We had the honor of traveling to FAE’s Elephant Hospital with practioners of TTOUCH™ and Craniosacral Therapy in 2010 and 2012. Below is a conversation with two of them, Anne Snowball and Patty Coggan, about their work on FAE’s elephants, including Mosha, Motala and Boonmee, who are featured in “The Eyes of Thailand” now available on DVD.
What is TTOUCH? What types of animals was it designed for?
Anne Snowball: TTOUCH™ is part of the Tellington Method which aids in rebalancing both animal and human mentally, emotionally, and physically. The method incorporates the TTOUCH™ body work and ground exercises to build confidence, overcome negative behavior patterns, and release pain and fear. It differs from massage as it works with the nervous system and the body at the cellular level. Further, TTOUCH™ involves gentle, non-habitual, movements of the skin bringing sensory awareness and trust. Originally developed for horses, its universality has expanded into companion animal and wildlife rescue communities.
How did you hear about the elephant landmine survivors at FAE?
Anne: I was volunteering at a major wildlife symposium focusing on endangered African species when Director/Producer Windy Borman approached me and posed the question of the plight of the Asian elephant. During our conversation, I was fascinated by the work that she was doing with the Asian elephant in Thailand and immediately realized this was an ideal place to apply TTOUCH™ .
Patty Coggan: I was part of the team that Anne put together to go to Thailand and work on the elephants and teach the mahouts techniques that would help the elephants heal. [Anne and I] had met in an advanced training of craniosacral therapy for equines. Anne and I work together on large animals combining both TTOUCH™ and Craniosacral Therapy. The synergy of both methods has proven to be very effective.
Why did you think TTOUCH™ and Craniosacral Therapy might help Mosha, Motala and Boonme at FAE?
Patty: The technique gives the caregivers another tool to use to help the healing.
Anne: These three elephants had not only been traumatized physically by the loss of a limb, but some had also lost their mother and been deserted by their mahouts (owner/care giver). Utilizing TTOUCH™ in the daily care of these gentle giants would help restore the quality of life they deserved.
What did Soraida Salwala (FAE’s Founder) think about the idea?
Anne: She was quite skeptical, but curious!!!
What it was like seeing the elephants for the first time?
Anne: I was overwhelmed with grief and sadness for the atrocities these elephants had endured. I also was so inspired by their incredibly intrepid spirit and their serene nature! I remember taking a deep breath realizing what potential TTOUCH™ could bring to FAE.
Patty: The spirit of the hospital was at first sight very professional. As I stayed there longer and observed, I saw and felt the tremendous healing going on there. The wound to Boonmee, who was our primary elephant Soraida asked us to work with, was frightening. Poor thing had given up on living and Soraida was very concerned.
Anne: We approached her waiting to see if she would acknowledge our presence by raising her trunk in greeting. When she remained motionless we cautiously raised our hands to her forehead, palm side down, lifting the skin toward the top of her head in very tiny movements and waited for her response – within 2 minutes our hands were suddenly thrust up in the air. Then she lifted her head with an acquisitive eye as if to say, “What just happened?” Then she started slowly swinging her trunk. That afternoon we returned to see her eagerly eating bananas and bamboo shoots, and her caregiver was all smiles!
Patty: As we worked with Boonmee and released the trauma, she became herself again…. a bit feisty and willing to eat again. Animals are willing to give up trauma and are not as attached to it as humans are. After Boonmee trusted us—trust found through the work we did with her—she let go of so much and the light in her eyes returned.
Anne: Mosha, the youngster, grew to enjoy our hands, as well, whether it was feathering the strands of hair at the end of her tail, relieving pain with TTOUCH lifts on her hind end, or doing mouth work with touches all over her tongue and roof of her mouth. Almost always she would greet us with her trunk raised in greeting.
Motala was the grand matriarch and oldest of landmine patients at FAE. She was gracious each time we stopped to work with her, remaining at the edge of her enclosure to take full advantage of what we could do for her. Her mahout was always at her side, eagerly waiting to follow our hands with his in unison as we worked her entire trunk. Her skin was so rough I thought, how can she feel us? But her alert eyes would soften within minutes.
You performed TTOUCH™ and Craniosacral Therapy on Mosha, Motala and Boonmee in 2010 and 2012. What had changed for the elephants in those 2 years?
Anne: We returned to FAE in 2012 to a very warm welcome by the staff and Soraida.
Patty: I had always heard about elephants remembering. I was very eager to see if it was true.
Anne: Our joy in seeing Motala, Moshe, and Boonmee was uncontainable! Motala remained just that much older and wiser in our presence. Mosha also had matured but did not forget TTOUCH™– only this time she softly purred in response to hair slides to each bristly hair growing over her forehead!
Patty: Mosha was happy to see us and didn’t purr so we could hear it, but vibrated her whole body in greeting as we worked on her. I had a feeling that she was letting all the elephants there know that we were there again. She is such a loving animal!
Anne: But Boonmee was the most compelling! In our greeting she raised her trunk, which I cupped in my hands and softly I exhaled into her trunk. Her trunk then almost caressed my shoulder and chest.
Patty: As soon as we rushed to see Boonmee, I knew she remembered us. She turned as we approached, her eyes bright. As we touched her, she caressed us with her trunk…. yes, she remembered. And as we touched her face she purred, happily greeting us and telling us she was glad we were once again with her.
Anne: Two years had passed in which her recovery had been problematic and frustrating. She had not been able to fully accept normal weight on her bad foot. The second day she allowed me complete access to her injured leg and foot. I worked from her shoulder to her knee with circles and lifts, which she encouraged me to continue far longer than I had expected by leaning gently into my hands with each touch. On the third day as we walked up to see her, her trunk was arched high, and she was completely weighted on her injured leg. These were the kind of results we had only hoped for but surely did not expect to observe.
Patty: She was more trusting to let us work with her and completely “let us in”, so we could work core to core.
Anne: Both staff and Soraida were exuberant as well over her sudden progress.
What changes did you see in the elephants after their TTOUCH™ sessions?
Anne: They had soft, contented eyes, robust appetites, and wonderful greetings the following day with trunks lifted high.
While at FAE’s Elephant Hospital, you shared your TTOUCH™ and Craniosacral Therapy experience with Soraida and the staff. What was it like teaching them?
Anne: Encouraged by Soraida, the staff was open and receptive in spite of the language and cultural differences. They were particularly observant of their elephant’s reaction to us when we demonstrated ear work, circle touches on the shoulder area, and lifts on their legs – each touch designed to relieve the stress and tension. They enjoyed following our hands as we traveled over their bodies. Touching the mahouts was culturally prohibited but they finally allowed us to perform the touch on their forearms to understand the pressure and technique. We also placed our hands as guides over their hands when in contact with the elephants. A smile, grin, or giggle amongst themselves acknowledged their growing enthusiasm in learning this new tool.
Patty: I worked with Dr. Kay and she seemed very interested in the work, as well. I remember feeling a sense of gratitude that even a medical Dr. was open to learning new techniques. It was a cultural adventure to teach someone, who did not speak the same verbal language, but appreciated the language of touch.
You also treated Ekhe in the fall of 2012. How did you treat her? Do you think it helped her passing?
Patty: By the time we worked with Ekhe, she was very ill. She had an infection that had spread to her central nervous system. The first day she was quite agitated. We kept our distance that day and worked on her from afar. The next day was teaching the mahouts the TTOUCH™. She had calmed down by then as they worked with her. She seemed to respond well. At one point I was able to work with her head….at times there were moments when she could focus on what was going on. We assured her we were there to help her and support her no matter her decision.
Anne: Elephants have big families. I felt I had been adopted into hers as I showed her mahout the lift TTOUCH™ that provided the comfort and support during her passing, Small light touches were performed visualizing her perfection.
Was there any moment or experience from either trip that was especially memorable?
Anne: The whole experience was frankly one of the most exciting experiences in my life. I would never be able to focus on any particular moment that was especially outstanding, but if I were forced to choose I would have to say the connection made with Boonmee was remarkable. Feeling her come back and be present was an honor and the way she recognized Patty and me on our return. The end of her trunk nestled in our hands and caressed our shoulders for several minutes in welcoming us back to FAE.
Patty: On our last visit, we told her verbally, that if she wanted to go down with the other elephants (and not stay in the rehab unit) she would have to walk and put weight on her front leg. Two days later Sorida posted on Facebook that she had walked “ like a normal elephant”. No surprise to us.
To learn more about Anne Snowball and her TTOUCH™ work, please visit: www.callingallanimals.com
To connect with Patty Coggan and her Craniosacral work, join her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patty.coggan