Humor me for just a moment. Please. I need a little humoring because I’m shaken by the news of another man/boy on a rampage with a gun. Nine people, peacefully at prayer, executed. This human, empowered with a weapon, looked at a group of people, judged them by their appearance, and filled with hatred (from who knows where, but I bet he listened to “hate” radio on a daily basis) shot them dead. Oh. My. God.
I will put aside my heart for a few moments, broken over the state of “humanity,” to talk about animals. Again, please humor me . . . and take a moment to consider turning a golden retriever loose in this same church. Not for one moment does the retriever notice the color of anyone’s skin, only noticing the content of each person’s heart and soul. I would bet my own soul this dog would trot from person to person, quickly identifying every truly important aspect of their existence, accept them for whomever they are, give them a little lovin’ and then move on to the next person. Each human would feel blessed by their moments with this animal and continue on with their lives the better for the experience. Oh, if only Dylann Roof had been born a golden retriever . . .
I’m using a dog as an example because they are most familiar to all of us, but I work with horses, pigs, sheep, goats . . . you name the farm animal, I probably work with it on a daily basis, and every single animal I have ever met has judged me not by my appearance, but by the content of my heart. I am grateful that, as a whole, they have deemed me worthy of their love. Alas, much of humanity has not been so kind in their judgment . . .
Animals aren’t just colorblind, they are “appearance blind.” The only animal on this planet that is capable of hatred based on color, weight, religion, uniform, politics . . . hell . . . even fashion sense, is the human being. If we take a step back and look at us as a species, all caught up in our egos, positive that we each are the only perfect and justifiable example of our kind . . . if we aren’t repulsed, we should be. The world teeters on on the edge of obliteration, and we all know the Rhesus monkey and the duckbilled platypus are not to blame . . . it’s humanity.
There are days when I am tired. The work on a farm that rescues animals from the abuses of humans is endless and brutally hard. But in between throwing hay, dumping grain and shoveling manure there are those moments when a horse will stop me in my tracks and rest her head on my shoulder, letting me know how much she appreciates what we do and that she’s glad she’s still alive and landed on Locket’s Meadow instead of in a slaughter house.
There are afternoons when I would rather curl up and take a nap than walk over to the barn and teach a riding lesson, but I drink another cup of coffee and tack up our enormous Shire, Ernie, marked for slaughter at 9-months old but rescued by us at the last second. I watch how he gently allows someone like Jim, a non-verbal autistic man, ride him independently around the indoor with only a halter and reins, and I know that I also have landed in the exact right place here on Locket’s Meadow.
My horse, Captain, rescued at the age of four months from slaughter, was the angriest, most aggressive colt I had ever seen, with good reason, but when he works with adolescent girls who have been bullied and teaches then how to stand up for themselves with conviction, I understand resiliency and unconditional love.
Each time there is another senseless act of mass aggression and I’m left feeling hopeless about the state of the human race, I haul myself back out onto the farm and return to work; the animals need to be taken care of regardless of human chaos. In the barns and in the paddocks is where I learn the most about life and love, forgiveness and gratitude. I learn all of these traits from animals that were beaten, starved, locked up, abused and sent to kill pens to await painful slaughter.
It’s on those days when I am most tired and discouraged and considering a life of ease in the suburbs with nothing more demanding of my attention than a goldfish in a bowl that my animals work hardest to remind me of the importance of the job we do. These “lowly” animals are far wiser than I ever will be, and understand it’s crucial for places like Locket’s Meadow to exist to expose humans to these beings and their advanced souls.
When God created animals, it wasn’t to give us steak or cheese or pork chops. Animals set the standard for compassion and forgiveness so much higher than we do, and their ability to give back out of love and thankfulness is unlimited.
We need to spend more time with pugs, pigs, peacocks and ponies. How else will human beings ever learn the art of judging each other by the content of our hearts and souls, if not from the experts, the animals?
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