I don’t have time to write this today. I have to do physical therapy with a lamb. I have to give a bath to a newly-rescued young ram who was slated for ritual slaughter this week but was saved at the last second – his tail wasn’t docked and I must get the crusty, cement-hard manure off and clean him up before he gets maggots. I have cages to clean, cats to pet, hooves to trim. I have laundry – about a dozen blankets and up to 60 towels a day must be washed. Oh, and somewhere in there I have to do some actual work because we need money to survive. I absolutely don’t have time to sit down and write this today . . . but I’m gonna anyway.
A friend sent me a copy of a vegan Facebook page on which someone had written that there was an animal sanctuary to visit in Connecticut, our farm, Locket’s Meadow. Another person responded that we are not a sanctuary because we give riding lessons and pony rides. Thankfully, my friend responded that we are, indeed, a sanctuary, but who knows what the judgers will think. I shouldn’t care, but I do because they are WRONG. The hardcore vegans firmly believe that riding horses is exploiting them. They think pony rides are a horrible, demeaning form of torture to an animal. Sure, if the horse doesn’t want to do it, it probably is. But if, like our riding horses, they see themselves as part of a family all working together as a unit, all of us giving to each other out of love and respect, it’s a totally different animal, so to speak.
Wild animals are wild. Let them be. Give them their space. In fact, give them enough space so that they can all co-exist together, keeping the balance as God and nature intended. But domesticated animals have been bred for thousands of years; they are here and unless we stop breeding them, they aren’t going anyplace. Aside from cats, we can’t undomesticated them. They were bred to do certain jobs, so herding dogs love to herd, guard dogs WILL protect their families, a Jack Russell will take care of rats in a barn. That’s how our ancestors made them, that’s what they will do. And by breeding them to want to work, we made them dependent on us. Again, unless we stop breeding (and we DO NOT BREED on Locket’s Meadow) we are responsible for not only taking care of these animals, but giving them the jobs that actually keep them happy.
Dogs are part of a pack/family. Every one of them has a job in that pack and if they can no longer work, they are the lowest of the low on the totem pole. They don’t want to be there as losing their job is just short of death. Horses all have a job in their herd – lookout, protector, mother, etc. Same deal. It’s how they work together as a family. Every animal here on Locket’s Meadow is a member of our family. They all know they are loved, and they all love us. If they want to work, they work.
Here’s where the judgey vegans are wrong; they underestimate domesticated animals’ ability to comprehend. They see them as totally disconnected from us, and uninterested in being a part of our world. THEY ARE WRONG, BECAUSE HUMANS BRED THEM TO BE EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE!!! Animals are so much more aware of who they are and what they can do to be a part of a family so stop selling them short. A trained dog is a happier dog. A dog with a job is an ecstatic and fulfilled dog. We have a lot of horses on our farm, but Captain is my special man. We have a bond . . . no words for it. When is he happiest? When I walk into the barn and say, “Crunchy, we’re going for a ride.” He lives for his time with his mama, and we have a blast. When was the last time that happened? Well, it’s September . . . I’d say it was July. Because I’m busy doing hooves, physical therapy, distributing meds, training dogs, washing towels, shoveling manure, organizing fundraisers and sitting at this computer writing blogs that take up way too much time when I should be feeding those parrots who are yelling at me from the next room. (It’s still early – they will deal.) Anyways, I know for certain at the end of today Captain will be sad because we didn’t play. Again.
Sure, humans constantly cross lines with domesticated animals. Our farm is filled with the victims of humanity; beaten, neglected, pulled from slaughter yards, etc. etc. Humans suck for what we do to these beautiful, spiritual and sentient beings. Some days it’s all I can do to remember that the same Spirit that flows through these animals I love so much is the Spirit that flows through the humans who have hurt them so badly, and because we are ALL ONE I can’t judge humanity as a big nasty lump of hideousness. We are all on the same journey, working together, and every animal on this planet is with us AS AN EQUAL. And if they are equals, we have to give them the credit they deserve, and as far as domesticated animals are concerned, they believe they are an immediate and contributing part of our families.
So, we gently train our dogs as we do our children. A child who does not know the rules is obnoxious and often dangerous. A dog who doesn’t know the rules is the one who ends up dangerous and euthanized. And a horse who isn’t trained is not only potentially lethal, he or she is a dead horse. If we are going to rescue horses from slaughter, yet not train them to have a job, we are irresponsible pieces of maggot-infested garbage. If I dropped dead tomorrow, the horses on our farm who are incapable of working are literally dead meat. If my husband and I went down together in a plane (as if that would ever happen as vacations are never an option,) they are dead meat even faster. Aside from us and far too few other sanctuaries, almost nobody will keep a nonworking horse around because they can’t afford to maintain a working horse and a retired horse (we’ve pulled at least 70 of those out of slaughter pens over the years.) So, if we have horses who are capable of working and are willing, we make sure they are trained and able to do a job not only because they like to contribute to their family, but because IT SAVES THEIR LIVES!!!! Our little lesson program is the best thing we could ever do for our babies because it’s as close to a life “assurance” program as we can come, and even then – we’ve pulled some beautifully trained horses out of slaughter pens . . .
So here’s the deal . . . if you want to judge us . . . make sure you are first willing to:
- Give up everything that resembles a normal life, such as sleeping until 6am. Get up at 3:45 and start feeding around 150 animals, in the pouring rain, in negative15 degrees, in a blizzard. Break up ice with a sledgehammer, check every horse blanket, dig snow away from gates and dig paths to the pigpens so you can carry out their warm buckets. When you’re done, start working at your real jobs so you can afford the luxury of doing all of the above.
- Judge me when you have the option of living a cushy life of restaurants and Broadway plays but instead choose to spend $10,000 a month on hay and grain, $2,000 a month on farrier bills, who knows how much on vet bills (anywhere from $500 to $5,000 . . . and more . . .,) a minimum of $15,000 a month out of your own pockets to provide for your animals. That doesn’t include food for yourselves, utilities, mortgages (ugh . . .) and all of the other “normal” things people spend money on.
- Judge me when you opt to live in tiny a 240-year old house that’s in danger of collapsing because you choose to fix the roofs on the barns before you fix your own roof. When you spend your money on fencing to keep the pigs safe before you put a floor down in your kitchen and instead cut squares of plywood to fill in spaces where tiles used to be (because the 650 pound house pig keeps breaking them beneath her weight.) Judge us when your bathroom is vintage 1962 and still has a hole in the floor from when you bought it 18 years ago (kinda hidden beneath the trash can) because the needs of the animals and their housing come first.
- Judge us when you are sitting down to a dinner of popcorn, again, because all of the money went to the animals, who are all fed and watered in their clean stalls, have their meds and supplements and are content and tucked in for the night. When you and your spouse are sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by pigs, dogs, cats and a crippled lamb, tossing popcorn to all of the above mentioned and talking about how you are the luckiest two people in the entire world to have the ability to spend your days doing what you do. When you understand that the “magic” of including these animals as part of your family, working, retired, disabled, whatever they are . . . that magic is what always saves you at the very last second and keeps you going for another day, another week . . . 18 years so far for us of never giving up on them or each other . . . go ahead.
JUDGE. ME. THEN.
Meanwhile, I assume you will continue to sit at your computer and say nasty, judgmental things about us. But until you’ve dedicated your entire life to caring for the beaten, starved, neglected castaways, until you’ve given up even the basics of normal American living and have to set pots and towels (ugh . . . more laundry) on the floor to catch the water when it rains, forgone any form of retirement fund or savings account, taken your change jar to Walmart to cash in and buy pet food (and popcorn,) put your trust in the magic of the animals you love and care for with all your heart, soul and existence, you don’t have the right to say one damned word about us.
And I know every single one of our babies will back us on that.
Every. Single. One.