Explorer and Shawnee

They have been paired together at the same Farm Sanctuary shelter for 14 years. Still thik animals have no emotions or feelings for each other?


Willow’s Whisper to the World

This story is reprinted without permission from Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary. They work as we all do to help make the lives of those animals we so callously abuse, a little more peaceful. A little more tolerable. If you can help, please do. There are so many worthy charitable organizations just like this one that work tirelessly, often without pay, without an adequate staff, and without enough supplies to make it through another day, another week, another month. And it is never an easy struggle. It gets a little easier when people like you help. But if you don’t take the time to find out how you can help, how will beings like Willow ever know even an ounce of human kindness.

This is all you saw at first, or maybe this is all that your mind could take in at one time — not a whole picture, but manageable bits and fragments. You saw a large, white shape lumped by the side of the road. You saw an angular jumble of legs, knees, knuckles, elbows, hooves and ribs. You saw a broken, emaciated body whose breathing was so shallow as to be virtually indistinguishable from the constant shivering that rippled through it with a flutter so faint that it seemed stirred by the rustle of a passing breeze, not by the internal labor of muscles struggling and wrestling to keep the body warm and alive. You saw a pale maze of nicks and scrapes extending from the neck down to the back and sides, the record of the shearer’s rush to take the last thing he could plunder from the dying alpaca — her coat, her only remaining defense in the world — before dumping her now “useless” body in a ditch outside the sanctuary gate and leaving her to freeze to death. You saw a bulging abscess on the right cheek and a deep indentation on the bridge of her nose from the lifelong grip of a tight harness that had only recently been removed.

And finally, reluctantly, as she opened her eyes and looked at you in silent supplication, blinking softly, shining her wounded gaze on you with a despair so intense it verged on sound, you saw, as you had to, the face of a desecrated young life. An interminable minute later, as she closed her eyes again with infinite fatigue, you saw simply a suffering soul. This suffering soul. Willow.

We bundled her in blankets, rushed her to the warmest barn, packed hot water bottles around her core, and started her on broad spectrum antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication. A few hours of constant care later, her breathing got stronger but her temperature was still below normal, and she was still listless, disoriented and unable to hold her head up, needing support just to remain in sternal position.

But, by nightfall, she took a turn for the better — she drank a few sips of water, ate a few handfuls of alfalfa, and became more alert with each bite. It was impossible not to be elated seeing her regain enough strength to sit up, enough will to nourish herself, and enough hope to look around, if not with interest, at least with minimal involvement. But it was also impossible to forget that her condition was serious enough that she might not make it through the night.

Amazingly, she not only survived the night, she woke up hungry, thirsty and, despite the deep, lingering weakness, she eagerly accepted every treat and absorbed every bit of affection with the intense urgency of the starved, demanding more, nudging you gently if you stopped stroking her, extending her swan neck towards you and leaning her face against your cheek as if inviting a kiss, nuzzling your nose with the fuzz of her nose, making intense eye contact as if trying to read something important in your gaze — or communicate it — and, when all this activity left her exhausted, she merely leaned against you as if the nourishment of a loving touch was enough to sustain her. And by mid morning she seemed strong enough to withstand the trying trip to the vet where she was scheduled for tests, evaluation, diagnostic, treatment and, we dearly hoped, a cure.

The diagnosis was as swift as it was grave, and the prognosis was poor — she had been starved for so long that her organs were probably irreversibly damaged and her chances of survival were slim to none. There was nothing they could do for her at the clinic that we couldn’t (and hadn’t already) done at home — keeping her warm, boosting her system with lightly heated IV fluids and additional rounds of Baytril and Banamine — so we bundled her in blankets, settled her in the back of the minivan, and took her home where she could at least rest quietly, away from the noise and stress of the bustling veterinary clinic.

She was almost pert during the drive, sitting up, swiveling the radars of her ears to catch every sound, and peering at the darkening landscape that was unfolding outside the window, watching silently until all the fields and the roads and the sky disappeared into the early winter night and the only image left in the window was her own reflection.

Back at home, we nestled her in a bed of cushions, blankets and heating pads, and we took turns watching her for the rest of the night, holding her as she drifted in and out of sleep, making sure that she fell asleep in loving arms and woke up in the cradle of the same warm embrace. Throughout the night, she remained eager to commune, connect and communicate — looking intently into your eyes, leaning trustingly against you, touching noses and drawing in the breeze of your breath as if inhaling not just air but some essential knowledge, some vital force that she found in her caregivers’ love, and responding with the caress of her own dulcet breath. And, heartbreakingly, as her lethargy deepened, she grew more, not less, curious and engaged, as if compelled to learn something important about the brightness of this new life where everything could still happen — this life that was finally releasing its nectar just as she was dying — as if wanting to be present for this love that was now, astonishingly, surrounding her in such improbable abundance, and to experience this absolute devotion that was there when she went to sleep and that, amazingly, was still there when she woke up.

In our two days and nights together, we heard Willow’s voice only once. She had woken up from a short sleep and lifted her head to touch noses again and to breathe in the loving presence of friends, locking eyes and gazing with a new intensity as if to entrust you with something urgent. And then she let out the softest feather of a sigh, the sweetest whisper, the most mellifluous of her 86,400 breaths, a sound of such aching purity and purpose that it felt like grace. A sound that your mind could not, dared not, take in as one seamless note but had to break into manageable bits and fragments — there was the knell of her last breath, there was the muffled crumple of her body collapsing into nothingness, there was the terrible soundlessness that followed, the shattering silence of a stilled life. And then, long after her last whisper had stirred the air, you finally heard it. The soft whimper of all that is pure and broken, shackled, starved, crushed, buried alive under the wreckage of our reckless appetites, still breathing its labored breath under the collapsed building of our humanity, and still speaking of love, and still begging to be heard. Hear it. It’s the only true voice you’ll ever hear, the only true thing in your life, and the only guide out of the darkness of a humanity that savors the anguish of beings like Willow as a taste, a fashion, an amusement. Listen. It’s your own voice.

Joanna Lucas
© 2012 Joanna Lucas

Do I Love Animals More Than People?

Maybe. Okay, probably most of the time. That DOES NOT mean that there aren’t people in my life that I love completely and would do anything for. Because there are. I am perfectly capable of all of the usual human interactions that make life worth living. However, I have such disgust and anger at so many others, who should be dealt with as they treat other beings. Human and not.

Why is this true? Why do I like animals much better than humans in so many cases? It is because animals don’t ask for much from us. A safe place to live out their existence. Food, water, and shelter. To not be abused or killed for stupid human reasons. They simply ask to be treated as living beings. There are no hidden agendas. No harsh opinions or arguments or condemning words. No desire to discard or dispatch a human because they feel that human is no longer a valid being. No desire to eat a human or to use their bodies and all parts thereof for their own selfish purpose. Simple beings. Simply being.

Many humans on the other hand, are complete opposites. There  is no hesitation to take an animal’s life when we want or feel we “need” that animal to serve our own purposes instead. There is no hesitation to turn a domesticated animal out of our home and expect them (idiotically I might add) to survive because they are “animals,” and come from nature, and can therefore live again in nature. Really? A domesticated cat can go from years of living protected in your home to suddenly having the instincts and the skills that cats who were abandoned at birth have? Why is it okay to take your dog, who is no longer wanted (because he has grown old, or sick, or is now just an expensive nuisance), to some remote location, kick them out of your car, and then drive off quickly expecting that that dog will make it okay or someone will find her and take her in. Really? Are you a complete idiot?

And that is just the plight of some domesticated animals. The abuses and pain suffered by factory farm animals is sometimes too painful to even contemplate. We raise, slaughter, abandon, and eat or wear these animals because we have determined or just have always believed that these animals exist purely for our own selfish pleasures. We treat them as stupid, unfeeling, mindless beasts who have no other desires in life other than to be slaughtered for our “needs.” The plight of these animals is one of our biggest shames. We owe the animal kingdom something that they will likely never get from us. An apology.

Dramatic? Yes. True? yes. Visit any animal shelter, humane society, animal sanctuary, or similar organization that exists to help these defenseless creatures. Those organizations that help end the cycles of pain and unbelievable cruelty caused by those who care little if at all about what happens to these being after we are done using them for our own selfish needs.

There are many fine animal care organizations that are well-funded, like the ASPCA, and the Humane Society, who still need our support. But there are many more smaller, underfunded, desperate, non-profit organizations, (many in your own backyard) that struggle daily to help the animals in their care. These include SARA Sanctuary, Farm Sanctuary, Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, Best Friends Animal Society, Animal Place, and so many others. To find some in your state, go here for only a partial list.

Many of us can’t give much in the way of money. But we can give of our time. We can make a difference simply by going to these places and offering whatever help we can. Some of us can afford to give money. How much could you help by sending them the equivalent of what you spend in a week in the grocery store for the products you buy that contain animals by-products or animal flesh. Could you do that for one week? Would you do that?

My point is, is that if you care even a little, then adopt a shelter pet. And not just the furry cute little kittens. The older ones that will never be adopted otherwise because they are too old or not “cute” enough. Send some money. Spend some time. Give a damn. Become a vegan, or at the very least, a vegetarian. Because if we don’t, who will? Not the government. Not animal abusers. Not meat eaters.