One of the ongoing and typically lengthy discussions at our weekly staff meetings involves coming up with ways to encourage Honey B, Willy B, and Mave to go outside. Would a forage in the courtyard help motivate them or lead to frustration? Does the presence of staff reassure them or do we make them nervous? How can we modify the chute or the courtyard to put them more at ease? While we are willing to try anything and everything within reason, we also know from experience with the Seven that it often just takes time.
I’m excited to share that Willy B’s time may have arrived because this morning he took a few small steps outside.
During his first few attempts, he clung with one hand to the inside of the chute, leaning out as far as he could without losing his connection to something safe and familiar. Once back in the chute, he would psych himself up for another go while tapping his knuckles on the floor, all while keeping his eyes on the prize – a handful of grapes, scattered just outside the door. Eventually, when he had retrieved all of the grapes within reach, he released his grip on the caging and sat squarely outside of chute on the boardwalk. It was then that he stopped reaching for grapes altogether and just sat for a moment to look around. Over the course of about 30 minutes he did this again and again, until he decided that he’d had enough for one day and returned to the building. Sometimes we make progress in small steps.
You wouldn’t know it now, but many of the Cle Elum Seven were just as terrified to go onto Young’s Hill when they first had the chance. Missy and Jamie took to it almost immediately, but Annie, Burrito, Foxie, Jody, and Negra were extremely hesitant (click the links for blog posts we wrote at the time). It took time – in some cases months or years – and plenty of encouragement from friends for them to overcome their fears.
Here’s Jamie, back in 2011, throwing her arm around her pal Foxie to encourage her to walk further outside.
And here’s Foxie again, this time with a little extra motivation…
We hope that Willy B will step further and further outside each day. Who knows, maybe one day he can be the one to throw a reassuring arm around Mave or to lure Honey B through the grass by carrying her favorite scooter or fanny pack. And just as it was for the Seven, the once-terrifying great outdoors can finally start to feel like home.