My days are filled with shadowing the “family” in the habitat and doing foot trimming and target training. I am having a blast! It really is a gift to be able to focus solely on these limited responsibilities. Even though the days are long, each brings immeasurable rewards.
Target training has really caught on. Now all the family members are joining in. It is so much fun to play the training game with a wall of eager students, ranging from senior citizens to calves. It is a riot as they jockey for the prime spot and the opportunity to respond to requests for their feet, ears, forehead and side. They all excel at moving their side into the target — it is so cute. Once they understand the request for side, they respond with a quick movement, leaving their front feet in place and swinging their hip around to make contact with the target. When they are all competing for a turn it is like a chorus line of feet and ears. What a joy!
Getting to know the family is an unexpected experience, one I cherish deeply. Today I felt a sense of belonging to an elephant family again as I moved along with the herd, like a ripple in a stream, flowing together effortlessly across the pasture. I had not inserted myself into the family because my time here is limited, but today I felt that unnamed energy that is elephant, all inclusive, the matriarchal collective, being part of a loving family. I soaked in the acceptance they radiated, grateful for each one of these magnificent individuals.
Later I met two new Park residents, grande dames I had not had the pleasure to meet before. Much patience was required because they were so frightened by the idea of having their feet touched. The mahouts did their best to reassure them and, although I didn’t complete a full manicure, we made some progress. A little at a time — fine, I am in no hurry. My goal is for these elephants to know that when they come to my pedicure salon they will be treated kindly and with respect. If they leave without experiencing a pedicure, that is okay.