FIRST HURDLE CLEARED (HER BACK FEET). ON TO HER FRONT FEET.
The first tremendous hurdle had been cleared; Lady allowed us to begin working on her back feet. We got some substantial work done over the course of a week, so it was time to take the next step- attempting footwork on her front feet. That is the dangerous end, and although we do everything through protected contact, elephants can still hit, grab, and kick. Her front feet are more sensitive and painful than her back, and it’s more difficult for her to hold them in position for any length of time. Some of you have seen foot care done while an elephant is lying down, but even when they are controlled through forceful dominance (which is generally how that is done), it’s not safe. We have foot bars installed at different levels to accommodate physical limitations, but it is a factor for Lady because it means redistributing her weight to her other front foot. Of course, all of these considerations are kept in mind going into things, and our expectations are relatively nonexistent; safety and comfort are our priorities.
Trying to gauge how Lady would be with her front feet had us using a similar plan as with the back feet. The thought was to start the first day with spraying and scrubbing, then add in a scrape or two, and see her response. Lady did fine with the spraying and cleaning but was more watchful when the knives came close. She did fine but showed she would rather be doing her back feet by lifting those to the bars behind her instead. We did a touch more unimpactful scraping, took some photos, and then did some work on her back feet to compromise and allow for many big successes. The next day we started on the fronts again, and she did better. At one point, Scott took a thick piece of overgrown pad off of her left front, and she decided after that she would give her right front instead. She generally has a preferred foot for the day but will give the other if you ask for it. At this point, we are letting her dictate things somewhat. With the level of cooperation she’s offering, and the condition of her feet, we are ok with being flexible to her desires.
SHE’S A ROCKSTAR BUT WHO’S TRAINING WHO?
The next morning, she came in for breakfast and immediately put her front foot on one of the bars- success! Besides her being ready and willing to do more, it was utterly adorable, and Lady knows Kat has a hard time resisting her charms. Lady is training her humans well. 😉 Lady still seems to prefer to work on her back feet, but does well with her fronts. In her last session, Scott was able to begin to file down two of her giant nails, and Lady held her position for a decent amount of time during (filing is still her least favorite). We still have a very long way to go with all of her feet, but she is being stellar.
Although improving her feet condition has been a focus of ours since before she came to Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, every elephant’s psychological well-being is always a priority. Along with Lady allowing us to begin trimming her feet, there have been some emotional shifts as well. We will talk about those next.
photo: Lady waiting for someone to come and trim her feet 🤣
April 22, 2020
LADY’S STEPS OF HOPE SERIES (April 2020)