death

The Smile

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Once a little pig lived in a dark, sad barn.  He was old and blind and had lived his entire life in darkness. This darkness was much deeper than that caused by lack of light in the barn, and much darker even than a blind old pig might normally experience.

Selick’s darkness was the most profound sort— a darkness that emanates from desolation.  From the time he was born in the dark barn, his world was filled with angst, fear, and worst of all, a lack of hope.

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His mother loved him as much as she could, but she herself was caught in the same helplessness and despair.  The barn was filled with old cow poop, broken glass, and other dirty, scary things.  Selick, his mother, and the many, many other pigs there had not a single clean, comfortable, safe spot to sleep.

Sometimes the human brought food, but often she did not.  Sometimes, the food was really smelly and bad, like animals that had been hit by cars and left on the side of the road for a few days.  She had, once or twice, let the pigs outside.  Many of them made a break for it.  Selick’s darkness was so deep that he did not wonder where they went.  It was so dark that he did not event try to run.

When the woman did bring food, sometimes it was enough, and often it was not.  She did the same thing with water.  Selick’s mother taught him he had to be tough and mean to survive. She taught him to fight for his food, and it’s a good thing she did, because not all of the pigs survived that dark, sad place. But Selick, he survived.

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One day, a humane police officer came in, bringing light and fresh air with her.  She had other humans and trailers, and the pigs were all happy to leave that barn behind.  All the pigs but Selick, that is.  Selick’s darkness was just too deep.  He had no hope that wherever he was going would be any better, and he certainly had no hope that humans might help him.

Selick and just a few of the other pigs were brought to a place called Indraloka.  Three of them were given a big pasture with different little houses, and were told they could go in and out whenever they wanted.  Selick took the best house for himself and was ready to fight over it.  He was disappointed when Raymond and Waldo ignored him and went into the other house.

The humans kept trying to lure him into complacency, but he knew better.  He would never trust them. The others were suckers.  They were won over by fruit and belly rubs, but Selick was going to do exactly as his mother taught him, so long ago.  He avoided humans at all costs.  If they insisted on touching him, he screamed and fought until they gave up.

Raymond and Waldo were annoying.  Selick knew that this situation with plenty of food couldn’t last forever, so he decided to make sure he’d survive again when things went bad. He began picking fights with them daily.  He needed to prove to them he was in charge, so when he needed to fight for food, it would be easier to win.

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Years went by. Selick was sick of those stupid pigs.  In fact, he never wanted to see another pig again.  His darkness was still deep and thick. He decided he was not going to spend one more night in the same pasture as those stupid, annoying pigs.  So, late one night, he found his way out. After wandering around for a while, he found Tom, Jake and Henny’s barn door.  They were some very mellow old turkeys whose company he did not completely hate.  He knocked and grunted, and the turkeys kindly invited him in.  They had a huge bowl of seed and grain right there in their house, and no one was even eating it!

Selick gobbled it down and thought, “This is too easy! I didn’t even have to fight for this!” The turkeys just cooed softly and went to sleep.   Selick, his belly full, and very relieved to have escaped the pigs, lay down and slept the whole night through. The turkeys were so easy to hang out with, and they had all this food and a pig-free home.  They were nice to him, Selick realized.  The edges of the darkness he had held onto for so long began to lift, and a tiny sliver of light came in. Selick knew he wanted to stay with these birds.

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The next day those awful, fakey-fake humans came and put him right back in the pig pasture.  Selick knew they couldn’t be trusted, and this proved it.  They were not going to tell him where to live, though.  So, that night, he broke out again and went straight to the turkey’s house.

Every day for about a week, the humans put him back in the pig pasture, and he broke back out to go to the turkeys.  The turkeys took to flying right into the pig pasture while Selick was stuck there during the day.  He couldn’t believe it, they liked him, too! Finally one day, the short human exclaimed, “You love these turkeys, Selick, don’t you? Would you rather live with them?”

“These humans have got to be the slowest creatures who ever walked the earth,” Selick grumbled to himself. “Yeah, ok, lady, you sure do understand animals,” Selick said patronizingly, and the short human told him he could stay with them from then on.  A few more slivers of light came through.

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Years went by, and Selick’s heart attacked him.  It hurt and he was scared and he thought he was going to die. He was shocked to realize he wasn’t ready. He actually wanted to live. The short human started spending all her time with him, covering him with blankets, giving him medicine he hated and encouraging him to eat when he didn’t feel like it.  Tom, Jake, and Henny stayed, too.  Selick slept heavily, and a lot. One day, he dreamed that someone he didn’t hate was rubbing his belly.  He woke groggily and slowly to discover it was true, someone was rubbing his belly. It felt so good, he went back to sleep.

But this time, the old, blind pig slept in the light.  His darkness had faded. He understood that the humans and the turkeys had saved his life. He could not come up with any reason for them to do that except that they cared. Maybe all humans weren’t entirely fakey-fake after all.  Maybe some were ok.

More years passed, and the more Selick trusted, the more humans he attracted. This worked out very well, as he found he could persuade any human to rub his belly and give him treats very easily.  “You just have to understand them,” he mused, “and then they are easy to communicate with.”

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As more humans sought him out, Selick started realizing the humans had feelings very similar to a pig’s.  Lots of them are afraid to trust other humans, and fight with them just the way Selick did with pigs.  Lots of humans lived in darkness because of a painful past that was long over, refusing to let the light of a new day in because they thought it would hurt more when the darkness came back. And just like he used to be, lots of humans were certain that the darkness would always be back.

Selick was so much older and wiser now.  That heart attack really helped him, because it showed him how much he did like life.  He started living fully—exploring sanctuary grounds, making friends with lots of birds, goats, and other animals, although he still did not like pigs.   He began to count certain humans as his friends, too.

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They’d come to him, talking and sometime crying about their problems, sometimes telling him their dreams, and sometimes just wanting to love and be loved.  He’d talk with them and smile at them, and their whole world got brighter.

“How sweet these other animals are,” Selick would think, “and so delicate, with so many problems.  I’ll just help them when I can.”

For Selick, it was never enough just to escape his own darkness.  Selick wanted to shine light on the whole world.  So he smiled.

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You see, Selick had hope now.  He had so much hope that it lit up his insides as bright as the sun.  And when he smiled, that light of hope shone right out onto whoever was near, and stripped away their darkness for just a moment, so they’d feel warm and light, with hope restored.

***

In just a few days since Selick crossed over, we have been blessed with messages and stories from people far and near who loved him, learned from him, and called him friend.  If you have a similar story, please share it below in the comments.  We would be grateful to share your memories.

Here are some excerpts from others who loved him:

Yesterday not knowing this, for the first time I introduced Selick as the star of the day in my afternoon classes. They cheered and clapped for him, waving and calling his name, and then when they learned he was blind- the kids used the words “brave, smart, inspiring, and special” to describe him while watching his photos and video clips. I had no idea they were actually giving him the kind of celebratory send off he deserved… This makes my heart sad and warm at the same time. Selick was a super cool being, he knew how to enjoy life unlike anyone else I have ever known. I’ll miss him. – Sarah

Selick had such a profound and fervent affect on me.  From the moment I met him, his meandering determination and subdued vitality seemed as consequential and inspirational as any being I’ve ever come across.  Meeting him and spending what relatively little time I did with him, was so utterly fulfilling.  

Selick, without fail, provided me with a fresh and dynamic perspective every time we occupied the same space.  I loved him deeply, and I am so sorry about having lost him, but also incredibly gratified by having known him.  

Thank you for providing sanctuary to him, and all the souls.  You and Johnny have my unending gratitude for saving him and thru him, to some very quantifiable degree, saving me as well.  Another example of the good we do, rippling outward to eventually include the entire pond.

A little less light in the world tonight… but a reason to shine brighter tomorrow.  – Matt

The focus is on what that beautiful soul did for us, what he meant to us, and how lucky we all are to have walked this earth with him… He’ll continue to bring you smiles for years to come – Mike

Bless precious Selick. I recall fondly seeing him mill about the place at the ThanksLiving event. Eating the turkey’s food, coming into the barn and walking among the tables in the barn. A happy boy — all because of the good souls at Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, who gave him sanctuary and loved him. Loved him. Loved him. Loved him.- Bren

My daughters still talk about Selick when they visited last June. He is my first memory at Indraloka as he greeted us wagging his tail when we arrived on the farm. What a beautiful spirit. – Tala

You did so much good in your life, Selick. Peace in Heaven, beautiful soul. Xxxx – Florence

I will never ever forget Sellie. Ever. He made a mark on my heart, like he did on so many others. – Dotsie

Just getting to spend a few days getting to know him he made such a HUGE and loving impression on my heart! – Elle

My heart is broken, but I will always be grateful for the happiness and love Selick gave me.- Lisa

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A Good Day to Die

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Jake, whose long snood and bright coloring indicate happiness akin to a big grin.  In this photo, he is covered in pollen that blew in the pastures where he was enjoying his day.

Today is Jake’s day of glory.  It’s Thanksgiving day and his spirit is flying free.

It is a good day to die.

Jake came to me with a flock of poults (baby turkeys) that were destined to be killed for Thanksgiving in 2003.  I remember being spellbound by the little birds, who grew so fast that every hour they looked different. I had never known a turkey personally, and never even imagined the complex, fascinating, sensitive, curious beings I discovered them to be.

Jake never liked humans.  I always took it as a great compliment that he felt free enough to eschew human company, including my own. He knew we respected him enough to understand he was his own being, free to make his own choices. We never tried to meld him into who we wanted him to be.

Jake was one of a kind. He could be a bit of a hothead at times, quick to defend when he perceived the slightest threat to his dominion.  He protected his flock valiantly.  Jake cherished his freedom, and enjoyed each day to its fullest.  Even on the day before he died, Jake dozed in the sunshine, sought tasty delicacies in the grass, and hung out with his pig and turkey buddies.

Jake’s best friends were Tom (another Turkey), and Selick, a blind, elderly pig.  Years ago, when Selick first came to us, we tried to have him live with other pigs, but each night, Selick broke out of the pig enclosure and into Jake and Tom’s pen.  So, Jake and Tom got a new roommate.

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Tom, with Jake slightly behind him, explores the sanctuary.

Early this Thanksgiving morning, Jake succumbed to a heart attack.  He died quickly, with his best friends, Tom and Selick, by his side.

Jake was one of very few free turkeys on this earth. He was much beloved and tenderly cared for every day of his life. Among the oldest turkeys alive, it is nothing short of a miracle that he died a beautiful, peaceful death in the company of family and friends on Thanksgiving Day.

Today, I give thanks for the blessing of having had Jake in my life. I pray that all turkeys will someday be free to live as the sacred beings that they are. I pray that every human will someday know the joy of nurturing, encouraging, and protecting life in all of its varied and beautiful forms.

Today is your day of glory, my precious Jake. My heart soars with your spirit. You lived free and died free.  I am deeply, deeply grateful to you for walking with me for this brief time.

Hoka hey, my beloved familiar. It is a good day to die.

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Jake casts his intelligent gaze towards the camera.

 

 

Falling in Love Weather

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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.

Catera

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.

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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.

***

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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.

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These Stories of Cats Befriending Farmed Animals Will Melt Your Heart

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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

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Wesley T. Monkey

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.

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Babaji’s BFFs

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Babaji and Louise

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.

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Babaji giving Jeremiah a snuggle.

LuvBug2, Protector of the Upper Barn

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LuvBug with Maddie.

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).

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How is your morning going so far?

Rottie Rescues Orphaned Kitten

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Izzy and Puff Dady, lifelong friends

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

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CC nursed Jeremiah 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.

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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

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As a kitten, Gilligan was adopted by goats

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.

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We would have done anything for this amazing friend.

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.

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Nunz, the Magic Piglet

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(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.

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Greeting newcomers

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!

Photo courtesy of Joel Anderson
Photo courtesy of Joel Anderson

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.

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Enjoying Pig Pampering Day
Magdie and Nunzi
Magdie and Nunzi

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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.

Once a Lonely Peacock

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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.

Majja the Fabu
Majja the Fabu

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.

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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.

Mother Superior
Mother Superior

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.

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“Majja, tell me,” Mother Superior asked one day, “Where do raindrops come from?”

“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.”

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“Exactly!” Majja was relieved to have cleared this up.

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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?”

“I did.”

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.

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Leif’s Light

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Sometimes, these precious beings don’t stay with us as long as we’d like…

A compassionate humane police officer brought Leif E. Greene to us.  She had rescued the skinny little goat from a dark, dirty garage, where he was tied up. Children were taunting him, throwing rocks, and he had no escape. The person who had called in the complaint stated that this had been going on for months. No wonder this little guy didn’t trust humans!

At the time, we were still struggling to keep our new calf Mookie alive. He had terrible digestive problems, refused to eat solid food, and struggled with bloating daily. Mookie was skin and bones, and nothing we tried was helping him heal.

Cookie before he met Lief
Mookie before he met Lief

Leif took one look at Mookie and decided they were new best friends. He pranced over to him and invited him to a hearty game of tag. The next morning, Mookie ate solid food for the first time. By the next day, Mookie’s digestive problems had disappeared. The calf and goat played all day long, until they fell asleep in a heap, like puppies.

Mookie eating a hearty breakfast while Leif encourages him
Mookie eating a hearty breakfast while Leif encourages him

A few days later, Leif looked me in the eye and smiled. Progress! This precious little being, on the strength of love and play, was saving Mookie’s life, and had a heart so open he was willing to give humans another chance.

Soon, Leif was dancing with joy every time he saw us. He even began to leap over his fence to find us anywhere on the property, demanding that we play with him and Mookie.

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In the mornings, as I fed Mookie his bottle, Leif pranced joyfully in circles around us, stopping occasionally to kiss Mookie or me. He was actually celebrating Mookie’s care! This little goat stole my heart, and I felt it would burst for the love of such a giving soul.

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FOUR MONTHS LATER…

One day, he seemed like a healthy, joyful goat that would be with us for years to come. The next day, his kidneys shut down, and then his heart stopped.  We don’t know why, the vets don’t know why.  We rushed him to the hospital, but there was nothing they could do.

His time with us was invaluable, if all too brief. Our sweet little angel died in our arms, knowing he was much beloved, and that we were sorry to see him go.

Everything changes.

We cannot be surprised.  We must simply have unending gratitude that he was in our lives at all, and that his friendship saved sweet Mookie’s life.

Long may your light shine, Leif E. Greene, in the star world and in our hearts.

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