January 26, 2004 was Sissy's 4th anniversary at the Elephant Sanctuary! A few days later, she received a note from a friend:
November 10, 2001
Following Winkie's unexpected group bonding on November 9, Sissy has stopped carrying her security tire around with her.
When Sissy first arrived at the Sanctuary she derived comfort from a large truck tire which she carried virtually everywhere. After only a few months she began leaving the tire indoors during the day and only carry it around at night.
When Barbara died May 18, Sissy returned to her previous habit of carrying the tire continually. But when Winkie surprised everyone by bonding with all of the members of the herd on the same day, Sissy once again stopped carrying her security tire outside.
Sissy has been a sweet and dear friend to Winkie. It is obvious that Winkie's shift in social activity has had a positive effect on Sissy. Each herd member plays an important role in the emotional healing of a new elephant.
June 29, 2001
It was a cool morning when Sissy was observed for the very first time playing in the pasture with a large rubber ball. For twenty minutes Sissy was immersed in her play activity which included, kicking the ball with her front and back feet, standing on the ball, pushing it with her head, rolling it around with her trunk, and chasing it when it rolled away. Her abandonment was refreshing to watch.
There are two ways we gauge elephant recovery here at the Sanctuary; one is vocalizations and the other is play behavior. Sissy continues to exhibit that life at the Sanctuary is beneficial for her.
March 17, 2001
Sissy finally discovered the benefits of the indoor behavioral enrichment objects in her barn. The other elephants play with the objects suspended in the barn to help alleviate boredom on cold winter night, all the elephants except Sissy. But tonight she had great time! When she came into the barn for the evening, she walked right over to a suspended barrel and nudged it with her head. Within seconds she was spinning, kicking and plowing through the array of hanging toys. She played hard for about 15 minutes and then turned the toys over to Winkie who was standing by quietly awaiting her turn.
February 21, 2001
Sissy has improved greatly since her arrival one year ago. She has gained weight, overcome many fears, developed a deep bond with Winkie and is comfortable enough to sleep outside in the middle of the day.
When Sissy first arrived she would not fully recline to sleep. She always remained only partially reclined, resting on her elbow. This awkward position made deep sleep impossible as well as putting literally tons of pressure on the tip of her elbow. Behavior records from her past indicated that Sissy was often observed sleeping in this position.
It is so exciting that Sissy feels safe in her new home because she will plop down in the pasture in the middle of the day and fall fast asleep. Winkie has helped Sissy's confidence tremendously. While Sissy sleeps, Winkie keeps a quiet vigil at her side. It is heart-warming to watch their relationship unfold.
They are helping each other heal.
December 3, 2000
Another milestone. Sissy and Winkie migrated to the back of the property, the very back. Out of sight, new territory for both. Winkie would halt abruptly and spin around, stand perfectly still and stare in the direction of the elephant barn. Sissy would hesitate for just a moment, just long enough for Winkie to know that Sissy sensed her concern. Then, slowly and deliberately, Sissy would continue on her trek. Winkie finally resigned herself to the idea that Sissy was determined to explore uncharted territory. Winkie could not decide if it was more frightening to go forward with Sissy or try to dash back to the barn (nearly a mile away) without Sissy. In the end she decided that she would stick with her friend and off they went.
In the light mist of the afternoon rain, on an overcast winter's day, two new and dear friends set out on an adventure. They disappeared over a hill and remained "lost" for nearly an hour. Then, just as the sun began to set, their ghost-like images could be seem materializing through the mist. Side by side, so earnest in their steps, Sissy and Winkie were returning to the barn. Side by side, confident and calm, they appeared to have left any doubt or concern in the out back. Another accomplishment to build their confidence and their friendship.
Bless their hearts.
October 27, 2000
Sissy has become incredibly attached to Winkie, not in a needy way but almost like a big sister. Sissy is sensitive and considerate and makes sure that she is there when Winkie needs her, which is almost constantly. Sissy has also grown by leaps and bounds in the self esteem department. Winkie's need of Sissy has encouraged Sissy to become more self confident. Sissy is a gentle soul, together she and Winkie are PURE joy!
October 7, 2000
Sissy continues to be Winkie's mentor. This afternoon Sissy left Winkie and walked out into the back of the 40 acres. This is actually not an area Sissy frequented prior to Winkie's arrival she was afraid to be that far from the barn without company. BUT today Sissy ambled out like it was a daily excursion.
Winkie remained in the security of the 8 acre yard for several minutes, both elephants keeping an eye on each other. Finally, Winkie followed Sissy out and immediately walked several hundred yards away and into the dense woods. It is a whole different world in the woods. Winkie spent several minutes exploring before she returned to Sissy.
It was beautiful to watch Sissy gently take Winkie over the hurdles and through the obstacles of the Sanctuary habitat all afternoon side by side, exploring places that even Sissy had not yet been. Sissy definitely was in the lead, with Winkie never far behind.
Winkie accomplished more today then she could have imagined and it was all because of Sissy. Winkie backed down the embankment into the creek, crossed the dry creek up to an area of pasture she had not yet visited, sampled a variety of pasture grasses and ate mouthfuls of tasty berry branches. With Sissy's reassuring presence, Winkie is becoming familiar with her new home.Back to top
October 6, 2000
12.30pm Another first for Sissy and Winkie. Winkie calmly stood over Sissy as she slept in the pasture. Sissy seldom lies down due to the vulnerable position she is in while down on the ground. Obviously she feels safe with Winkie.
September 27, 2000
Last night Winkie slept like a baby with Sissy right by her side. After a few minutes Sissy lay down next to Winkie and they snored in harmony. In two short weeks they have forged a strong and loving relationship.
September 26, 2000
Sissy just went into the 60-acre field all by herself. This is important. Since her arrival Sissy had been too scared to venture into the 60 alone. Today she walked out there all by herself. She continues to explore the area showing no signs of fear.
Winkie has given Sissy many gifts, this boost of self confidence being the most precious.
September 24, 2000
Winkie has had an amazing impact on Sissy. Ever since Winkie arrived Sissy has appeared to be much more self confident and relaxed about everything and everyone. She has spent time interacting with Bunny, approaching everything without fear or concern.
Today she wandered off into the woods on her own, ate some vegetation and dusted herself before returning to the pasture. For several hours Sissy remained with Winkie as Winkie practiced going outside. Sissy was there right by her side.
September 17, 2000
Sissy has made incredible improvements since Winkie's arrival. With an air of self confidence never before observed, Sissy glides through her day with a twinkle in her eye and a cartoon smile on her face. She comes and goes from the barn effortlessly. She is spending a great deal of her time and space with Winkie, without fear or timidness. She is a changed elephant.
She is as comfortable with her caretakers and surroundings as any of the girls with an added joy about her. Since Winkie arrived, Sissy has spent more time with all of the elephants, especially Shirley, Jenny, and Bunny. She is bolder and more fearless than before and exhibits a great deal of play behavior.
Even Sammie, the dog, has taken advantage of Sissy's new confidence. Today they ran through the pasture alongside the tractor, Sissy trumpeting and chasing Sammie as Sam dashed back and forth, darting out of Sissy's grasp at the last minute.
Sissy has come a long way. Her joy is obvious and contagious.
July 15, 2000
Scott entered the pasture riding a machine called a ditch witch. This small tracker-type piece of equipment has a small scraper on the front and a long chain saw-type arm off the back. Sissy got right down to eye level with the machine and slowly gave it a good once over. When she got to the back end where the chain saw arm extension was her eyes got very big, she abruptly stood up straight and let out a bellow then immediately dropped her head back down to examine this oddity with much curiosity.
Once her inspection was complete she spent hours following, running around, and entertaining herself with the ditch witch while Scott dug a narrow ditch across the pasture. This ditch is for the fiber optics line that will carry the live feed from our outside cameras to our web site.
And Sissy helped!
on July 15 Sissy Conquers Another Fear
Until today Sissy preferred to use the "back alley" to leave the barn but would not return to the barn that same way. For some reason she was afraid to enter the barn that way.
Today for the first time since her arrival, Sissy worked up the courage to walk up the back alley to enter the barn. She was quite proud of herself. With her tire clutched to her chest she entered the barn and then exhibited her sign of pleasure and excitement by flip flopping the tip of her trunk back and forth rapidly creating a hollow pop, pop, pop sound.
It is always a joy when Sissy conquers another fear.
April 27, 2000 3:30pm CT
When she came to the creek she stopped dead in her tracks. Scott and Carol encouraged her verbally, and within seconds Sissy decided she would forge the great stream (it is about 6 inches deep). So pleased with herself, Sissy's eyes sparkled and seemed to dance around a bit then proceeded to follow the four wheeler deeper into unknown territory.
After a few minutes Sissy turned around and started home. Instead of crossing at the same place, Sissy followed the creek bank until she was right adjacent to the barn. Now she got a little nervous and obviously did not feel confident enough to cross. Barbara showed up and while Sissy watched, Barbara calmly crossed the creek right in front of her. This seemed to be the reassurance she needed. Sissy crossed the creek again.
Two times in one day. Hurray!
April 7, 2000 - Sissy loves oranges. She prefers to eat two at a time. With much patience and determination she grasps the first orange and positions it against one nostril. While holding that orange in place she feels for the second orange; it must be just right. She spends several seconds selecting the second orange. It needs to fit up against her other nostril, adjacent to the first orange. With her mission accomplished; the oranges held like two baseballs in the palm of a hand, Sissy swings her trunk up to her mouth and the vitamin C treats disappear. She obviously enjoys her unique way of eating oranges.
April 5, 2000 - Sissy is becoming quite comfortable with Barbara. She has been observed standing very close to Barbara as they eat, even sharing her custom shredded hay. She goes outside everyday with the other elephants but stays relatively close to the barn. Morning and afternoon naps on the side of the hill are a daily occurrence. She continues to gain weight and her split nails are growing out healthy.
March 23, 2000 - Happy Day! Sissy finally laid down. Records indicate that Sissy has not laid down to rest for several years. The reason was presumed that she could not get up on her own.
More than once during her stay at the El Paso Zoo Sissy was knocked to the ground by another elephant. She could not get up on her own and her keepers had to help her to her feet with a crane.
Today at 5:30 p.m. Sissy gently folded down to the ground. On the incline leading to the "big" pond she found the perfect place to lay her head. That is exactly what she did at first. She laid the right side of her face and her right shoulder on the ground. You could see she was desperate to lay her entire body on the ground, but she was scared. Carol stood next to Sissy encouraging her to lie down. Finally, with great precision, Sissy laid in a position on the hill that would make it easier for her to get up. Interestingly she waited to lie down until Carol was at her side. It took several minutes of encouragement but finally she laid down. At that point all that could be heard was deep snoring.
Sissy slept for approximately 45 minutes and woke refreshed, full of trumpets.
Sissy did not rest well last night. She was preoccupied with Barbara wandering around in her stall. Sissy has not lain down to sleep since her arrival. Records indicate that Sissy has not lain down to sleep for years. This lack of complete rest causes her to be tired and could account for her reputation as an aggressive elephant.
March 21, 2000
Sissy shared her night stall (60' x 30') with Barbara. Sissy continues to be slightly timid about the other elephants and appears most comfortable with Barbara. If all goes well this will be a permanent evening arrangement. Hopefully, this will help the two to develop a relationship and form a bond.
March 8, 2000 - Sissy escorted the tractor through the front pasture (the front 40) for nearly 20 minutes. As soon as the tractor entered the area she stopped grazing, lifted her head spread her ears and started to move quickly in the direction of the tractor. It was obvious that she was in a playful mood.
As she approached the tractor which had been slowed to a crawl to allow her to catch up she trumpeted and passed the vehicle. She was racing the tractor and to her surprise she was winning. This made Sissy very excited. So Sammie, the dog had to join in. The two are hysterical together. In a swirl of trunks and tails, barks and trumpets, Sammie and Sissy spun and ran in circles around the tractor.
Sissy continued to play and follow the tractor for nearly 500 meters. By the time the entourage reached the back 60 (acres) Sissy decided she had had enough excitement and fun and turned to walk back in the direction of the barn.
As the tractor came back into the 40 returning to the barn Sissy once again held her head up high and raced towards the tractor. This time her trumpets were accompanied by rumbling and bellowing with a few trumpets from Shirley and Bunny who were approaching from the other side of the creek to join play time with Sissy. The tractor slowed to a stop so Sissy could approach, which she did with a giant elephant purr and a continual popping of her trunk. All of the other girls approached, sharing the excitement and adding their vocalizations chirping, rumbling, trumpeting and popping. It was loud!. The entire time Sissy popped the end of her trunk the way she does when she is excited.
The excitement soon dissipated and the girls went onto to other things....like grazing. A wonderful day had by all.
March 6, 2000 9:45am
Sissy exited the barn with the other elephants this morning. As everyone lumbered out, Sissy kept pace but stayed a little behind the herd. After everyone was out Bunny turned to see where Sissy was. Bunny slowly backtracked and approached Sissy. Sissy stood perfectly still and, for another first, did not turn her back in submission when Bunny approached. Bunny touched Sissy gently and Sissy reached out tentatively. After a few minutes Bunny turned back around and continued across the pasture.
Sissy remained in the proximity of the other elephants all morning.
March 5, 2000 2:45pm
Sissy became quite playful when Carol drove by on the 4-wheeler. Without a warning, Sissy dashed toward the vehicle! No, she was not being aggressive she was playing.
For the next twenty minutes Sissy and Carol sped around the pastures with Sissy having the time of her life. When she would catch up with the 4-wheeler she would gently touch a wheel or place her trunk near the warm exhaust coming from the tail pipe. While she stood close to the 4-wheeler Carol could see the base of Sissy's forehead vibrating, a sign of infra sound communication.
4:50 - Sissy spent a few minutes splashing herself with water from the big pond. She put her front feet into the pond but did not submerge. Maybe tomorrow.
March 4, 2000 - Sissy is making a habit of going outside. Today she had a new experience; both Barbara and Bunny approached her at the same time. You could tell that Sissy was a little nervous but she remained calm and moved slow. At one point she was gently sandwiched between Barbara and Bunny and appeared to savor it. Then she moved a few feet away and observed as the others went on their way. Grazing remains the attraction to being outside.
March 3, 2000 - Sissy had a great day. She spent the entire afternoon exploring. Barbara, Tarra, and Bunny took turns checking in on her. At one point Sissy crossed over into the pasture where Bunny, was grazing and Shirley and Jenny were napping. She spent a short time grazing in close proximity to Bunny. Although Sissy was tentative she allowed the others to approach and touch her. With Barbara, she extended her tail and touched Barbara ever so gently, a good sign, one of interest in interacting. She explored the embankment around the large pond and even spent a few minutes dusting with the moist dirt along the pond's edge. Again she spent most of her time grazing.
Feb 29, 2000 - AM
Sissy followed Barbara out of the barn right away. Jenny, Shirley, and Bunny wanted to encircle Sissy which caused her to retreat. It was overwhelming for her. After the others went about their elephant business Sissy ventured out a short distance from the barn.
3:15 p.m. - Sissy finally came all the way outside and wandered the Sanctuary property. She grazed and explored. Again glanced at the pond but did not go in. Walked about a quarter of a mile in the direction of the other elephants, grazing all the way. At one point she stood tall, spread her ears and raced, trumpeting, towards the woods. She came to a skidding stop at the edge of the woods and spun around.Then settled in for more grazing.
After about an hour she wandered back to the barn for a long drink of water. She appears to be processing her latest adventure.
Sissy's re-birth day! Today at 4:25pm Sissy walked out her barn door. She stood outside for a few minutes and then, with Carol's encouragement, walked into pachyderm paradise. She discovered the new grasses making their spring debut. Strolled by the big pond. She looked curiously but did not go in. She discovered rocks and fallen tree branches, water crescent, and lots of grass. Sissy had no problem manipulating her trunk to collect the grass and place it into her mouth. Sammie came dashing into the pasture and for several exciting moments the two ran in circles playing with each other. Sissy is a new and different girl. She has shed her fears and is enjoying the good life.
5:45 p.m. - as the sun set Sissy returned to the barn, acting like she had done it a million times. She was calm, content, with a cheerful flicker in her eye.
Feb. 21, 2000 - Red Letter Day ! Sissy walked straight through the restraint chute without a hesitation. This is a monumental feat for Sissy because she was so fearful of the chute. Once she conquered her fear she spent the remainder of the day walking back and forth through the chute...sometimes with her tire, sometimes without.
Feb 18, 2000 - Sissy is finally moving through the entire barn with ease. Previously she would not venture through some of the more restricted doorways that connected one stall to another. Today she went through these doorways several times without hesitation. Although it is taking Sissy many days to work through her fears, she is making marked progress each day, in her own time.
Feb 12, 4:45pm - Sissy has shown great interest in Sammie, one of the Sanctuary dogs. He is a border collie mix stray who is Tarra's favorite pet. Today Sissy allowed Sammie to lick her trunk. She was still and calm as he stepped into her stall, stopped for a moment to glance up at her, and then proceeded to give her an enthusiastic lick on the end of her trunk. She stood perfectly still and did not pull away when he licked her; instead, she flapped her ears which is her sign of contentment. Then she slowly turned and presented her back leg to him an elephant greeting that Sammie recognized as a sign of friendship.
Sissy has found yet another friend.
Feb 9, 2000 - 2:12 p.m.
Sissy went outside. She exited the west end of the elephant house and spent the afternoon basking in the sun alongside Tarra. YEAH!!!!
Tuesday, Feb 8, 2000
For the past several days Sissy has remained inside the elephant house for the majority of the day.
Although the weather has been comfortable (high 50s, low 60s) she appears nervous about venturing outside. Her tire seems to bring her a sense of security. Today she carried it all the way outside and set it down while she collected pieces of carrot.
Each day she finds the courage to venture out further, for a longer period of time. We feel it is important to allow her to build her confidence for any new adventure. Also, it is good that she finds comfort and security in her new house.
Monday, Feb 7, 2000 - This morning Sissy joined in on the early AM trumpet fest. Around 3am each morning the girls join together in a raucous of trumpets. It almost appears to be a contest: as to who can trumpet the longest, loudest, and with the highest pitch. This morning during a silent moment Sissy joined in. Her first attempt at group trumpeting was a pitiful little squeak. Immediately, as in response of encouragement, Bunny, Shirley, and Jenny, trumpeted again in unison. This time Sissy blasted out a trumpet that befit her stature. Then all were silent and laid down to sleep. Sissy does not lie all the way down on her side to sleep. Instead, she reclines part way and rest on her elbow.
Wednesday, Feb 2 - 1:15 pm
Sissy and Barbara spent the entire day together.
Sissy was given access to the outside for the first time since her arrival. She was a little timid and not interested in venturing far. Each time Carol encouraged her to come further outside she did, and after a few minutes she was almost all of the way outside. She stood perfectly still and soaked in the sun.
In another few minutes she went back into the barn, and for the next two hours she ventured only partially out of the doorway. At one point she picked up her tire and carried it to the door. She placed the tire down on its edge and it started to roll. It looked like she might follow the tire all the way out side but at the last moment she grabbed the tire and pulled it back inside.
Sissy is making wonderful progress.
Monday, January 31, 2000 - Sissy is eating her hay very well. Grain is her favorite food and carrots are her favorite produce. But wait until June when she gets a taste of the Sanctuary wild black berries!
Sunday, January 30, 2000
Today keepers gave Sissy a tire to play with. Her eyes lit up and she gently grasped the tire with her trunk and placed it right in front of her against the pipe corral.
Throughout the day she carried the tire everywhere she went. At meal time she moved the tire, not far from reach, but enough to make room for her grain and produce. At night when she slept she placed the tire right by her side.
Sissy and Barbara spent the majority of the day together. Sissy is not intimidated by Barbara and enjoys standing side by side eating. Jenny, Shirley, Tarra and Bunny took turns visiting Sissy throughout the day. When they approach, she immediately walks over to them and leans up against the pipe divider.
The elephants interact by touching each other with their trunks. Sissy participates in the interaction until the other elephant leaves.
Saturday, January 29 - Sissy had several opportunities to get a close look at Monroe, one of the domestic cats that calls the elephant house home. Monroe came into Sissy's area several times to check her out. Sissy was aware of his presence and not one bit frightened. The curiosity was mutual.
January 28, 2000 - This morning Sissy acted very hungry even though there was plenty of fresh hay within reach. Her diet records from the past few years indicate that she does not eat hay well.
It seemed to Scott and Carol that Sissy's severely overgrown top molar might be the problem. It was decided that a leaf shredder/chipper would be of enormous benefit to Sissy.This piece of equipment chops the hay into fine pieces, making it easier to eat, so one was purchased for our new girl. When a pile of the chopped hay was placed in front of Sissy, she immediately started to shovel it into her mouth.
Sissy will be able to eat the correct amount of hay now that it's been chopped up , but her overgrown tooth will need attention. It looks like Sissy will need to undergo tooth surgery in the near future, but in the meantime she will be able to eat and gain weight.
4:15pm - Sissy walked over to the side of the stall where Scott was standing and extended her foot through the protective barrier. The bracelet that was used to secure her inside the trailer was still on her ankle. She stood perfectly still and allowed Scott to remove it.
January 27, 2000 - Sissy slept well last night. The other elephants would not leave her proximity, touching her throughout the night. Barbara slept in a separate stall but immediately joined Sissy for breakfast. The affectionate exchanges between Sissy and Barbara are mutual. Sissy is relaxed, and interacting with everyone.
AM - Sissy shifted from one stall to another so her area could be cleaned. She was cooperative and calm. During her bath, she began to play opening her mouth so Carol could squirt the hose into it. Her right top molar is severely overgrown, but at this point is not causing irritation to the inside of her mouth. She played for several minutes in the water and then returned to eating.
Sissy had an opportunity to interact will all of the elephants today. She was calm but attentive. Jenny is especially interested in Sissy. Tarra is especially interested in Sissy's food!
10:00 p.m. - When Carol returned to the barn for the elephants final PM feeding, Sissy greeted her with ear flapping and trunk flopping. These are signs of pleasure and excitement. Sissy was so excited she turned and presented her back side for Carol to pet. Then alternately she presented one back foot and then the other. She loves to have physical contact. Carol could not resist and took the opportunity to pet Sissy from behind the protection of a pipe barrier. Sissy seems to sense that Carol is being careful and cautious.
Sissy has Arrived at the Sanctuary!
January 26, 2000 noonThe trailer transporting Sissy rolled onto Sanctuary grounds. Her leg chains were removed without any objection. After several tries, Sissy finally stepped down from her trailer into her new barn. She was a little concerned but showed no aggression.
At 2:00 p.m. Barbara was allowed to enter Sissy's stall. Barbara was very curious about Sissy and spent almost an hour making gentle advances. Sissy continued to turn her back to Barbara for quite a while. Finally, when they were side by side with the corral dividing their bodies, Barbara reached through the bars and Sissy let Barbara touch her face. They spent several minutes exchanging curious touches.
p.m.- Sissy started to take notice of her keepers the people
with the food. She came over to where Carol was conducting an interview
the end of her trunk which made a very unusual noise. It was obvious
she was trying to get someone's attention. She wanted more treats.
4:45 p.m.- Tarra, Jenny, Shirley and Bunny came in from outside. They were excited and trumpeted as soon as they entered the barn. Sissy spun around and ran to the far end of her stall. After she settled down, the others were allowed in an adjacent stall. Sissy immediately backed up to a herd of gentle, curious trunks. Everyone was in on it. Sissy leaned in to get closer and allowed the other elephants to touch all over her for almost a half hour. After a drink of water she went back to the probing trunks and appears to be in 7th heaven.
All is well, Sissy is home!