I am the Horse Girl

I Am the Horse Girl

I didn’t call to the horses. They called to me.

I was born to love them. My first dreams were of horses; when I was still in my crib I would wake with visions of prancing ponies in my head. My first word, much to my mother’s confusion, was “horsey.” We lived between Interstate 95 and the railroad tracks – no ponies in sight – why would “horsey” come before “Mama?” Or even “train?”

When I was 3-years old, I taught myself how to read using Dr. Suess’ One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. I was driven to learn so I could read our book, which had a cover engraving of a little girl riding a pony. It was titled, “All Around the Neighborhood.” Oh, to be the little girl riding her pony around the block! When I could finally read it, I was devastated to discover there was not a single horse story between its covers. (I have not yet recovered, and this happened in 1964. . . inaccurate book covers should be banned and burned!)

I endlessly begged my Daddy to take me for pony rides. On Sunday mornings in Southport, Connecticut, they could be had a few miles away, 25 cents for three laps around a small ring. It happened so seldom, but when it did, it was the only time I felt completely happy and complete, five minutes of bliss . . . and I believed my being there did the same for the ponies. Horse girls and people ponies recognize and need each other!

Why are there horse girls? Some people say it’s a genetic predisposition, but I never knew of another in my family. However . . . I have some insider information about this; ponies, contrary to popular belief, are not born of little girls’ wishes. Horse girls are born of the wishes of ponies. THEY NEED US MORE THAN WE NEED THEM! (Which, to a horse girl, seems impossible as how could anyone need anything as much as we need horses? Really . . . HOW???)

Thousands of years ago, humans began domesticating horses. Over the centuries we tamed them and made them completely dependent upon us. We created domesticated horses, and now they need us to love and protect them from the bad people who would hurt them, and those bad people are legion (visit a livestock auction and watch terrified ponies load onto the trailers headed to Mexico and Canada and certain death – you will never be the same.)

The horses choose their horse girls long before we are born, en utero. They gently kiss us with the softest of noses, a feeling we never forget and always crave, then tap us with a tiny hoof and anoint us with the sweet perfume of horse sweat. They declare we are one of them, then trot away to leave us to our gestation while we dream of a sunny, grassy hillside where we are surrounded by grazing ponies.

We are born searching for long noses and soft eyes. We sniff the air for pony-scent and instead are greeted by talcum powder and brewing coffee. We love our parents and families and are content to be with them, but we are always, always searching over their shoulders for our true soul mates, the fuzzy, whinnying family members who touched our souls long before we ever gazed upon our human mamas’ faces. We are obsessed! We have been touched, and are, by any psychiatrist’s evaluation,  seriously “touched.”

Not all of us find our way to our ponies, no matter how desperately we try. I had encounters as a child, never enough, and was always searching, always sniffing the breeze. I didn’t get my first pony until I was 39, a little paint named Cressida whom we adored. My sensible self told me that was enough, but my pony soul would not be denied. A magnificent paint/draft cross, Falstaff, was right behind. Within a year we had established a horse rescue, and every pony I had ever wished for on my birthday, each horse I had called to as the first star of the night sky, finally found their way to me. It turns out when a pony first chose me, they chose well; I was late to the party, but I compensated well!

Over the years I have loved many animals, all of them so special. Every rescue I’ve taken in . . . dogs, cats, hens, roosters, goats, sheep, pigs, llamas, geese, ducks, steers . . . so many more . . . have held a special place in my heart. My love for them was so intense that despite serious concerns (and rather severe annoyance) by my family, I became a vegetarian in 1982, and a vegan several years later. I think of myself as an “animal person” because I love them all, from spiders and worms to whales and elephants. But when I take a moment and think about where it all started, I can’t help but remember my dreams of ponies, and awakening to gaze though the bars of my crib, searching . . . sniffing . . . and I know in my soul . . .

I am the horse girl.

See also Too Many Horses, Not Enough Love
What He Did For Love; The Story of Sir John Falstaff

Kathleen Schurman, along with her husband, David, own Locket’s Meadow Rescue Sanctuary in Bethany, CT, where they care for nearly 150 rescued animals, more than 40 of them horses. Visit www.locketsmeadow.org for more information, or find us on Facebook. 


Things to be Grateful For – By an Animal Rescuer

We are grateful for:

Our Animal Friends, who give us more than we could ever give in return. Many of them have seen a hell that we pray we never experience, and yet they still find room in their hearts to live, love and forgive. Every day they remind us of why we’ve chosen to do this job.

Our Patient Families, who still love us in spite of ourselves. We know we suck. We know we are always feeding, cleaning, feeding, mucking, feeding, dumping grain bags, etc. etc. until we pass out at night before we get around to answering that last text. We mean well, but . . . we are asleep, often before our youngest grandchildren. Thank you for understanding when we miss important events because there is nobody else to feed and muck. Our hearts are there, and we love you always.

Our Patient Friends, who, like our family, know the best way to have any quality time with us, is to show up, pick up a muck rake, and follow us around. Again, we know we suck. We wish we could do the social scene the way normal people can, but . . . we can’t. I haven’t sat in a Starbucks for at least three years . . . maybe four . . . who knows, it’s a blur. Those who stick it out with us, thank you. Those who continue to invite us to social events despite knowing we will have to decline, thank you. It makes us feel “normal,” and that maybe one day . . . we might just be able to say yes . . . we are grateful that you still hope we might . . .

Our Volunteers, who come out and help us to do a really hard, crappy job, for the sheer joy of being near the animals. You rejoice with us with every new rescue, you cry with us when we lose a dear friend. You make us feel we are not in this alone, and for that, well, there are no words to describe our gratitude.

Our Donors . . . we know there are so many other things you could opt to do with your money, and we know how hard you work to earn it. That you choose to help us feed and care for nearly 150 rescued animals is humbling; we never feel we are worthy enough, doing enough, rescuing enough . . . the fact that you believe in what we do inspires us to keep slogging through the mud, both metaphorical and physical, every single day. We are grateful that you love our animals . . . and all animals . . . and we stand in awe of your generosity and kindness.

Our Veterinarians, who probably think we are crazy, but are kind enough not to mention it, at least not in front of us. You are patient when we are panicked, you risk your lives and possible speeding tickets to get to us in emergencies, you are gentle when we have to say goodbye to our dear animal friends, and sometimes even cry alongside us. You are patient when we struggle to pay our bills, and grateful that you know we always will, no matter how long it takes or how much harder we have to work. How you put up with this crazy animal rescue farm, we will never know, but . . . for you, we are deeply grateful.

Our Strong Bodies, which, by all rights, should have given up on us a long time ago. They go above and beyond, shoveling miles of knee-deep (and sometimes hip-deep) snow so we can get to the paddocks with heavy feed buckets and water. They lift dozens of 50-pound bags of grain, push a thousand pounds of manure to the pile every day, carry 150 pound ailing goats and sheep into the barns, carry and hammer fence boards, and so much more. Every single day, despite their age and wear and tear. My quads should just say no when I ask them to help me trim a herd of goat hooves in an afternoon, and yet they hang in there with me until I’m done . . . doing their best to stay as willing as my heart.

Our Battered, Shattered Hearts, which should have run screaming into the night years ago. We ask them to fall in love over, and over, and over again, knowing we are only setting them up for a fall, as we will almost always outlive our rescued babies. The pain never lessens . . . in fact, it get more intense with time and loss. As we age, we only better learn the value of each perfect life that we have pulled from kill auctions, high-kill shelters, abuse, neglect, abandonment . . . every single one of them is precious to us and saying goodbye is always a knife to our hearts. Promising them as they leave us that we won’t give up, that we will stick it out and continue to save and care for as many as we can, is the next knife to the heart. And worst of all, the pain our hearts endure when we have to say “no,” fully aware that we have doomed a perfectly perfect and deserving living being to a terrifying and painful fate. Holy crap, the biggest dagger to the heart is when our trailer is full and we see the eyes of those we have to leave behind. And for them, we steel our hearts and keep going forward. What we ask of our hearts is impossible, and yet they valiantly keep beating.

Open-Minded People, who are brave enough to allow the animals to affect them, change them, and maybe even alter the way they move through this world, choosing to be more humane, caring and compassionate to our fellow Earthlings (because every living being is an Earthling, not just humans . . . we share this planet!) We know you are setting your hearts up for a lifetime of injury when you allow yourselves to feel how humans treat animals in this world. We also, however, know the joy you experience when you make a meaningful and deep connection. YOU are the hope for the future of our planet, one in which all of us, human and animal, live in harmony, caring for each other and our Mother Earth. And you are the ones who might someday make our jobs obsolete, so that my husband and I can maybe . . . just maybe . . . accept those social invitations that still trickle in on occasion from those who haven’t given up on us.

For you, and for all of the above, we are deeply and sincerely grateful, and we wish you joy, love and peace, on this holiday of gratitude, and always.

Kathleen Schurman and her poor, long-suffering husband, David, are owned by the animals of Locket’s Meadow in Bethany, Connecticut. They will be very grateful for a vegan Thanksgiving dinner with their family later today (yes, there will be roast tofu!) Of course, only after the animals are fed and watered . . .



A Short Modern History of Veganism . . . or . . . Winning the fight for the animals, one veggie burger at a time

When I first became a vegetarian for ethical reasons, in 1982, I was a walking freak show. Firstly, I was the only veggie I knew at the time. I’d met several other people who’d dabbled in it, but both of them returned to the way of the carnivore, and I meandered on alone until my daughter joined me nine years later after vomiting up yet another meal of pork provided by a relative. Secondly, it wasn’t easy to find “safe” food, especially while at other people’s homes or in restaurants (people seemed to delight in sneaking meat and dairy into my meals . . . like, why? Really?) Thirdly, if one more person asked me where I got my protein from . . . OMG . . . please, PLEASE make it stop! I couldn’t tell anyone when I’d morphed into eating a vegan diet because, well . . . it was too . . . time consuming.

Thirty-seven years later, I haven’t yet died the gruesome death predicted for me decades ago, mostly by friends and family who quickly grew bored with my choice, even though I never spoke about it unless asked. I also packed my own food wherever I went and brought enough to share, because, dammit, everyone always wanted some as I’m a freakin’ amazing veggie cook.

But that’s not what this blog is about. At all. Actually, I want to discuss the remarkable progress we’ve made, as well as the fact that no matter how far ethical vegans and animal rights activists have come (some are both, some are not, but they are not mutually exclusive) we will never finish the job if we don’t stop wasting our energy beating the crap out of each other and instead put all our efforts into progress for the animals and for the planet. Because . . . again . . . mutually exclusive movements, they are not.

My husband and I have a farm animal sanctuary named Locket’s Meadow. Most people take that at face value, while others, no matter how many animals we have rescued (so many hundreds . . . and if you count the worms I move out of the road when I walk the dogs after a rain, thousands, maybe MILLIONS as I NEVER leave a worm to die) will argue to their last breath that we SUCK and they don’t consider us a “vegan” rescue because we train horses to be ridden if their health and disposition are amenable to it. Also, people like us aren’t demanding immediate change to turn Earth into a perfect vegan utopia of a world because, truth-be-told, we deal in reality. And . . . whatever. My feelings aren’t hurt by their judgment. The world is what it currently is and we do the best we can with what we have. We can’t waste time on semantics when the immediate situation is so dire. However, we’ve been in this animal-lover/rescue/sanctuary business a lot longer than most, and we see change that we never would have believed. Think about these developments . . .

Vegan Burgers. Thirty-seven years ago, there were no veggie burgers except those we made from scratch with lentils. Now they are everywhere, all brands and kinds. I’m confused by the vegans who argue against the plant-based Impossible Whopper; in 1982 we never dreamed of such an amazing thing! We would order a burger, hold the meat, add extra condiments and pickles, and be happy that Burger King was good like that. If Burger King sells a million Impossible Burgers, how many cows DID NOT get eaten? I’d like someone to calculate that, because I call that major progress. Add to that the many other fast-food establishments that are jumping on board with fake meats and . . . wow! We are kicking ass! Would I rather all meat be “fake” meat? Hell, yes! But we now have a clearer path to that end than ever before.

Tofu. Yes . . . tofu. Do you know if you said the word “tofu” in 1982 people would snicker, if not burst out laughing at the most preposterous “food” on earth? It went like this . . . “Snicker, snicker . . . You’re a vegetarian? Snicker . . . what do you eat, tofuuuuu? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!” Seriously. Tofu was a legitimate joke food. But two years earlier, in 1980, a newly vegetarian friend (who quickly lapsed) had handed me a booklet about how to cook tofu, and while I had politely taken it, I later passed it around as a “joke” book, much like some do with the Watchtower when it’s dropped off by proselytizing Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like really, you were gonna win me over with TOFU? Hahahahahaha! And the lion will lie down peaceably with the lamb HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! And now I buy my tofu at Walmart, where they regularly run out because TONS of people eat it, and if I say the word in public, NOBODY laughs. That’s serious progress! And if I can go from laughing at tofu in 1980 to eating it in 1982, well crap, anything is possible!

Non-dairy milk. Thirty-something years ago, I used to drive two and a half hours to the Brattleboro Coop in Vermont to pick up cases of parmalat soymilk. While I was there I also stocked up on organic granola, in case you didn’t think soymilk made me crunchy granola enough. Go look in the refrigerated case at any supermarket today . . . soymilk, almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, coconut milk and every combination of the aforementioned. (Oh yeah, and dairy milk . . . whatever . . . there’s less of it being sold every single day) But wait . . . there’s more! This time of year we can even get vegan EGGNOG!!! Holy Cow (and I don’t say that lightly as I happen to think cows are pretty-darned sacred,) vegan life is getting pretty damned good!

NON-DAIRY CHEESE! And not the waxy, non-melting garbage they tried to pass off on us in the early 2000s. This stuff is the real deal, and it pairs well with chocolate, wines and PIZZA! Way back in the olden days we had to order our pizza with no cheese and then pay extra for veggie toppings as nobody would make substitutions. As if broccoli costs as much as cheese . . . sheesh! Vegans aren’t stupid, we know you were all raking us over the hot coals piled in the interiors of your brick ovens . . . laughing at us (Tofu! Hahahahahaha!) And yet, we persisted . . . and because of that, we now have dozens and dozens of varieties of non-dairy cheeses (those of you who say you would be vegan except you would miss the cheese . . . it’s a COP OUT! You can now have your cheese and EAT IT TOO! Thank you Universe, you are so very kind . . .)

Volume! Numbers! Visibility! Look around you. You know a vegan or two. You know a few more vegetarians, as well. You even know a handful of pescatarians (those that are “vegetarian” but eat fish.) You know people who participate in meatless Mondays. You even know people who aren’t vegetarians but who actually EAT TOFU ANYWAYS!!! Bill Clinton, famous for his forays into McDonald’s, IS VEGAN! In 1982, I was all alone, and here’s what’s even weirder by today’s standards . . . I assumed I would be all alone forever, going to restaurants and eating a side salad with vinegar and oil and a baked potato with no butter as my main meal for the rest of my days. Today, I actually have a choice of vegan restaurants should I find the time to get off the sanctuary and eat out! Hallelujah!

Is life perfect? Hell, no. It won’t be perfect until no animals suffer in factory farms, in slaughterhouses, in dog-fighting rings . . . as long as hens languish in battery cages, sows in gestation and farrowing crates, calves in veal crates, and oh, dear Goddess of the Universes, fur animals in their tiny, little hell-holes awaiting a terrifying and excruciating end . . . I could fill pages, but that’s not for today . . . today’s blog is not about what we haven’t yet accomplished, but rather, about how we are on our way, and the momentum is OURS and if all the varying factions of our movements would stop wasting time denigrating all of the other factions, would take those billions of hours of playing Negative Nellie keyboard warrior and instead focus on encouraging positive change, we could make progress that is pervasive, permanent and life-saving for animals and our struggling planet (details for another blog, but if you can’t take the suspense, Google “diet to save the planet.”) Being positive is just a suggestion, really . . . because few people actually care about my opinion, and plenty others think name-calling is the most effective way to sway opinion . . . but think about if every effort made for animals was progressive instead of negative . . . I swoon while merely contemplating the possibility . . .

Because real change is really possible.

And how do I know that, you ask? How’s this . . . I can’t remember the last time someone asked me from whence do I get my protein. 🙂

I mean, come on people! WE’VE GOT THIS!!!

Kathleen Schurman and her husband David are owned by the animals of Locket’s Meadow. They spend their days catering to about 150 of them , while trying to make a living in their spare time as their endeavor is mostly self-funded. While they are cool with being vegan, they prefer the more all-encompassing term of “compassionist” because it includes all living beings . . . even HUMANS!

The Paradox of Domesticated Animals

or . . . Thinking outside the Happy Meal box

There are days when I kinda wish I couldn’t hear the animals. How simple life would be . . . so little responsibility . . . and then I head outside and spend some time with my “babies,” and I know why I was put here as the oddity that I am; I’m here to speak for the animals, who are desperately misunderstood. One group of humans believes animals should live in a separate universe, untouched by humans; another believes they are here for our use, either food or pleasure or something to gamble on . . . whatever . . . but these people exist completely free of any concern about how animals feel as they are here for our exploitation and somewhere in the Bible it says so (not!) And so on and so forth . . .

All animals are not created equal, and please don’t blow a gasket until I explain. Then . . . whatever . . . do what you must . . . (short break here to let a pig out the side door . . .)

OK, I’m back . . .

Wild animals are wild animals. Leave them alone. Give them enormous tracks of land (10 times what they have now, even though it means taking it away from the cattle!) and walk away. Their job is to keep their own balance and the balance of the planet and they’re damn good at it. If we gave them the opportunity and the space, they would save this planet from us, and then we should thank them by giving back even more land. OK, that rant is over.

Domesticated animals are an entirely different story. Humans created these animals and chose which qualities they should have. It’s interesting how we’ve bred animals to reflect the human qualities that we desire from them, such as courage, protectiveness, companionability.  In doing so, we removed most of their wild instincts (except, of course, for cats, who if they had opposable thumbs, would rule the world.) We intentionally left most of these animals without the ability to take care of themselves in the wild. In fact, they are almost completely vulnerable in the wild. We made them totally dependent upon us for food, protection, care . . . everything.

(BTW – someone recently told me that God’s plan for bull calves was that they do what bulls do, which is breed and then get slaughtered and eaten – it’s against His will to castrate, dehorn, or anything else aside from killing them and eating them. GOD HAS NO WILL AS FAR AS BULL CALVES ARE CONCERNED AS HE/SHE DIDN’T CREATE THEM – WE DID!!!!)

And so, if they are vulnerable and dependent upon adult humans for their survival (a cat just walked over and slapped me – again, cats are excluded) what should domesticated animals resemble to us?

How about . . . children? (I just heard your head explode all the way out here on the farm. . . sorry . . .) Let me ‘splain . . .

I have been told by a lot of extremist animal rights activists that farm animals should not be trained or even handled. They should be left to themselves to graze and romp and do what wild animals do. Nobody wants to hear about how they can’t– it’s dangerous to them and dangerous to humans. I even have an example for you! It is the venerable anomaly called THE PIG.

I love pigs – in fact, my favorite animal friend of all time was one named Ozzie Osboar. They are brilliant, beautiful, emotional, loyal and capable of tremendous love. However, if you go to the southern states, pigs that have escaped from farms have created their own huge herds. They grow to extreme sizes and therefore have no wild predators to keep their population in check. They raid properties and dumps for food and cause quite a bit of damage, and they have been known to attack and kill humans. They do so to feed and nurture their families, whom they love with a vengeance. Oh, and that old adage “strong as a bull” should be “strong as a pig.” Because of this, there are people who spend their days down south hunting and killing pigs. Why? Because they are a domesticated animal gone wild. And worse, they thrive in the wild to the detriment of native populations and suburban neighborhoods.

Are pigs dangerous? Well, no. If a pig is raised from a baby and taught manners and respect, he or she is an upstanding citizen and a loyal friend. Our pigs are taught to be gentle, they learn to sit before we give them their food buckets so no one gets slimed or accidentally injured. They come when they are called and they allow us to handle them when they need medication or treatment. They are domesticated animals and they must be taught the rules of behavior, just like children, if you are a decent parent. And then it’s our responsibility to take care of them for the rest of their lives (unlike human children, who, if you are worth your salt as a parent, will go off and do their own thing.)

Now, if pigs are too far off your radar screen, think about dogs. They are domesticated animals who, if they aren’t trained and are allowed to run wild, will gather into dangerous packs. Dogs must be trained, restrained, fenced, and constantly attended to (as well as loved, cuddled and spoiled!) An untrained dog is a dangerous dog, and far too many are destroyed because some humans couldn’t be bothered to properly care for them.

I live in the world of reality, and it’s a harsh place. Despite being regularly told I’m wrong, I know firsthand from my animals what they want, and that’s what I’m going to work with. So far, no one has given me any viable alternatives. What to do with more than 100,000 horses that go to slaughter each year? If I’m not allowed to save and train a few of them them to keep them safe and happy, the only option is death. What about bull calves? Same thing. Nobody can give me a real alternative that works in the reality that is THIS WORLD TODAY which is saturated with the billions of animals we have bred to the detriment of our planet, our health and frankly, our very Spirit, which has become immune to the suffering we have created. HOW IS SLAUGHTER THE ONLY VIABLE ALTERNATIVE EVEN TO PEOPLE WHO SAY THEY LOVE ANIMALS? AAAAAAAAAAAGH! (Yes, folks, that was the sound of my head exploding . . .)

What’s the ultimate solution? Well, it’s to stop breeding domesticated animals and let that entire experiment in agriculture go away. (BOOM! BANG! POP! Heads exploding everywhere!) But really, people . . . reality check. That won’t happen. And if domesticated animals are here to stay, we need to be responsible about them. Which would require an entire book, and because I have to go out and shovel manure, I can’t write one today.

There is, however, a short moral to this story . . . we have to stop judging domesticated animals in black and white terms, all or nothing. Do they want to be kept in horrific conditions and then be slaughtered for food? Hell no. Do they want to be pushed aside and left to their own devices? Nope – we genetically manipulated them to thrive in a human/animal bond and partnership. THEY ARE HAPPY WITH THAT! I have a pack of dogs at my feet that would be devastated if I sent them outside and told them to go back to nature; it’s just not their scene.

It’s time to forge new ground in the human/animal relationship. We have to start from scratch, consult with our animal friends to understand their needs and desires, and take it from there. It’s a brave, new world, but it’s not as difficult as it may seem . . . I mean, we’ve been doing it on Locket’s Meadow for 19 years.

It’s long past time to start thinking outside of the Happy Meal box and come up with solutions for the real world, to save the planet and to save our souls.

Kathleen Schurman and her husband, Poor David, are owned by the critters of Locket’s Meadow where they talk to the animals all day long, and the animals talk back. If you want to know more about Kathleen’s love affair with Ozzie Osboar, read “Ozzie’s Promise”, the third book in the Locket’s Meadow series. You, too, will fall madly in love with a pig.



A Tale of Saints, Sinners and Adorable Baby Cows

I am not a hero. I am not a saint. I’m really just another slightly dumpy, aging Meemaw who is still alive today because I was lucky enough to have the love of a good dog when I was a child. Gretchen, a shepherd mix, came to us when I was almost 11, after about a year of praying daily for a dog of my own so I wouldn’t be lonely anymore. She’d jumped out of the dog warden’s truck when he went to load another dog at the corner of our street, and she raced right to our yard and hid under our camper.
“I finally found you!” she announced when we met. 

I was the outsider, odd-duck in my family and the outcast in my class, bullied every day of my life. I was also unable to speak to most people outside of my family or neighborhood, and my shyness was debilitating. So, when Gretchen chose to sleep on my bed and follow me everywhere, I suddenly had reason to live; I suddenly had worth. When I thought about suicide (often,) my dog always sensed my pain and hunted me down. And then . . . A miracle . . . I’d suddenly feel much, much better. The love of a good dog saved my life. Who am I not to return the favor?

Locket’s Meadow, the animal sanctuary that owns my husband and me, is not about us. It’s about the animals who live here and give it their heart and soul. We are their humble servants, and we are honored to have the job. When we call them “our animals” it’s not out of any sense of ownership, but because they are our family – in the same way as we refer to our children as “ours.” When people come to the farm and meet them, they are amazed by how friendly and loving they are, from horses, to goats, to steers . . . and people always comment that they must be “special” animals.

Here’s the news flash – they aren’t. They are no more special than any other cow, hen, pig or donkey on this planet; the only difference between them and every other farm animal destined for a brutal death is that they were found, rescued and loved. Every other farm animal is just as deserving as every one of ours, and if we had all the money in the world, we would focus on finding a way to save as many of them from abuse, neglect and slaughter as we possibly could. Not because we are so special, but because every one of them is. Just as I was once saved by the love of a good dog, every one of them can be saved by the love of a good human.

This past Sunday we had a group of special needs individuals come to Locket’s Meadow, which we have done for more years than I can remember (I really am an aging Meemaw . . . My memory is toast!) We believe that animals are magical, and magic is meant to be shared. Visits are free, the same very reasonable price as magic and love!

Some of our guests wanted to ride horses, including a bubbly young lady named Christina. I knew she was nervous because she decided maybe, “we should have some of the boys ride first.” When it was Christina’s turn, we brought Sonora up to the mounting block. Sonora is an old pro who has been working with special needs people for more than 10 years. She knew Christina was nervous, and the pony stood stock-still while she tried to mount. Halfway on, Christina panicked. She froze, said she was going to fall and that she was afraid. Sonora planted her hooves and didn’t move a muscle. We explained that her horse was perfect, and she was very safe, but she began to cry and begged to get off. I took her foot from the stirrup and set it back on the platform, but she wasn’t quite close enough to feel secure, so Sonora (unprompted) very, very slowly and carefully shifted closer to the block so that her belly was pressed up against it and there was no gap for us to worry about. Then off Christina came, all was well, and 10 minutes later she asked to try again. This time she got on, but still wouldn’t let Sonora walk.

Poor Sonora hung her head. No horse had ever tried so hard to help a rider feel safe, and she had failed. We hugged our pony and told her she was perfect, and Christina and one of the other guests took her for a walk around the indoor arena and she perked up again.

I think, if Christina comes for another visit, Sonora may yet convince her to be her riding buddy. Actually, I’m sure of it.

The more love you give, to animals and people, the more love they give back, and the more love you then have to give again. It’s the most beautiful “vicious circle” I’ve ever witnessed.

A little later, our guests wandered over to visit with the calves, Francis, Patrick and Valentine. Everyone falls in love with calves. They are the sweetest, gentlest, loveliest animals on the planet and they pass out hugs and kisses like Shriners tossing candy at a parade. I swear, love love love is their mantra. Are all calves as lovely as ours? Yes . . . That is, if all calves were loved as ours are, they would be as lovely.

The moment I wait for is the one when someone is fawning over Francis or Val, then gazes into a pair of soulful eyes and realizes that, holy crap, if not for having been found and rescued, this angelic being would have been a slab of veal on their dinner plate. And they would much rather be snuggling Francis than eating him.

I don’t say a word . . . I just watch and smile. The animals do their advocacy far more effectively than I ever could.

One of the chaperones on Sunday looked up from cuddling Francis, and with the sappiest, happiest little-boy smile on his face, pronounced, “I’m sold!” Then went right back to loving on his new bestie.

I know a grown man we fell asleep that night with that same little boy smile on his face . . .

Locket’s Meadow is far more than a sanctuary for animals. It’s a sanctuary for people who have lost faith in love, life and humanity. Unlike other rescues, we encourage interaction with our babies (supervised, of course, for the safety of our animals!) and we are awed by all the humans our animals can rescue in a fraction of the time it would take a therapist.

So no, I’m not a hero. Or a saint. I’m a caretaker and a mama and a Meemaw, trying to repay a debt that can’t ever be repaid. I’m madly in love with all my babies, and best of all, they are madly in love with me. And the truth is . . . Every last one of them is a hero, just as every other farm animal would be if they were loved and cared for, and given the same opportunity to interact.

When we have open houses or visiting hours, I hope you visit Locket’s Meadow with an open heart and open mind and prepare yourself to be amazed. Be prepared to be loved, and also be prepared to have our animals love you right back, as well. For free.

Kathleen Schurman and her husband, David, are owned by Locket’s Meadow Rescue and Sanctuary where they are happily enslaved by somewhere in the area of 140 animals. It’s messy, but it’s worth it.