Karissa, who as we recently mentioned is here for a few weeks, wrote a guest post for us today, and even filmed this lovely video! Enjoy!
Nine months. Nine months of no elephants for me—the longest period since my work with elephants began 11 years ago. It was a rough nine months; I am not going to lie. Words cannot really describe how grateful I have felt in the time leading up to now, knowing I would have the opportunity to help with Maia, Rana, and Lady once again and to meet Bambi and Mara. Seriously, how lucky am I to spend time with such amazing souls in this magical place at the most magical time of the year? Cheesy right? But that’s how I feel.
When I visit, Kat and Scott have goals in mind for me, a couple of specific items usually related to one or two of the elephants. However, this is sanctuary, and we are all on elephant time, meaning goals and focus may change depending on the needs of the girls. For this trip, my focus is on Bambi. But don’t worry; I still get to spoil all the girls with special time and treats.
Details about Bambi I was given ahead of training: she is sweet and excited—so excited to make new friends, an extremely fast walker, and has somewhat of a short attention span and, my personal favorite, an exceptionally long, wiggly, semi-out-of-control trunk (nose). Kat and Scott have mentioned this in posts before, but in case anyone forgot, it is important to train for a trunk target, which assists in medically necessary procedures like blood draws, foot work, eye treatments, and more. A trunk target is holding the palm of your hand out in a specific area and training the elephants to touch and hold the end of their trunk on your hand. This is done for safety because the trunk is extremely strong, and it is nice to know where it is at all times. Unsuccessful trunk targets will also let the trainer know if the elephant is uncomfortable in any way with the situation.
Okay, back to Bambi. She is simply great! For the first two days, the sessions with Bambi were just meet-and-greets and working on her “calm” trunk. Although very early in the training, she is getting the hang of it! Bambi is food-motivated, so generally you would think the awesome, giant pieces of treats alone would be enough to incentivize her “calm” trunk, but since her trunk is more “crazy” than it is “calm,” the combination of concealing those giant treats during “crazy” trunk and then presenting the giant treats for “calm” trunk seems to really click with her. (Do not be alarmed! Even with “crazy” trunk she gets treats for trying; they’re just not as awesome.)
Now, let’s talk about her attention span. This makes me smile just thinking about it. She listens to everything—chickens, tractors, ATVs, faraway conversations between people, other elephants, our radios! She must stop and listen to any noise she finds relevant. She cannot focus on any training until she decides she has heard what she needs to hear. And sometimes hearing is just not enough. Temptation gets the best of her, and she must go see what is happening for herself. As someone who suffers from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), I can relate to and adore this quality about her! With time, understanding, and patience, Bambi will undoubtedly be a rockstar student.
Today, Bambi spent the day with Rana. Every time I thought about starting a session with her, she and Rana were doing something cute together. So we just let them be. That is the beauty of sanctuary.
I am overwhelmingly honored that Kat and Scott trust me to be a part of this journey, but even more so that after all these elephants have been through in their pasts (neglect, abuse, trauma, solitude, and more), they are open to trusting me and allowing me to be a part of their stories. I am forever grateful.
Please enjoy the cute video of Rana and Bambi hanging out together after a nice rainstorm.