Lady’s Steps of Hope Part III: Emotions


Lady is a strong elephant, both physically and emotionally. Her feet have been in terrible condition for a long time, yet she pushes through it. This is something we have seen in other elephants as well, but it always takes us back a bit. Through a lifetime of being in the circus, she has endured a tremendous amount, the impact it had on her is undeniable, but she is still determined to try and heal her spirit.

Trusting us with her feet is an enormous step. She has undoubtedly been hurt before, her feet are painful, and allowing us to do anything with them is incredibly vulnerable for her. The first day it did seem like she was willing to give us the benefit of the doubt but was still watchful and unsure of how things would play out. She appeared to be on the fence and was ready to back away if she perceived that we did anything wrong. After making it through the first session without any errors on our part, Lady’s trust seemed to widen. With that little opening in her protective armor, something else emerged, neediness.

Vulnerability is one of the most challenging qualities to embrace, especially when you have spent a lifetime having to be tough to survive. During a session on her back feet, she reached out in a way that wasn’t looking for food but was looking for a hand. She wanted support, and it showed in her eyes as well. It was the first time we have seen her admit to needing anyone; it was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. It’s generally through an elephant’s healing that you understand how emotionally scarred they are. Recognizing that first moment of need was a reminder of how protected she had become of herself and how hard it was for her to allow herself to need someone.

Lady has a ‘tell.’ If you have seen any of our training videos or photos, you will see we hold the end of their trunk during procedures. It helps us to be connected to them, keeps them grounded, and allows us to feel where they are at. While holding Lady’s nose, if something hurts, if she gets scared, or is starting to get tired, she will close the one side of her nose a bit, holding your pinkie a little tighter. It’s not a hard grasp or anything aggressive; it’s almost like when someone holds your hand just a little tighter. Both Scott and I have experienced the same thing; it’s almost hard to notice, but the meaning is very clear. When you listen to the ‘little’ communications, it often opens them up to bigger ones, and Lady reaching out was significant for her.

When we work on Lady’s front feet, Scott stays down at her foot, while I stand to be eye level with her, trunk in my hand. We have mentioned before how Lady wants you to be present when you are with her, and if you’re not, she finds a way to let you know. With footwork, she wants you to be right there with her, looking directly at her, connected. Guida was very similar. Guida’s need for it wasn’t as strong, but she preferred to be eye to eye as if the connection made her feel safe. We would joke she had to look into your soul; her presence was commanding. But the same behavior in two different elephants feels incredibly different. Lady seems more to need, almost demand it. This may shift as well. As her general comfort grows, it could relax, or not, it could simply be what she wants.

After Lady arrived, we saw a shift in her understanding that she didn’t have to lash out to express her discomfort. She learned that we would listen to the small things, and she could avoid the big statements. Now she is starting to learn that not only can she communicate displeasure, but she can open herself up to other emotions as well. It is a complicated journey and requires a lot of work on her end. We are thrilled to see that she is beginning to feel safe with allowing herself to feel and sharing those feelings with others.

Next post, we’ll talk about the actual condition of her feet.

April 24, 2020




  1. REPLY
    Susan says

    This was such a lovely, touching post. It is always so difficult to think about the trauma that these beautiful creatures have gone through for absolutely no reason. But it inspiring and an honor to get to see them fight through it and be willing to open themselves up again. Thank you all again for your tireless and loving work. And i LOVED the comment about Sweet Guida!

    • REPLY
      EleComposer says

      Thank you, Susan. ❤️

    • REPLY
      Jean says

      Such a beautiful update on Lady.
      It takes special people to take care of special elephants.
      From the bottom of my heart, thank you?

      • EleComposer says

        Thank you, Jean. ❤️

    • REPLY
      Shirley Taylor says

      That is so wonderful to read about Lady and how she is coping with her new and wonderful life. What a lot she has had to learn with her new world of freedom and love.
      Thank you all so much for finding time to keep us all happy with your updates on these 3 beautiful girls xx

  2. REPLY
    Julie says

    Powerful stuff. It sounds to me she is learning to love for the first time. Heartbreakingly beautiful ❤️.

    • REPLY
      EleComposer says

      It is, isn’t it. Thank you. ❤️

  3. REPLY
    Alana says

    Boy did this post touch my heart! How wonderful for all parties. Sounds like deep inside she might just be a Lover. What I wouldn’t give to have her squeeze my baby finger. I would melt.

    • REPLY
      EleComposer says

      She does stir hearts, doesn’t she. ❤️

  4. REPLY
    gjh says


    Your almost uncanny sensitivity and kindness are nutritious for the soul in a way I barely understand but definitely need.

    Had to put on my GSE t-shirt to write this because formal attire is appropriate when discussing an old-fashioned don’t-make-em-like-that-any-more class act like Lady. What a broad! Just crazy for her. And you.


    • REPLY
      EleComposer says

      Thank you for such kind words (while wearing your t-shirt!). ❤️

  5. REPLY
    Laura Barber says

    Such incredibly complex beings. Lady’s journey is fascinating. Thank you as always for sharing her poignant story.

    • REPLY
      EleComposer says

      You are so welcome. Thanks back to you. ❤️

      • Barb says

        Once again a beautiful addition to the Journal of life at the Elephant Sanctuary Brazil. Remarkable description of Lady and of how you communicate with her. Thank you for the lovely words.

      • Julia Mercedes Eden says

        The way you describe Lady’s immeasurable depths of all elephant ? emotions Kat and the comments by fellow Ladybug-lovers have me in tears ? much for the same reasons as have been described. My heart ? truly bleeds for the pain she must have endured without release over past decades in the circus and at the hands of abusers. God bless you Lady, Kat, Scott and all at GSE, Brazil – you amaze me ?❤️

      • EleComposer says


  6. REPLY
    Lori Hoover says

    This is such great news. I can see it in my mind, both Guida and Lady for the look me in the eye thing, each in their own way. I can see it because you all describe it so beautifully. I’m so glad because I have hope for Lady being comfortable enough to try that extra out reach with an elephant, perhaps Rana first some day? Thank you so much for being there for her, for them. I’ve been wondering on Lady and Rana’s meet ups, if they are continuing? And, on interfence action with Miss Maia? And, of course, how things are going for Rana and Maia as well. Lot’s of questions, sorry, LOL No hurry, I know you’ve been concentrating on answering questions on Love for and from each girl and Lady’s footwork. I’m just hoping that she continues her progress with the other girls as well.
    Thanks again for all you do.

    • REPLY
      EleComposer says

      You’re going to love tomorrow’s post; answers to your questions. ❤️ You can also check for updates on our Current Progress page.

      • Lori Hoover says

        Haha!! I just saw the title of the next post, and it immediately made me think of this post with all my questions, LOLOL

        Thank you so much, and…………I’m off to read it now, just wanted to thank you first.

      • EleComposer says

        You are so welcome. 🙂

  7. REPLY
    Heidi says

    I wonder what Lady thinks everyday… How did I end up in this amazing place? Where have these people been all my life? Will it last forever? To earn the trust of such a magnificent, emotional, and intelligent animal… hat’s off to you!

    • REPLY
      EleComposer says

      Thank you, Heidi. ❤️

  8. REPLY
    Kelejan says

    Your wonderful descriptions bring tears to my eyes, for all the harm that has been done to them and your rescue and treatment of each different elephant in turn. The way you share with us brings joy to our own lives. But so sad that they have to wait for most of their lives until they get the love and care you give them and that they so deserve..

    • REPLY
      EleComposer says


  9. REPLY
    Terry says

    We are all taking “Lady steps” with you sweet, sweet soul!!! Trust that we are here with you too!!!❤️❤️❤️

    • REPLY
      EleComposer says


  10. REPLY
    Rosie P says

    As I read this post I went on a very emotional journey. Tears for the physical and emotional pain our Lady Bug has suffered for so long and then tears of joy in the realisation of her awakening at ESB. To look into an animal’s soul and connect in this special way shows true dedication and love for what you do. It takes special people with knowledge and respect and a willingness to always keep learning no matter how experienced they are. Lady has begun to trust enough so that the subtle signs are coming through. She is asking for your help and the recognition on both sides is both beautiful and poignant.
    I don’t mind how much you make me cry because Lady is loved, respected and has free will. She lives in a wonderland where it is all about her.
    It’s all for you, Lady!!!!! Thank you all so much!

    • REPLY
      EleComposer says

      Thank you, Rosie. ❤️

  11. REPLY
    Maggie says

    Do you get the sense that she knows that what you are doing to her feet is to help her or make her more comfortable? I remember the blog post about scheduling where you said she’s got some sort of water treatment for her feet. Does she seem to enjoy that?

    • REPLY
      EleComposer says

      They seem to start to put it together early on – that what we’re doing is trying to help them. Food motivation helps as well. It’s not clear if the foot soaks feel good during the treatment or not. When her right front foot starting hurting her, she did lift it up out of the soak for a second and then put it back in. But they seem to feel okay, and she started putting together that her feet felt better after soaks. And she definitely notices a difference after her footwork. They’re pretty good at making the connection with all of that.

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