. Scott did a few real passes to see how she was, and she was all good. We ended it there to give her time to process and see how she felt the next day. The following morning, when she came in for breakfast, she was already offering up her back feet. Lady wanted to make sure we clearly understood that she was good to go.
That afternoon we started trimming her back feet the ‘normal.’ way and she did fantastic for the first time. Her pads are ridiculously overgrown and spongey (not a good thing and hard to trim), so there was a lot to do. But after each time she took her foot down, after just a moment, she put it right back up and was ready for more. We used the file on her nails a couple of times, and she wouldn’t hold her foot up for long, but there is a fair amount of pressure and vibration with that, so it wasn’t surprising. Her session ended with a giant treat, some Froot Loops, and several smaller treats along with lots of verbal praise and Lady seemed somewhat proud of herself. We opened the gate and Lady chose not to exit the chute, instead, she backed up to the closed gate behind her and put her foot up again. She’s a Rockstar.
It is ideal to have her willing to do more when sessions end, especially with the condition her feet are in. We have to be cautious with what we trim and can’t get too overzealous with wanting to ‘fix’ things. It can cause more damage than good. Lady should also be ready for another session at the end, versus dreading what we are going to do next. Honestly, she has totally impressed us and is doing better than we would have dared to hope.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE DETAIL
Many of you want to know more specific details about her foot condition, so we are going to write a couple of posts. One more directed towards her actual foot condition, and another with what came next. At some point, we will post before and after photos, but without elephant foot experience, some of it can be hard to understand. When trimming has progressed a bit more, the differences should be more obvious. For now, we wanted to share how spectacular Lady is and how far she has come, especially considering how guarded she was and how sensitive her feet are. With freedom from expectations, the girls never fail to impress, and Lady is no exception. She is beyond perfect and has us all beaming with pride.
April 20, 2020
LADY’S STEPS OF HOPE SERIES (April 2020)