Leading with Listening…

In the previous post I waxed on about how well Zazoo was doing, both in general and also with lead-walking.

Since then the walking thing has taken an interesting turn.

He’s not interested in going on walks right now. And I love it! He gets to choose…

I think part of this stems from another development in Zazoo’s world. In the 16 years before coming here Zazoo hadn’t seen another camel since he’d been prematurely weaned.

When he first arrived he was curious about the other camels but didn’t have much need for them. Until recently humans were his only “people”. He was nervous and unsure around the camels, tentative. In the course of being here his reserve has been eroding and, lately, he’s started liking them, liking their company. With this new enjoyment waking up in his life he’s preferring not to go on our longer walks, which take us away from his new found friends and herd.

Personally, I think this is really great! He’s developing a herding interest with his own kind. We can only imagine what this is like for him, what he’s feeling and enjoying, how this must nourish his being to the core. And so if he doesn’t want to walk with me, for the time being, there are other things we can do together.

Also, over the last week I’d fallen into a walking routine with Zazoo that seemed to have its own momentum and I’d started forgetting to walk in the bond with him. I’d gotten lazy about nurturing the connection. My approach to camels really doesn’t work outside the connection. And if I’m not connected, if we’re not connecting, why would Zazoo want to walk with me? He wouldn’t!


Yesterday, after I put Zazoo’s halter on, we pretty much just stood together for an hour or so… “If you don’t want to walk with me I’m happy to walk with you, Zazoo, wherever you want to go, whatever you want to do”.

He walked around a little but mostly we just stood and nuzzled. I didn’t let him crowd me but we stood closely, touching a little, breathing, chatting here and there. All his choice. The rope was loose, and for an hour we just hung out. When the other camels wanted to come over I sent them away. This was our time, mine and Zazoo’s. He liked it when I sent the pesky youngsters away.

At one point he brushed his muzzle over my shoulder. Then again. And once more. And as he brushed me the third time I reached out and brushed his neck. Then he brushed my shoulder again, and I brushed his neck once more. And we began this interesting, curious, conversation, this sweet little ritual, which we’d do for a while, pause, then start up again. Brushing each other. He really got into it… we both did.

I had some treats in my pocket. Every so often he’d politely ask for one by gently mouthing my hand then stepping back from me. Then we’d nuzzle again or just stand quietly, doing nothing, meditating, being together. He’s such an interesting camel. His eyes are incredible. His facial expressions, unique…

As the hour went by we connected and settled deeper and deeper. I could have stayed in this place with him for hours, but there are other things to be done, other camels to connect and work with.

So after about an hour I decided to lead Zazoo over to the hay pile. The quality of his connection and willingness to walk with me now was exquisite, the continually growing gift of a mutually developing friendship. There’s a huge difference when a horse or camel walks with you because he’s been trained to, compared to when they walk with you because they want to.

To experience this you have to be willing to put in the time to cultivate a mutual relationship of respect,  listening, and being listened to.

If I listen, when I listen, the camels train me to train them…

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15 Responses to Leading with Listening…

  1. Sarah says:

    Wonderful… makes me consider my relationship with my dogs and our walks. Thank you Stuart.

  2. Tally Groves says:

    very touching,thank you

  3. Ciaran Mercier says:

    Mesmerizing, as usual. It really is remarkable what has happened with Zazoo since his arrival. You can see why people don’t use these training techniques; they require infinite patience. And look how long it took him to overcome his discomfort around other camels, his own species ?

    • Karla Boyd says:

      How perceptive and wise. I appreciate your view of the time that we can more generously give to each other in our work, and the rewards that come by allowing, instead of by force.


      Karla Namaste Global Vision

  4. Terry Cafferty says:

    This is such a beautiful testimonial to the deepening process of Zazoo’s (and your) realization of the seamless, inherent unity of life truly lived. Thank you so much for keeping me informed. It helps me to feel deeper in all my meetings, too.

  5. susan borelli says:

    You are giving animals a voice that most never hear. Thank you.

  6. crane kirkbride says:

    thanks for sharing these intimate details Stuart ! We have so much to learn from our highly evolved non-human friends !
    love, Crane

  7. Wendy Knowles says:

    Thanks Stewart

    I love these stories…so special…makes me want to hang with a camel or a horse…

    Keep them coming please.


  8. Karin says:

    What a gift! Thank you Stuart.

  9. Jenny Carnes says:

    Thank you so much Stuart! I love your updates. I really really do.

  10. Eija Halme says:

    Thank you for posting, lovely to read and learn.

  11. Zazoo's Mom says:

    We are grateful for you and all the hard work your doing for Zazoo.
    Cyndi, Mac and Irena

  12. Yvette says:

    So wonderful! Thank you for letting us know. You are so lucky to be with them.

  13. Rosalind Goldstein says:

    I so appreciate sharing your wondrous intimate relationships with these awesome non-humans with others… Thank you so much for caring for these ancient animals so lovingly.

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