February 15, 2010

We had another couple of wet and chilly days and the African girls preferred the comfort of their warm barn. The caregivers decided to give them a special treat and salvaged two 100-foot hardwoods that had been pushed over by the girls. The trees were brought into the barn in two sections. The first section spanned two of the 30-foot stalls. The trees provided the girls and the caregivers with a whole day of entertainment as they ate the tender tops first, and then began stepping on and snapping the larger sections into bite-sized pieces. The next morning, what was left over from the combined 200 feet of trees was carried out in three wheel barrows.
 
Shirley has always been our tough little grandma -- always taking on some sort of guardian role. With Jenny she had more of a maternal role, but with Bunny she still played the big sister role, protecting her when she felt it was necessary. In these roles, she has always worn a protective shell--soft on the inside, but a strong exterior that took a little while to get past. With Bunny’s passing, she no longer needs to fill this role the same way. She has Tarra as a “little sister,” but Tarra doesn’t seem to need protecting; she embraces mostly everything that comes her way. The tables have turned when it comes to these two. Tarra has become the nurturing presence and now looks out for Shirley; and for the first time, not only does Shirley seem open to having someone look out for her, she seems to deeply appreciate it. Since Shirley no longer needs to be the “strong one,” she is starting to discover that she has the same vulnerabilities we all do, and is opening herself to them. With this opening, she has started to show her age to some extent. It seems her hearing isn’t what it used to be, but it doesn’t slow her down any (she still has that wonderful nose). Her caregivers have just learned to be a little louder around her. And emotionally, she has softened much in the past couple of months. She does not have that harder presence of the past, although she still radiates something that demands respect and that we expect she will never lose. She has not only returned to her vocal self, but she is more vocally engaging now, constantly rumbling. She rumbles at both her sisters’ and her caregivers’ approach, softly and regularly. She now also seems to encourage Tarra’s silly and playful affection, which makes both of them very happy. It’s wonderful to be able to watch how all of the girls develop and it’s amazing to know that it never stops.

Shirley and Tarra
Shirley and Tarra

This was another chilly morning here at the Sanctuary, so the girls all just hung out eating hay inside while a caregiver cleaned their stalls, shifting the girls here and there to get the job done. By the time pressure washing was ready to start, Minnie and Lottie had already headed out into the day. As soon as the pressure washer was started, Ronnie decided to take a hasty leave as well, since she doesn’t seem too fond of the noises from that strange water-sprayer thing.

Debbie looked around and realized everyone had left, leaving her alone in the barn. She began dashing around in circles in the stall, raising her head and swinging her trunk all around in playful zigzags. She swatted at the heavy rubber flaps over the outside door and began squeaking and squeaking. Ronnie didn’t return (which often happens when Debbie starts making lots of noise), so Debbie found a new, wonderful game.

She backed up to the middle of the stall, then SPRINTED out through the door, sending rubber flaps flying. A caregiver was watching from two stalls over, only to see Debbie burst back in through the flaps. Perhaps she was just checking to make sure she could get back in if she wanted to. Suddenly she spun, backed up to the middle of the stall again, then repeated the sprinting in-and-out game for several passes, squeaking and smiling the entire time. It’s a funny comparison, but it was as quick and fluid as a kitten playing with shoe strings. Finally, after not seeing her burst back inside, the caregiver went around to the far side of the door to check, and saw Debbie’s behind as she was now sprinting down the alley toward her sister, who was also making all kinds of squeaks and honks at seeing her finally emerge from the barn.

Tarra celebrated her 36th birthday on Valentine’s Day.