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Animal Therapy - Still Life with Elephant

Updated on January 10, 2015
An elephant sized donut.
An elephant sized donut. | Source

One elephant has a giant appetite for donuts instead of her own food. Donuts become a link between the animal and a woman that needs her.

Still Life with Elephant

Still Life with Elephant: A Novel by Judy Reene Singer

Author Judy Renee Singer has an understanding of life and communications from many vantage points, both personal and professional. All of these vantage points combine in her writing to give us the novel Still Life with Elephants.

It's a quirky title that informs us that there is something unique inside its covers.

Elephant Family (public domain)
Elephant Family (public domain)

A Life for a Donut

Ms. Singer, who has experiences with horses, presents a poignant and fascinating look into emotional trauma throughout the lifespan and at the physical and psychological healing that can occur continually from the teen years through middle age.

She would seem to be saying that it is never too late, especially if you have a favorite animal to challenge you through to recovery - whether it is an elephant, a horse, or some other beast that strikes the right chord for motivation. Dolphins do it for autistic kids as often as not, but horses are useful and well appreciated for their help as well.

Donut-loving elephants are a dream come true, though.

Traumatized as a teen and blown off by adults, a teenage may be psychologically marred for life, if some intervention is not sought or does not present itself by divine intervention or serendipity. This is tragic and can be prevented.

The sudden death of two friends and coworkers - team members - when one is about 16 need not be as devastating as it is portrayed in Still Life. If we pay attention, we can see that adults should not tell youth that these things don't matter. They are life changing.

In Still Life, horses, elephants, and donuts help the emotionally wounded protagonist immensely, with unexpected grace. After all, good therapy is not always talking therapy; where there are communications problems, animal therapies are often very effective and even joyful.

Some people and elephants share a love of donuts.
Some people and elephants share a love of donuts. | Source

Communication Arts and the Heart

Ms. Singer has been a high school English teacher specializing in vocabulary, spelling, grammar and the nuts and bolts of language expression for teenagers. This is vital to development and to becoming a healthy part of one's own culture. English is part of Language Arts, because using words effectively is surely an art form - from warning labels to haiku, from the business plan top the Presidential State of the Union Message. Communication is important for both the hearing and the non-hearing worlds and there are ways for the two tio communicate. Communication of some effective type is vital.

Listening is part of that language arts and listening must often be learned and relearned. The author has also earned graduate degrees in psychology. Further, she is a professional horse trainer. We already know that horses are used as therapy animals for at-risk youth and individuals with mental health challenges. "Horse therapy" works and in the hands of an attentive social worker or psychologist, it can work doubly well.

Thousands of little girls love horses and want a pony - and why not? Ms. Singer discovered horses and riding as a child, but has written about them professionally for at least 10 years as an adult. Her love of horses as a child became a reality. She has produced such impressive works as insightful articles for Dressage Today, a novel titled Horse Play, and a pieces for The Chronicle of the Horse. The last publication acknowledged her as a Top Feature Writer in 1996.

Ms. Singer trains horses, saddle-breaks some, and rides Grand Prix Dressage. She also has been an effective foster parent to 3 baby elephants. For all this, I think she is a hero of both the human and animal worlds.


Still Life With Elephant

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Audio Book
Audio Book
Audio Book

Is the Key to the Heart an Elephant?

Ever since my first visit to the zoo in first grade and my first attendance at the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus that same year, I have remembered three things that burned themselves into my experience.

The first thing I recall is the Creamsicle, the orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream combination on a stick that I enjoyed at the circus. The second was the line of lady acrobats of the circus that climbed up high ropes, hung by one ankle, and twirled above our heads so that the butterfly wings of their sequined costumes caught every light. The third were smiling elephants, at both the zoo and the circus. Elephants do smile. They also cry, and they become angry - and lonely.

My father and his friends from school always met the circus at the end of the railroad tracks when it arrived near Cambridge or Zanesville, Ohio years ago and got temporary jobs pounding the stakes, raising the tents, and feeding and watering the elephants. They also received free admission to the show. Middle and high school students can't do that any longer and that is a sad thing. A happy thing is that there are small circuses in America used for learning environments and performances put on by youth. Whether kids are "at-risk" or just kids, elephants are good medicine.

How would your day - or your life - be different if you were able to spend it with an elephant? Still Life with Elephant describes a certain type of miracle that this can encourage.

Elephant Rescue and Rehabilitation

At Times, Elephants Need Help

The protagonist of Singer's book, Neelie, needs serious help.

Because of a horrible teenage experience untouched by any adult help - it was not even considered - Neelie cannot understand many things that are said to her as an adult. Her marriage begins to fall apart and so do her hopes of maintaining her horse training school.

Things fall apart for her gallivanting husband as well, because the "other woman" has a hidden severe mental disorder. Neelie decides to accompany her veterinarian husband on an elephant rescue expedition to Africa and discovers new friends and new hope in the process. She also discovers two elephants and a new use for her daily donut snack.

In real life, author Singer has become an elephant advocate and many more of these are needed. I remember seeing documentaries about the elephants at a Tennessee sanctuary, all rescued from poorly run circuses and zoos or owners that could no longer keep them as "pets." The shows are unforgettable (see the link above).

I also cannot forget the elephant Motala in Thailand, the citizens of which gathered money together to pay for her operation and prosthetic new leg after injury in the logging business. Motala was a top logger, but now is happy to no longer have to work so hard. With her new leg, she smiles. In August 2009, 10 years after her injury, she received a special permanent prosthetic leg, molded to her own body. In 2011, she received an updated version that even has toes!

Motala is now the mentor of an elephant-child, Mosha, that lost part of a leg but is also learning to walk again. Neither will ever have to work another day.

If elephants can help people, then people can help elephants, too.

Baby Mosha and Interim Prosthetic Leg

If elephants can help people, then people can help elephants, too.

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS


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    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      11 years ago from United States

      I've always been fascinated by elephants and the first time I rode one I was shocked at the fact that their knees are hairy and their spine is boney if you are riding upon one without a blanket. Very interesting hub!

    • Universal Laws profile image

      Linda Joslin 

      11 years ago from UNIVERSE

      Wonderful, inspiring hub, thank you.


    • f.rifka profile image


      11 years ago

      I like your hubs about Elephants

    • dohn121 profile image


      11 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      What a great though-provoking hub, Patty! Singer certainly is the right person to have written, "Still Life with Elephant." My countries former flag was a three-headed elephant, from 1949-1975. We certainly held them to the highest importance.

      Thank you for sharing yet another inspiring hub.


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