TTouch at the Oakland Zoo (1999)

TTouch at the Oakland Zoo
Written By Elke Riesterer for the Oakland Zoo Docent Newsletter (Vol 24, No 2)
February 1999

TTOUCH you will ask. What is that? Also called the Tellington TOUCH, it is a therapeutic technique that promotes healing, training and communication. Clockwise circular movements are done with your hands or fingers all over the body of an animal. The intention is to improve the functions of the cells in awakening cellular intelligence and making connections between the brain and the body.

This gentle method, that honors animal intelligence, creates space for thought. It assists the animal in learning its choices and thinking about them. TTOUCH is effective in releasing fear, restoring confidence, building trust, changing undesirable habits or behavior, speeding up the healing of wounds, injuries or ailments and easing pain. TTOUCH is mindful touch allowing you to open your heart and speak with your hands.

As a massage therapist for 15 years, I have been working with the element of touch in many ways. Nevertheless, the introduction of the TTOUCH more than ten years ago affected me profoundly. At that time, in the late eighties, TTOUCH was mainly used on horses, for which it had been originally developed. This new body/mind modality was instrumental in opening new doors of communication with dear mare, Electra. I believe the healing TTOUCH benefited her greatly; she very rarely needed a veterinarian.

Now. I like to place a little of my TTOUCH experience with an animal I love to great depth. It is the magnificent elephant – a true master in tactile exploration, naturally knowing how to stay in “touch.”

For two years, I have been visiting the elephant barn TTOUCHing Donna and M’Dunda and lately Smokey and Lisa as well. I am working on their feet, tail, head – around the eyes, ears and tusks: sometimes a bit on the trunk. Their responses have been various. We had sessions of extended body relaxation alternating with others of only brief moments. Here are some body responses I have observed: a general slowing down, head dropping, a deep breath taken here and there, or almost no breath when in deeper trance sate, stillness, eyes closing or blinking slowly, a glazing look of the eye – spacey, relaxed trunks, muscles softening while doing the circles, a leaning into my hand, opening or flapping the ear forward so I have better access, sometimes sounds that seem to go along with what I do, fear of relaxing/letting guard down, etc. The list goes on.

There are many factors which will influence a body therapy session. Pain in the body is one, or fear held in a certain part of the body with memories of past traumas, or noise disturbances, or tension between each other, or just not having a good day – who knows why. Elephants are like people with all shades of personality. There is mighty Smokey with his velvet-soft touching trunk, warming one’s heart in an instant. Opposite is Donna who is much more grabby and pushy in her personality. Both have a very personal tactile way to express themselves.

For all of you who by now have become curious about this TTOUCH stuff. I highly recommend reading the book “The Tellington Touch” – How to work with your favorite animal – by Linda Tellington Jones. TTOUCH is for all, even humans. I have used the TTOUCH, besides horses and elephants. on rhinos, giraffes, cheetah, snakes, a desert turtle, dolphins, birds. lizards, cats and dogs and last. not least, on the man, Species.