Human

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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Operation 303: Freedom Awaits

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It has been seven days since I took a leap of faith and found myself, just a simple pig from New Jersey, the center of international attention.

People keep asking me what my name is, which is funny because in my old life no one but my mother ever showed interest in calling me by name.  They tell me that the tag in my ear says 303, but I know that is not who I am.

The people here are calling me Porky, and I know from the way that they say it that they mean it affectionately, but that is not my name, either.  My mother had a wonderful name for me, but it has been so long since I have seen her that I can’t quite remember it.  It slides onto the tip of my tongue every once in a while, but  before I can get it out,  it dashes back into the corners of my mind, just beyond where I can reach it.  I know it will come back soon, though.  And as soon as it does, you will be the first to know.

The other thing everyone keeps asking is, “What happened, how did you find yourself on a busy highway in the middle of rush hour traffic?”

Simple.  I jumped.

The place I came from was dark, and life was hard there.  Those days are over and I do not intend to relive them, but I do want to tell you about the light and smell that kept me going.  We pigs lived in a dark and dank barn, but everyday, when the farmers came in to feed us, I saw a light beyond the briefly opened door, and I smelled wonderful adventures wafting in with the fresh air.

Somehow I knew, I just knew, that light and those smells were the freedom we pigs all longed for.   And I knew beyond a doubt that someday I would be a free pig.

Most of the other pigs had given up hope, but I remembered my mother singing to me when I was a baby, “Sometimes, I feel like an eagle in flight…”  Her song floated through the stillness of the dark barn where we piglets nursed and settled on us as softly as a feather.    “Sometimes, I feel like an eagle in flight.  Sometimes, I feel like an eagle in flight, spread my wings and fly, spread my wings and fly.”  In her rich alto voice, hope mingled with tender mother love and the calm wisdom that sometimes comes from long-suffering.

My mother told us piglets about eagles who fly farther than we could see, about sunlight, grass, and best of all, mud.  She told us that pigs at our farm used to live like that– outside– free to feel sunshine on our skin, to dig up delicious roots with our noses, and to roll around in grass and mud, enjoying all that the beautiful world outside had to offer.  My mother told us that if we kept those images deep in our hearts, we could be free in our spirits.

That was a long time ago.  I was still just a baby when the farmers loaded her up onto a truck and took her away.  We never heard from her again, but I have never stopped imagining her a free pig.   I just knew that someday I would gain my freedom as well.

My opportunity came last week.  The farmers loaded me onto a truck with several others.  I was grown up enough by now to know that they were not taking us to our freedom.  And yet, through the wooden slats in the back of the truck, I saw light and smelled that air.  I started working on the wooden slats with my nose.  After awhile, I pushed several loose– enough for me to squeeze through.

“Hey guys,” I yelled to the other pigs, “now is our chance.  Let’s jump!”

But the other pigs were too scared.   I squeezed through the slats and half fell, half leapt all alone.  The truck was going pretty fast, and I tumbled hard on the cold, wet highway.  Cars were speeding by.  The noise was deafening.  I was beginning to regret my decision to jump and didn’t know what to do next.

That’s when he came along– I never did catch his name and I still think that maybe he was an angel and not a human  at all.  He maneuvered a huge truck around me to shield me from the traffic and most of the noise.  He spoke to me gently.  He told me that I was safe, that help was coming to take me someplace dry and warm.  He told me no one would ever hurt me again.  For hours we sat like that, the cold December rain sluicing down our faces, cars whizzing around us, and him talking to me in a soft voice, spinning dreams of freedom.  I could almost feel my mother smiling down on us.

The next thing I knew, a whole lot of people were there.  They loaded me onto another truck and took me to the barn where I am now.  This barn is lighter than the one I used to live in, and I have been given a pen filled with soft, warm straw.  Lots of people came to look at and admire me when I arrived.

At first, I had a hard time understanding what it was they admired about a lost little pig, but as the hubbub died down, humans came to talk to me one by one.  In the quiet of the barn with only us farm animals to hear, they poured out their thoughts, feelings, and dreams.   I began to understand.

The human heart is so similar to my own.

So here I am.  I am told that soon I will be moving to a new place, called Indraloka Animal Sanctuary.  It is a place where pigs, sheep, cows, and all kinds of farm animals live free.  Where humans are our friends and we all have a chance to enjoy life’s wonderful adventures, like wallowing in soft mud and lolling in sweet pasture grass.

Before I go there, I am told I need more doctor’s visits and tests.  They plan to move me around the middle of next week, and in the meantime the people here are very nice and are keeping me safe and warm.

Freedom is just around the next corner, and I just know I will remember my name when I get there!

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