Lady’s Steps of Hope Part I: Trimming Her Back Feet


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.



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.



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.



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




  1. REPLY
    Lisa Sisson says

    This is all so wonderful! Thank you for your patience and commitment to these lovely ladies!

  2. REPLY
    Patricia says

    I’m 73 now, and as the years go on, I never fail to be staggered at the depth and intelligence of non-human animals. About 30+ years ago, I was at the San Diego Zoo (!!!!!!–before my awakening). I was watching the elephants play in a too-small enclosure with a pool. (They now are in the “Safari Park”, but I never go anymore to any zoo.) The scales fell from my eyes. Their play was complex and intelligent–and very, very cute, bless them! Watching them changed my life. I became an activist (to the extent my creaky old self can be) and a vegan. I understood that I had grossly underestimated the intelligence of animals as a whole. I love Lady so much. I am so grateful to you humans, Scott and Kat and others, for being perceptive and loving about the intelligence and amazing personalities of elephants and other animals. Every day, you bring joy and love to my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • REPLY
      Alana says

      I couldn’t have said it better. The whole package is amazing, people & animals. Love them all.

  3. REPLY
    Sallie Robbins-Druian says

    Your STEPS OF HOPE Part I descriptions of Lady’s behavior give GREAT visuals! That fab photo of her, certainly helps get it rolling! What an adorable girl . . .

  4. REPLY
    susan says

    What an amazing girl she is!!!! And thanks to all of your dedication and hard work. Can’t wait for the continued updates and the before and afters! ❤️?❤️?

  5. REPLY
    Grams says

    Lady you are a super duper Rock Star for sure! Ready for another session on your tootsies amazing! Love and Hugs to you dear sweet girl! ??

  6. REPLY
    Lori Hoover says

    I am so, so, so happy and so, so, so proud of her. I know those are very simple words, but I am filled with simple joy for her. The simple joy of feeling her choice with all of this, and the knowledge that it will be so good for her and her feet. Great job, everyone, humans and Lovely Little Lady.

  7. REPLY
    Barb says

    What a beautiful description of a lovely Lady’s journey to much needed foot care. Thank you for sharing.!

  8. REPLY
    Kelejan says

    ll this is so fascinating and that picture of Lady hje is so pretty. I look forward to seeing her and your progress to make her feet the best it can be, knowing that the damage must be so ingrained, but you can make it a lot better for her. Even the walking that she has done since coming to you must be good for her.

  9. REPLY
    Alana says

    She’s sooooo cute!

  10. REPLY
    Heidi says

    This is so wonderful. Literally brought tears to my eyes. It’s a shame that it’s so time-consuming and difficult to bring in new elephants. All the captive elephants in non-sanctuary environments need to be there in your loving care.

  11. REPLY
    Sheila says

    Oh this lil ?lady is very precious‼️ I certainly have 3xprexxed how I believed in her and her coming around to get very serious and comfortable with this foot treatment‼️?. Yes she is getting very trusting of u folks and her fear is certainly im praying once her feet are felling much better she will be in a very agreeable! Trusting! Adventurous spirit to hang out with rana and ?maia. Oh yes indeed sweet ❤️lady is processing that shes in a great forever home! No harm to her! And I believe lady will release her past loneliness for social closeness with the other ?ladies

  12. REPLY
    Rosie P says

    Well, I am amazed and so very proud of Lady. Thank you Kat and Scott and all involved in the care of these girls, your patience and understanding of these beautiful, complex creatures has truly given you (and us) rewards! It was totally absorbing and uplifting to read this latest blog. I am so happy for Lady. Her choice, her way!She certainly is a super rockstar!!

  13. REPLY
    Shirley Taylor says

    So wonderful to read these posts on Lady it is so good she is trusting you all. It brings tears of joy to my eyes reading about the three of them. A massive big thank you for taking the time to write about the girls progress. I love these posts they are a always opened first when I switch my PC on in the morning.

  14. REPLY
    Carol Anderson says

    lady is quite the character. She may end up being the smartest of all the elephants.

  15. REPLY
    CyrAnn says

    Indeed Lady is a Super Rockstar!!!!!!!!!
    It’s incredible how she has transformed since she been with you at GSE. Congratulations to you all for all your loving compassion to these ladies and your amazing patience in the care of the wonderful ladies. It gives me great peace of mind knowing how loved they are………

  16. REPLY
    carey says

    hugely happy to hear all this and very interested to hear about Lady’s feet and treatment, as it goes on.

  17. REPLY
    Jean Ladao says

    This picture!! So adorable!

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