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It was the perfect weather to fall in love. Sun shone from a deep blue sky, while the wind played gently with my hair. Sunflowers reached towards the light, wildflowers bloomed in the meadows, and there she was, standing before me.
Her chocolate eyes were soft and playful. Her red coat gleamed in the sun. Muscles rippled as she walked. Gently, the giant warmblood reached down to place her nose against my heart, resting there for several breaths.
I met Catera on early on the morning of September 11, 2001. By the time the planes had crashed into the buildings, I was already in love—and horrified to hear the news on the barn radio. How could anything so vicious happen on such a beautiful day?
People told me, repeatedly, that I was too inexperienced to adopt a “green” horse. At the time, I had not yet given up riding horses. I hired trainer after trainer, and gave all that I had to learn to ride this giant of a being, but instead I broke many bones.
The first time, she broke into a gallop in an open field. I lost my seat, catapulted over her head, and landed on my head in front of her. She tried so hard to avoid stepping on me that she injured herself. I broke my occipital bone, cracked a rib, broke my shoulder, and tore my rotator cuff. Another fall from her back fractured my neck.
There was not a single person in my life that did not advocate for me to either euthanize Catera or to return her to the rescue she had come from. But I couldn’t do it. I had given her “Indra’s Lifetime Guarantee”. From the time I was a child, this is what I called it when I committed to an animal. My lifetime guarantee was that I would never give up on them, that I would love them no matter what, and that I would lay down my life in defense of theirs. She had my word. If I lost every person in my life, or every bone in my body, so be it.
I did not do this to be a martyr. I did it because I believed that we can only be redeemed – I can only be redeemed– through a pure, selfless love. Catera was giving me the opportunity to redeem myself.
Over time, spending hours and hours with her, I began to understand her better, and learned to adjust my behavior to meet her needs. She did not like being ridden—especially in a ring.
On the other hand, she loved taking me for a ride in the woods—and by that I mean she made the choices about when and where we would go. We used to disappear together for hours. When I relaxed and gave up control about where we would go, and at what speed, she began to trust and take care of me.
On our adventures, we got close to many, many wild animals that never would have trusted me to approach them on foot.
Once, she stepped on a ground wasp nest, and we both were stung multiple times. Even then, she did not bolt or rear or throw me. She calmly walked away from the bees. We had twin swollen faces for weeks.
Another time, when crossing a creek, we wound up in a tar pit. Instead of moving forward with each stroke of her powerful legs, we were sinking downwards. I swam around to her face and asked her not to move, and to wait until I could get help. She stayed still, patiently waiting, and then allowed herself to be tied with ropes and pulled out.
She used to love to open gates and barn doors. One of her favorite activities was to roll in the mud and then let herself into the barn where she would roll in pine shavings. I would find her in the barn covered in pine shavings with a goofy grin on her face.
She used to put her head against my chest and fall asleep while I rubbed her ears and called her “pretty girl”. Her head was the size of my entire torso.
Almost 15 years went by, and our trust and friendship deepened. Catera grew into the role of benevolent alpha mare and gentle giant.
Early one morning just a few weeks ago, I saw that something was not right with Catera. Her heart was racing, she appeared weak and in tremendous pain. I called the vet and began to run a wash cloth soaked in cold water along her body, trying to soothe her and bring her temperature down. It was nearly 100 degrees that day, and her body temperature continued to rise dangerously, along with her heart rate.
I stood her, soaking wet, in front of a powerful fan and tried to keep her calm while we waited for the vet. After a thorough exam, he diagnosed an impaction of the large intestine. He gave her medication for the pain, and threaded a tube through her nose, pumping mineral oil and water through her GI tract, in the hopes that it would help resolve the impaction.
And then the waiting began. Either the impaction would resolve and she would get better, or she would need surgery to keep her alive. Until a few years ago, Catera experienced similar impactions at least once annually, and it always resolved on its own. So, the vet and I thought her chances were decent.
Per the doctor’s order, I left her in a stall with lots of water to drink, and instructions for everyone to check on her frequently, while I led a tour. The people were lovely, as they always are, and despite the heat, I hoped they and the animals enjoyed each other’s company.
As soon as they got in their cars, I was back in the barn to check on my girl. What I saw will never leave my mind. My beautiful, strong, kind girl was belly up, with her feet too close to the wall to be able to move, breathing rapidly. The whites of her eyes revealed the extent of her fear.
Even then, she trusted me enough to wait while I got help and materials to get her back on her feet. With our heroic team assembled, we tied ropes around her legs and rolled her over.
She was a big girl, well over 1500 pounds. Her powerful back legs were too heavy for me to roll, even using all of my body weight. However, I did not want to place anyone else in the corner of a stall rolling a big, potentially flailing horse. Finally, we decided to have someone else stand behind me. Between an intern at her front end, the two of us at the rear, and two more caregivers pushing from the other side, we were able to roll her over. As she attempted to get her feet back under her, our intern and I jumped out of the way as planned. However, the young man who was standing behind me was not quick enough. One of her back feet grazed his chest and slammed into his chin.
His t-shirt ripped, he stood panting beside the panting horse. I wasn’t sure who to take care of first. “Are you ok? Can you breathe? Do you need an ambulance?” Miraculously, he was ok, but we did arrange for him to rest for the remainder of the day and ice his injuries.
Catera, on the other hand, was no better. We took her into the paddock, thinking in the larger space she would be safer. Every 20 minutes, we hosed her down. She refused all offers of water, and food was out of the question.
At 5pm, she went down again, this time with her feet stuck in the gate.
All but one team member had left. I couldn’t imagine how the two of us alone would have the strength to roll her again, but we had to try. I tied the ropes around her legs, and miraculously, our strongest volunteer (who was not scheduled to be here) appeared. A power lifter with a deep love for all of the animals, she was easily able to roll Catera’s back end, while I rolled her front end. We called the vet again, and this time his examination revealed that her large intestine was displaced, a life threatening situation.
The vet called the hospital to provide background to the doctors and our heroic volunteer kindly agreed to come along with me. Catera was terrified, but once again, chose to trust me. She followed me into the trailer and we were off on the three-hour drive to save her life.
Forty-five minutes away from the hospital, Catera could be heard trembling and flailing in the trailer. We pulled over and found her shaking uncontrollably. A call to the vet confirmed the dire nature of her condition. We were instructed to give her more pain medication and get to the hospital as fast as we could. The valiant trailer driver drove the trailer safely and confidently, in a lightning storm, in the dark, on winding roads, faster than I dared drive in my little, easy to manage vehicle.
On arrival, a team of earnest and caring veterinary professionals was ready for her. She fell as she made her way off of the trailer. By then, she was clearly incoherent, and barely able to stand at all. They worked valiantly to keep her on her feet long enough to start her on IV fluids.
But it was too late.
Her huge body crashed to the ground as she began to seize right there in the hospital’s entrance hallway. The kind vet asked for permission to euthanize her. If we did not, she would die painfully. I agreed.
With my hands on her head, my beautiful girl’s huge spirit gathered into her eyes, and with a last look, she was gone.
Pastures stretched before us, warm winter gold against a periwinkle sky, while a rainbow arced breathlessly end to end across the grounds. Our visitors were receiving an enthusiastic welcome from Vanna, a playful geriatric goat; Selick, a charming and affable blind pig; several gregarious turkeys; and around a dozen inquisitive cats. The menagerie vied gently for the bemused visitors’ attention, without once jostling one another out of the way.
“I am amazed!” the woman exclaimed, “I have never seen this many animals get along so peacefully!”
Just then, a group of ducks noisily parted our crowd, intent on a game whose rules or name none of us knew. But none of the other animals even flinched, they just calmly stepped out of the way.
It’s a bit like living in a fairy tale, and it happens every day here at Indraloka. We are all one big family, and the cats of Indraloka are a big part of what makes this such a special place. Nearly 100 cats currently call Indraloka home. Many of these were former ferals or strays who found their way to us and never left; others came from shelters or were even abandoned here by people who didn’t want them anymore. But regardless of how they arrived, these kitties have made an amazing family for themselves— and for us.
While all of the cats at Indraloka are uniquely special in their own right, many have also come to perform an incredibly special service for the farmed animals we rescue, who often arrive confused, afraid, and deeply traumatized. But inevitably, one of our friendly felines adopts each struggling newcomer and provides much-needed love, reassurance, healing and companionship. These special interspecies friendships persist for as long as the animals are with us.
The Mayor of Indraloka
Wesley T. Monkey is an irresistible extrovert with a BIG personality. Most of the cats here have a few good friends, some feline, some of other species. But Wesley T. Monkey has LOTS of good friends of every species. He is just that popular.
While many of our cats have no compunction about jumping onto the lap, or even shoulders, of visitors, Wesley T. Monkey doesn’t stop there! On a daily basis, Wesley can be spotted riding a sheep or a pig, sunbathing on top of a dozing cow, or even sleeping curled up against a chicken friend. Wesley is ridiculously wonderful in many, many ways.
Like so many cats, Wesley knows instinctively when someone is in need, and he does not shy away from their suffering. Penny the cow was the beloved Grand Dame of the sanctuary, a mother and friend to all. Wesley and Penny spent many happy hours together, Wesley contentedly grooming himself while Penny grazed nearby. But Penny was more than 30 years old, and the day came when she could no longer stand on her own. As she lay dying, surrounded by friends, Wesley climbed up and lay right on top of her for her final moments, helping her to feel loved until her last breath.
Babaji was born to a stray cat who showed up pregnant at our sanctuary. Early on, Baba cultivated a special bond with Louise the turkey, who was rescued from slaughter and who arrived afraid and in need of a friend. Many have observed these two relaxing in the sunshine together, curled up to sleep in the barn at night, or even out walking and exploring the sanctuary side by side.
Baba’s other favorite friend? Jeremiah the pig, a “backyard meat” victim who arrived to us completely skin and bones, unable to walk and bleeding profusely from the nose in the final stages of severe pneumonia. But with extensive veterinary treatment and nonstop TLC from his two-legged and four-legged friends, Jeremiah survived and now thrives at Indraloka. Babaji could not be more pleased with this outcome.
LuvBug2, Protector of the Upper Barn
Remember Maddie? When Maddie first came to us, her body was emaciated and misshapen, broken from years of over-breeding, and her spirit was broken too, from the endless cycle of giving birth and having her beloved babies taken away. When she was no longer an asset to the farmer who used her all those years, she was marked for slaughter, but thankfully we were able to bring her here instead. That happy, healthy goat in the picture is Maddie! And her indomitable feline friend, LuvBug2, has been a big part of Maddie’s recovery.
LuvBug2‘s ever-present calm, loving energy and soothing presence pervade the upper barn. Like Maddie, most newly rescued animals arrive frightened, having learned that humans can be cruel, and they are afraid and uncertain of what might happen to them. But whether the new arrival is a terrified duck, a confused chicken, or a badly overbred goat, LuvBug2 is always on the case to provide reassurance and set them at ease. You can catch a glimpse of him at work here (especially cute with Maddie at 3:10).
Rottie Rescues Orphaned Kitten
Puff Daddy was just a tiny, screaming gray cotton ball when he was abandoned at our door. He was so frightened that he resumed screaming every single time I put him down, for even a moment. Finally, one day, I noticed sweet Izzy watching us, her big brown eyes trying to tell me something. I placed the sad little foundling at Izzy’s feet, and Izzy, a huge Rottweiler, gently comforted him until he fell asleep curled between her paws. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Over the years, Puff Daddy and Izzy spent many joyful hours snuggling together and grooming one another.
Izzy was diagnosed with aggressive lymphomas in late December of 2015. By late January, the tumors had grown so much that they were causing this sweet, wonderful dog tremendous discomfort. With no hope for a cure, we called the vet to come and end her pain. Izzy was lying in her favorite spot, in front of the crackling fireplace. Soft music was playing, and her head was in my lap. And Puff Daddy lay curled next to her, resting his head on her heart as it slowed to a stop.
Nursing a Neglected Pig Back to Health
Our dear Jeremiah came to us late at night in the dead of winter. As we mentioned before, he was only hours from death when he was rescued, starved and suffering terrible, long-term pneumonia. Babaji the cat would later become a best friend, but as Jeremiah lay in his sickbed, resting and healing those first hard days, it was CC who took to cuddling with him and gently grooming him as he slept.
CC had been living in an urban feral colony and was trapped as part of a Trap-Neuter-Release program. However, when the TNR folks got her to the vet to be spayed, her eyes were confirmed to be so badly infected that one of them had to be removed. Her rescuers were concerned that she would not survive if released with only one eye. So, we agreed to make her part of our rapidly growing gang of kitties. And for the first year, CC was extremely shy around all humans, hardly allowing any of us to be within several feet of her.
But then came Jeremiah, and everything changed.
CC came into the barn on Jeremiah’s first or second night there, while he could still barely move, and inexplicably made a nest in the straw beside him. She watched us nurse him around the clock for weeks, and soon she began to trust us. These days, CC loves to rub against our legs and heartily enjoys a gentle scratch behind the ears.
Goats Adopt Abandoned Kitten
A red pick-up truck flew into the drive and screeched to a halt. The angry young driver threw a mother cat and four helpless kittens out the window, yelling that he would shoot them if he ever saw them again before he zoomed away.
The terrified mother cat and kittens scattered, and we spent days trying to lure them into the open so that we could make sure they were safe and comfortable. Finally, we captured the mother and three of the kittens, however, we did not find Gilligan until a week later. It was late, and we were doing the night check to be sure the animals were all tucked in safe and snug. And there was Gilligan, sleeping contentedly between two goats, Ruckus and Hootenanny, who were lying in a protective embrace around the tiny kitten.
As Ruckus grew older, he had a difficult time standing and walking. We had to place him in a sling for several hours at a time, in the hopes of helping him to regain his strength. Gilligan was a true little buddy to Ruckus during these trying sessions, providing entertainment and companionship for hours on end.
On the last day of Ruckus’s life, we spent the day outside in the sunshine with him. Many, many of the cats joined us in those last hours, and in particular, Gilligan never left Ruckus’s side, even purring against him as he drew his last breath.
Giving Back the Love
We humans could learn a lot from the Indraloka Clowder— we spend far too much time trying to put up walls between ourselves and those we perceive as being different from us. But the Indraloka Clowder lives by a clear and simple principle: it is the spirit of a being that matters, not the form it takes right now.
The cats of Indraloka are such a loving, generous bunch. They work tirelessly to help our other rescued animals heal, live joyfully, and die peacefully when the time comes. This month we would like to give back to our caring kitties and are asking our supporters to consider sending our wonderful feline friends a valentine. Your gift in any amount helps us provide much-needed spay-neuter services, medical treatment, food, and winter housing to the nearly 100 cats who have made Indraloka their home.
If you have observed a precious moment between a cat and another animal, we’d love to hear your story! Please tell us about it in the comments section below.
On the best day of Marsha’s life, she fell off of a truck.
The truck was in Brooklyn. We believe Marsha and her flock were headed to one of the popular “live markets” there, where customers pick out live animals and pay to have them slaughtered on-site. The other animals are kept in cages, forced to witness the grisly proceedings.
So, on the best day of Marsha’s life, she fell off of a truck. Some of her flock-mates did not survive the fall, however Marsha and 49 others were allowed to go to Farm Sanctuary, who kindly taught them that many humans are friendly and not to be feared, compassionately treated their wounds, responsibly ensured that they were healthy and ready for travel, and then sent half of them to Indraloka.
We call them the Golden Girls because of their beautiful golden feathers. Inquisitive, friendly, and lively, the Golden Girls transformed the once-serene atmosphere of the barnyard into an all-day, everyday joy-fest. Everywhere you look, there are cooing, pecking, preening, chatting, nesting, scratching, dust-bathing Golden Girls. Everywhere.
And, if you are smart enough to sit down to watch, you will inevitably find yourself with a hen cuddling in your lap, another gently grooming your hair, a third trying to fit her head under your hand in an attempt to force you to pet her, and many more watching you with unabashed curiosity.
On a hot, humid day last summer, during a Sheep Shnuggling event, where guests are encouraged to spend the day spoiling the animals (and vice versa), a big, brawny, bald guy sat on the cool ground in the shade of the barn. Instantly, he was surrounded by friendly, curious Golden Girls. He sat transfixed, watching them watch him. Tentatively, he put out a hand, and Marsha instantly walked under it, settling in for a nice petting session. The man let out a surprised-but-pleased sigh and began stroking her soft feathers. Minutes passed, and tears began to roll down his face.
He wept, “I get it now. I finally get it.” Those girls taught him more clearly than any of the rest of us ever could. He understood that each of them is a unique, sensitive being—a being with much more to offer as his friend than as his meal. He understood that raising them in dark, filthy, crowded circumstances and then sending them brutally to their deaths at only 6-8 weeks old is, quite simply, unconscionable. He understood that it was up to him to change his ways. From that day on, he has refused to support the system that so violently harms more than 24 million of these beautiful, precious, precocious beings each and every day.
Often, when someone has a lucky day like Marsha and the Golden Girls, their past haunts them. The Golden Girls are not emotionally haunted by their past. They moved right on when they realized they were safe and beloved. Sadly, though, their past still haunts them physically.
When chickens are raised for meat, as the Golden Girls were, they are bred to grow very, very fast so that the agribusiness that is raising them can profit by selling them for slaughter when they are only a few weeks old. Thousands of these chickens are crammed into warehouses, which in most cases are never cleaned in the chickens’ lifetimes. Because disease and fighting amongst the stressed and overcrowded birds is rampant, the majority these “production facilities” feed the young birds a cocktail of antibiotics, sedatives, and growth hormones every day of their short lives.
Sadly, Marsha was among those in her flock most affected by this terrible, unhealthy past. Early on, Marsha’s feet began to swell painfully. Along with Juanita, Glenda, Layla, and Gracie, Marsha had a bacterial infection caused by the filthy living conditions from which they came. Lab cultures showed that the bacteria were resistant to almost all antibiotics. Our veterinarian had to special-order the only effective antibiotic from a compounding laboratory.
Day after day, our sweet girls drank way too much bitter medicine. While the others’ feet returned to health, Marsha’s only grew worse. Our compassionate and talented avian veterinarian surgically drained the painful boils. We had to pull off the scab daily and soak Marsha’s feet in warm water with herbs to encourage draining. Day after day, Marsha withstood the pain, drank the medicine, and allowed her wounds to be tended. She did all of this with her wise, clear eyes making direct contact with Shadden’s, the kind caregiver who devoted herself to Marsha.
Marsha became accustomed to the hour-long drive to the vet’s office. She would sit next to me as I drove, cooing and looking out the window raptly. When we arrived, she stepped proudly out of her carrier and wandered the office, examining every detail that had changed from our last visit. Truly, it is a rare chicken that enjoys car rides and vet visits, but that is who Marsha was—is still—a rare bird indeed. She made the best of everything and was determined to live life fully.
Last week, the bacteria that attacked Marsha’s feet managed to travel to her respiratory system. Her heart, already weak and too small for her overly large body, was forced to struggle even more to keep her blood flowing.
Still, she carried on. In too much pain to walk, but ever-dignified, Marsha sat on a bed of hay, watching her flock-mates as they went about their business. Dutifully, she complied with her many treatments. Her favorite part was being held in Shadden’s arms while soaking her feet in warm herb water. Cooing softly and snuggling closer, Marsha usually persuaded Shadden to soak her feet for much longer than necessary.
Yesterday, as morning sunlight streamed through the barn; as the Golden Girls set busily about their days; and as Charlie, a sweet, elderly rooster with an advanced heart condition dozed on a heated mat under a blanket nearby; Marsha nestled into Shadden’s arms for her final foot soak. With one last look of love and gratitude at her dear friend, the air left Marsha’s lungs and her heart slowed to a halt.
The other Golden Girls paused their cooing and pecking, looking to the sky in silence. For a moment, every pig, every goose, every creature on sanctuary grounds observed the same perfect stillness as they hailed a great soul and a cherished sister.
Marsha’s spirit hovered nearby, comforting her beloveds, before drifting away like a puff of smoke rising from a dying fire’s embers.
On the best day of Marsha’s life, she fell off of a truck.
She managed to cram a whole lifetime of joy into six months of sanctuary before dying in the arms of someone who will never, ever, forget her.
On the best day of Marsha’s life, she was granted the chance to die a peaceful death.
(To the tune of Puff, the Magic Dragon)
Nunz, the magic piglet lived by Sabine
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Mehoopany
Little Magdalena loved that piglet Nunz
And brought him hay and apple cores and other fancy stuff…
I lay in the back of the car, singing as we sped towards the vet hospital. Tears washed down my face, baptizing an old, wrinkled pig with love. He groaned and writhed in my arms. Nunzi was having a stroke.
Years ago, when Nunzi first arrived at Indraloka, he screamed whenever a human was near. We discovered that singing eased his fear, so I made up a million silly songs to sing to him daily. Nunzi has not been frightened of people in years, and the songs had faded from our days. Yet now, here, as he lay struggling for life beside me, singing seemed the only way to comfort either of us.
Blue moon, you saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a pig of my own
Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Some pig I truly could care for…
Suddenly, his struggles ceased. He opened his eyes and looked into mine.
The moment stretched backwards to encompass the last eight years we shared together: Nunzi as a frightened newcomer; Nunzi learning to trust again; Nunzi and Magdie learning to take off each other’ electric collars to escape the underground fence. Countless nights he slept cuddled with his beloved Magdalena; countless days he played with sheep, chickens, and turkeys.
He and Magdelena were very close to a horse named Sabine, whose chronic foot problems made walking painful. However, we had to keep her walking in order to keep the blood flow in her feet so that she could heal. So, I used to place her hay on the far side of her paddock. On Sabine’s bad days, Magdie and Nunzi would carry the hay in their mouths back to Sabine’s bedside. They would lay with her and comfort her for hours on end.
The memories continued to flow from his eyes, as if a projector were hidden behind his pupils. Nunzi went through a period of a few years when he bit everyone in sight. Volunteers were afraid to feed him. He bit me, too, but that only made me love him more. This was just another way of expressing fear. I knew it would pass.
And pass it did. For the last several years, Nunzi approached humans excitedly, with a twinkle in his eyes. To keep up his reputation as a grumpy old man, he complained vociferously whenever he was touched, but his smiling eyes and wagging tail gave him away.
We remembered last year, when a group of Buddhist monks visited the sanctuary. Nunzi was so excited to be blessed he forgot to grumble about it!
And this past spring, when he and Magdie had a terrible fight. For months they refused to talk to each other, or even look at one another. Happily, they worked through their problems and reconciled, more cuddly and friendly than ever through the long summer days.
Just last weekend, Nunzi had enjoyed himself immensely at Pig Pampering Day, when volunteers traveled from hours away just to give the pigs belly rubs and mud baths. Oh yes, Nunzi loved pig pampering days!
The film came to the present moment, me lying next to him, both of us covered in tears. And then, with one long exhale, Nunzi was gone.
Love you forever and forever
Love you with all my heart
Love you whenever we’re together
Love you when we’re apart
Namah Shivaya my friend, my magic piglet. It was a blessing to walk the path with you.
My name is Madalitso. You can call me Maddie. It means “blessing”, and the people here tell me that is what I am to them: a blessing.
I do feel your love and your prayers. They are like a blanket of light surrounding me, comforting me, holding me up. They make me determined to get strong and healthy. I want to enjoy this new life laid out before me, this blessing granted to an old goat.
You’d be amazed how much easier pain is to endure when you are beloved. I still have a lot of healing to do, but I’m okay with that. This pain is nothing compared to what my babies went through when the farmer sent them “away”.
They say I’m a free goat. They let me go wherever I want, around the whole sanctuary. At first I was nervous, but I saw that several of the animals here do the same. So, today I am exploring a bit. I still have to move slowly, but there are so many tasty grasses and plants to try, it helps keep my mind off of the pain.
Charlie the rooster has trouble getting around, too. We hobble along and explore together. He gets hot and tired fast, so we spend a lot of time resting in the hay by the fan.
Selick, an elderly blind pig, is also pleasant to graze with. Opie and Daisy, the ducks, are a lot of fun to watch while they jump in and out of their pool and chase each other around, but they never stop talking.
Listen, though, please. I have something important to say. I made it out. I have a name. I am getting the love and care I so desperately needed for years.
But other goats aren’t that lucky. Other goats, other animals of many species, continue to suffer. Many, many more mothers and babies are being torn from one another right now. Most animals live in pain and fear every second of their lives. Most never once experience a kind word or even a moment of comfort. They suffer all day, everyday, until they are brutally killed.
Don’t forget them. Please don’t forget them. Please find a way to help them, just as I have been helped. You can start with the choices you make—what you eat and what you wear. You are more powerful than you think.
Maddie’s road to recovery will be long, involving a great deal of expensive veterinary care. Please share her story and please donate towards her care. Every dollar is matched, and every bit makes a difference.
Please don’t turn away.
I know it’s hard to look at me. But I am someone. I matter. And I didn’t always look this way. I was young and carefree and healthy once. People thought I was cute and funny and took videos of my antics. Please hear my story. Please acknowledge that I matter, that my life matters, even if I am just an old goat.
I was born a 4-H project– raised by a little girl who loved me, coddled me, kept me clean and fed me well. We used to pretend that she was a pilot, and I’d leap and jump…a passenger flying in her plane. She told me all of her secrets. I knew the names the kids at school called her. I knew how her mother scolded her for being “scraggly”, and warned her she’d never find a husband if she didn’t learn to clean house. She cried into my fur when one of her classmates had a birthday party and invited everyone but her.
I loved her so much! I loved listening to her problems. I loved to comfort her and make her smile. I thought we’d be together forever, best friends. But then one day there was a big contest. I didn’t win, but she sold me. She was crying the whole time, her mother admonishing her to grow up. Her father told her, “That’s just the way things are.”
I was taken to a clean, pretty farm, and put in a pasture with other goats. They all had horns, but mine had been cut off by the little girls’ father. I thought of my little girl as they bullied me. Finally, I understood what she had been through. I learned to stay out of the way, to be quiet and unassuming. As long as I didn’t sit somewhere they wanted to sit, or try to eat something they wanted to eat, they ignored me.
The farmer was nice. He gave me cookies and banana peels when the others weren’t looking. But then something happened.
I got pregnant. Oh! Finally I would have someone of my own, someone to love and care for! Someone who would never leave me!
Things got really good for a while. The farmer separated me from the bullies and fed me special food. Then my baby was born and he was a beauty! Long lashes, chocolate brown eyes, ears way too big for his little head! We frolicked and played and I thought I’d never be happier.
I was right.
One day the farmer came and took him away, and then put me back in the pasture with the bullies. I cried for my baby and did everything I could to get the farmer to give him back, but he was gone. I never heard from him again. At least in those days I was too naive to know where the babies went when the farmer took them from us.
Every year after that, I got pregnant. I usually had two babies. One year I even had four babies. I tried not to love them, I knew they’d just be taken away and killed. But I failed. I loved every one of them. And every time they were taken from me, a piece of my soul went with them.
One day, I realized I was an old woman. My body was worn out. My feet couldn’t hold me up anymore, my ankles were too weak. It hurt to walk, but I had to walk to graze and browse. I had become so skinny, there was nothing to me but my rumen and some bones. But still I pressed on, grazing when the sun went down, staying out of the other goats’ way. I thought of my babies and my little girl. The memories sustained me.
I thought for sure, now that I was too old to have babies, that the farmer would send me away to the place all the others have gone. But instead, something happened. I think it might be something good, but I’m not entirely sure yet.
I did get sent away, and now I am at a place they call a sanctuary. None of the other animals are frightened here, and none of them are bullies. I made a friend, sort of. A woman comes and sits with me. She sings songs and strokes my fur, and keeps trying to get me to eat. Part of me wants to melt into her and let her hold me. I want to cry into her hair like my little girl did with me all those years ago. I want someone to love me like I loved that little girl, and like I thought she loved me.
I don’t know, though. Maybe she’ll send me away like the little girl did. Maybe she’ll kill me and eat me, although she doesn’t smell like a person who would do that. I just don’t know. I’m an old goat now. If they are not going to kill me, what could they want from me?
Could it be possible, after all these years? Have I found someone to love me? Might I even make friends here? Maybe I am finally safe…
Maddie’s road to recovery will be long, involving a great deal of expensive veterinary care. Please share her story and please donate towards her care. Every dollar is matched, and every bit makes a difference.
Once a lonely peacock lived on a magical farm. Actually, he still lives there, but he’s not lonely anymore. And it is not actually a farm, but a sanctuary for farm animals— a farm sanctuary…But I am getting ahead of the story.
Once a lonely peacock lived on a magical farm sanctuary. He wasn’t a lonely, sad peacock. He was, for the most part, a lonely, happy peacock. After all, he did live on a magical farm sanctuary.
His name was Majja the Fabu, and he was a beautiful, beautiful bird, even among peacocks! And he was a happy bird, for the most part. He spent his days wandering free, wherever he chose. As the self-appointed protector of the magical farm, and all of its magical inhabitants, Majja considered it his duty to visit every inch of the farm every day. He also spent lots of times in high up places, like barn roofs and tree tops, and called out his beautiful, magical, super-loud warning if ever danger lurked. But as I told you, it was a magical farm so pretty much everyone was safe there anyways.
Majja was very popular and had lots of friends. There were several chickens in particular that Majja was very close to, but he also enjoyed time spent with the giant pigs, the little pigs, cows, sheep, and especially the horses. Actually, the horses were the only ones good-looking enough to truly be seen with. After all Majja was so handsome, everyone else looked a little, well, not as glamorous in comparison.
So Majja had lots of friends, and a good life on the magical farm. But he was still rather lonely. You see, he spoke every language fluently—pig, cow, sheep, goat, chicken, turkey, goose, duck, horse, mule, English—but no one spoke his language. And every once in a while, it is lovely to hear one’s own language spoken.
Once, there was someone who spoke peafowl with him. Her name was Mother Superior, and she was so much more than the word chicken might convey, unless you know a lot of chickens personally. Simply put, Mother Superior was a hen among hens. She was vast in her inner beauty, compassion, wisdom, and sense of humor. Mother Superior’s keen eyes took in everything that happened on the magical farm sanctuary, and she always understood it through the eyes of Love. She kindly mothered her flock day in and day out for many years. She showed them where to find yummy tidbits of food, shepherded them in the barn every night, and took care of them in many more ways.
By the time Majja got to the magical farm, Mother Superior was an elderly hen, and had handed over her active mothering duties to several younger chicks.
On the day that Majja arrived, he was a bit nervous. He had never seen so many other animals, all speaking different languages. But luckily, Mother Superior was there. She took him under her wing (figuratively of course– a peacock is much too big to fit under a chicken’s wing!) and taught him all the languages on the farm sanctuary, while he taught her peafowl.
Mother Superior and Majja enjoyed discussing the nature of things around them, and through comparing their experiences, they often learned a lot about the world.
“Why, they come from clouds, don’t they?’
“It does seem to me that they do. And Majja, you can fly a lot higher than I can, so please tell me, are clouds made of raindrops?” Mother Superior persisted.
“No, I mean yes, I mean, sort of. Clouds are like rain in the form of air, like moist air. Well, you have been in fog, right? Fog is a cloud that is nearer to the earth.” Majja struggled to explain.
“Ah! So clouds are not made of raindrops, but they are made of water in a different form, yes? And yet raindrops are also made of water.”
“And what happens to the raindrop when it falls to the ground? Does it stop existing?”
“Er, no,” Majja puzzled, “The ground gets wet, so the water the raindrop is made of still exists, but it just changes form again.”
“Ah! So the essence of the raindrop– the water– exists even when the raindrop as we know it is gone.” Mother Superior sounded happy about this.
“Yes, yes that is exactly right.” Majja agreed.
“Majja, my dear friend,” Mother Superior said, “I will be changing my shape soon, too, and I want you to understand.”
Remember, Mother Superior was no spring chicken, in fact she was a winter chicken. What I mean to say is, Mother Superior was super duper old. She was nearly ten, and that is much older for a chicken than it is for a human little girl or boy.
“Majja,” she said softly, “just as a raindrop melts into the ground, evaporates into the air, forms clouds in the sky, and then rains down again, I, too will be changing form soon. I will no longer be here in the same way, to travel the sanctuary with you, and to have lengthy conversations in peafowl about the meaning of life and other important things. It is my time to travel on. But just as that raindrop remains water, no matter what its form, I remain me, even when I leave this form. And my Love will remain with you,” she explained gently. Majja cried quietly as he listened.
“Everything changes, my friend. Everything changes.” she cooed.
The next morning, Majja awoke at dawn without his lovely friend. Mother Superior had died in the night. Of course he was sad and he missed her, but Majja remembered that her Love lived on. And he also realized he had many more loved ones and much to be grateful for.
For two long years, Majja the Fabu wandered the farm alone. Of course he stopped to play and visit with all of the animals, just as he always did, but he never found a friend as close as Mother Superior, and he had no one with whom to speak pea fowl.
Not having any close friends, though, was not for a lack of trying! In fact, Majja the Fabu tried really hard, everyday. He followed Thelma and Louise, the turkeys, around but they just ran away. He tried to befriend Lou C. and Lucy Goosey, but the geese simply hissed at him. The pigs were very kind to him, but their interests were just so different! So, Majja remained a lonely peacock.
Until one day, a car pulled in the driveway and two shiny happy people got out. Peacocks have very keen hearing and sight, so Majja was able to sit on top of the barn and observe the proceedings. The shiny happy people said their names were Joy and Tom– can you believe it, this lady was so happy that her name was Joy! Majja felt that boded very well.
And wait, what’s this? Who was that in the back seat? Could it be? No! Majja flew down and hid behind a tall bush where he could watch and listen without being spotted.
It was! It was! Majja could hardly believe his ears!
“Hwaaah!” he let out his eery mating call, “A girl, a girl, and not just any girl! A peahen!” Majja could not even remember the last time he heard a peahen! The shiny people carried her into the barn in a dog carrier, and then they opened the door.
Majja peered into the barn from the back doorway.
First one scaly, gray foot emerged, the talon-like toes daintily outstretched. Majja gulped. The way her scaly leg pulled his heartstrings, I cannot even describe, but pull them they did.
Next, her body and head appeared. Silver body and wing feathers with an iridescent green head, a Burmese Peahen! Majja, being a Peacock of Indian descent, had never met a Burmese Peafowl before, but their beauty was legendary.
The gorgeous peahen straightened to her full height, stretched her wings, and shook her feathers out. As each feather settled perfectly in place, the majestic peahen turned her head and looked right at Majja. Majja did what any red-blooded male who draws the attention of a woman in whom he has interest would do. He ran away.
Sheba paid him no mind. Instead, she stood still for a moment so everyone around her could admire her beauty. She understood that it was difficult for others to take in a sight as glorious as she, and that they would need a moment.
Next, she wandered off and began exploring.
After a few hours, Majja worked up his courage and perched next to her. She turned to him and their eyes met. “Finally, I’ve found you,” she said in peafowl.
“Y- you’ve been looking for me?” the regal peacock, king of the barn, was reduced to tears at hearing his beloved language again.
“I was captured as a peababy and forced to perform in a traveling show. Everywhere we went, I sought someone who could understand me, someone with whom I could ponder the mysteries of the ages.”
“How did you escape?”
“I was rescued by a gaze of raccoons–”
Majja interrupted, “– excuse me, but could you tell me what a gaze of raccoons is, I am not familiar with the term.”
“Certainly. I didn’t know either, until they explained it to me. A gaze is what raccoons call their group, just as we call a group of us a party of peafowl.”
“Fascinating, thank you for that explanation. And now, please do tell me more,” Majja requested.
“The raccoons were lovely and treated me quite well but alas, life with a gaze of raccoons was simply not for me. I summoned assistance from Beyond to find the Life I was meant to live. Joy and Tom then came for me and brought me to Lasa Sanctuary. Whilst it is a wonderful place, with many happy animals, I did not find any one to bond with among the chickens, cows, and sheep there. Oh, I did love them all, but there was no one I felt especially close with. Joy and Tom understood, and they began to seek out an appropriate mate for me. Joy consulted her magic box– have you seen one of these devices? It is similar to a crystal ball and allows humans to communicate over great distances.”
“Yes, I am familiar with these magic boxes. Our humans have them, as well.”
“That is how Joy found you, and so they brought me here, to Indraloka.”
“You came here for me?”
Mother Superior, from her place Beyond, embraced the two with changeless Love. And with Love– capital L– the two peafowl found themselves connected to each other and All That Is, never more to be lonely, for none of us is ever truly alone.