Thursday Come to Meeting’ Outfit . . . or . . . How Difficult Can It Be to Put a Tie on a Sheep?

sheepDay two of “trying to make money for the farm animal sanctuary when there is no longer a way to hold fundraisers because of the stupid Coronavirus” commences. We have a 9am appointment to make a guest appearance on the New Haven Register’s staff meeting this morning, featuring the animal of our choice, totally ripping off Sweet Farm in California. The owner, Anna Sweet, had a brilliant idea to offer rescued animals as live faces on videoconferences to break up meeting monotony in exchange for donations. There was an article in the NY Times about it, so, being total losers with no imaginations of our own, we jumped on their idea and decided there are hundreds of thousandsof conference calls every day, plenty of room in the field, let’s go for it! It’s brilliant, it’s super easy . . . we have lots of animals and an iPhone . . . piece of cake!!! We shall call it Zoom Animals and play on the word “zoo.” How cute! How easy!!!

We did a first trial run on Wednesday, which went without a hitch, featuring calves Francis, Valentine and Patrick performing to perfection. Today I decide to go with a different group. A really easy group. Really easy. Haha.

But first, to dress them up. Farm animals should wear appropriate attire for business meetings, and I had dressed Francis in a tie yesterday, which was a hit. But wow, they have BIG necks. So, I steal a bunch of my husband’s outdated ties and start cutting and hand stitching them together to make them longer. I have 45 minutes before the meeting. I meant to have an hour, but a dog had a major accident on the dining room floor and since there are no paper towels left in the entire world, I had to improvise. It was vile. Then, every single bird in the bird room had pooped in their water dish, so every single dish had to be changed out. All glamour, all the time . . .

So, I finally get to the stitching part, which is not as easy as you’d think because first I have to get the thread though the damned needle and my 59-year old eyes no longer cooperate. This, of course, is my punishment for teasing my grandmother and godmother in my youth when they needed their needles threaded . . . will I ever learn that everything comes back to haunt me? Anyways, by the time that’s done, I have 30 minutes left. I should be able to go outside, put ties on a calf and a sheep and have a few minutes to spare to get on the call, right? Right????

I head out to the paddock and gently place one pre-tied tie around my sheep Viktor’s neck. He’s thrilled. He thinks he’s got his collar on and he’s going for a walk. Piece of cake! Then I slip a tie on Prospero. Hmmm. Tail is too long – I double it up around his neck. It will do for video. Cool! I snap a cute shot of Viktor and make a fuss over him in his dapper attire.

But . . . no no no! Prospero is unhappy that Viktor is getting attention and he gets between us and starts dancing . . . me me me!!!! I pet him and tell him he will get his screen time, but he has to share.

Prospero does not want to share. He continues to dance and make a scene, which will not work for a sedate videoconference. I decide I will remove Viktor from the paddock and just use him. Prospero will have to wait to make his conference debut.

I let Viktor out onto the lawn and somehow he manages to get his tie caught over his nose and he flips out. I end up rolling in the wet grass with him, trying to get him untangled. We are finally under control, tie in place, except now Viktor decides he’s going for that walk and he trots down the driveway towards the road, me running after him. He has no collar on, just a tie, so I finally catch him by the tie, which had been perfectly tied and adjusted, and haul him back to the barn.

I decide we will stage this in a stall in the barn. 10 minutes left.

I can do this, right?

I put Viktor in a stall and give him some hay, but Viktor only wants to go for a walk. He tries to make another break for it before I can even get the stall door shut. I am again wrestling with a sheep in the cement aisle, finally getting hold of his tie and getting him back into the stall. He is not only pissed, he is no longer presentable. His tie is trashed. I remove it and put it around my neck to retie it for him. 8 minutes to go. And I have forgotten how to tie a tie. One try. Two tries. Three tries. I have been tying ties for 40 years, since even before Annie Hall came out. WTH???? I finally manage to get it done and slip it back on him and try to adjust it. Viktor again thinks that means he’s going for his walk. OMG. He paces in the stall, doesn’t care about the pile of hay.

5 minutes.

I give up. Close the doors at one end of the barn aisle, open the doors at the other end where there is a gate separating us from calves Prospero and Clarence. Prospero still has his tie on nice and neat. WHY NOT VIKTOR????? I drop hay by the gate where his buddies are and pray Viktor stays put. His tie looks . . . OK. Barely.

2 minutes. I start to try to connect online, but it’s not Zoom, it’s Microsoft Teams which has a long series of security stuff to cut through. I had hoped to be at this point 10 minutes ago . . .

Viktor walks to the other end of the barn.

I keep pressing buttons, enter security codes, but the others can’t see me. Nor hear me. Push more buttons.

Viktor walks back to me and starts eating hay near the calves just as the picture comes up. 9:03. He makes his cue and hits his mark with zero seconds left to go. I can’t figure out how to flip the picture so that it faces the sheep, so I end up lying on the cement floor holding the phone to face Viktor where I can still see it to make sure he’s in the frame. I am out of breath but we are “live” and my sheep is performing.

And I realize that there was no way I was going to get away with “borrowing” an idea from another sanctuary without being punished. Bruised knees from wrestling on cement, soaked jeans from wrestling on wet grass (it actually snowed this morning up here on the hill in Bethany,) and a pissy Prospero who didn’t get to be the star.

[It is at this point in writing this up that I remember I had brought my iPad out to use for the videoconference and I never got to use it and it’s still out in the paddock and I have to stop everything and run outside to rescue it from calves’ feet . . .)

And so ends trial run number 2 using Microsoft Meetings.

Just as I thought . . . piece of cake.

And now all I can think about is cake . . . white cake, chocolate frosting . . . strawberry filling . . . mmmmmmmm . . .

However, I think I have to take a sheep for a walk instead . . .

Kathleen Schurman, and her husband, David, are owned by the animals of Locket’s Meadow Farm Animal Sanctuary in Bethany, CT. Should you, too, want to see if she can get her act together to have a rescued farm animal appear live at your videoconference, visit the Locket’s Meadow Facebook page where Zoom Animals will be posted as an event, hopefully by the end of today (Thursday, April 16) if Kathleen is not distracted by too many other “happenings.” Zoom Animals should also be posted on the website by Friday, April 17. Same disclaimer. Just gotta walk a sheep first, and maybe get a cake into the oven . . .mmmmmmm . . .

What’s up on the farm . . .

Hello all. I am wedged between cleaning the horse barn and homeschooling the grandchildren, so I thought I’d try to briefly catch up.

83979560_10158096950158799_7184622452389969920_nWe all live with an insane amount of stress right now. We are worried about jobs, money, health, security (there isn’t any) future plans . . . whatever, nobody has time to list all the stresses of life during a pandemic, but really, who knew this was even a possibility? What I’ve noticed is it brings out the darkest parts of people as well as the brightest (while some of us just stay on the farm and keep on shoveling . . .)

There hasn’t been much said about animal rescue/sanctuary non-profits in the past few weeks. I can tell you the reason is that most of us are paralyzed with fear. The huge rescues, like Farm Sanctuary, are fortunate enough to have endowments, however many of those will be forced to tap into their principal in short time; the rest of us will just wish we had that option. The vast majority of rescues are small, backyard operations that rely on our own income to close the gap left after the donations are counted. The vast majority of us have been left without income. And on top of that, we all understand that most everyone else has, as well. How do you ask for help when so few can give it? And on top of that, non-profits are entering our fundraising season, which generally requires gatherings of large numbers of people. We have NO IDEA if any of them will actually take place. Most of us have NO IDEA if we will survive this pandemic. Most have cut down to bare-bones staff already and are making adjustments wherever we can. We are less terrified for ourselves than we are for the animals.

Locket’s Meadow has been around for 20 years. We have seen one rough patch after another, and somehow (usually an unexpected miracle . . . prayer works, folks,) we survive. How will we do it this time? Same way everyone else does. We will apply for help from the government stimulus package. We will scrimp every penny. We will wait for the economy to buck up so my husband has income again (it stopped pretty much when the Coronavirus hit the states and the stock market fell apart – it will pick up again when the stimulus money hits and companies need help putting their businesses back together.) But somehow, we will find a way because we love the animals and we will make sure they are safe.

As always, any donations are appreciated. We are grateful from the bottom of our hearts. But we also know how little there is to spare, and how hard it is to even get groceries, between finding them and paying for them. We are all on the edge together.

We are grateful for our friends who have gone above and beyond to help us get through this. Somehow they know where the gaps are that need filling and show up before we even understand we have a need. We are grateful for those who keep us in their thoughts and prayers. We are grateful for the donations that have come. Your kindness keeps us strong and hopeful. You are in our prayers. And to those who have gone into a dark place of fear and negativity, we also offer our prayers. Staying strong under this kind of pressure is close to impossible. We pray that HOPE wins out over fear, and we will all rise up and come out the other side of this together.

To all the rescues and sanctuaries out there that are clinging to the edge . . . have faith. Non-profits are eligible for stimulus money and it should be available shortly. Go for it. It’s there for us. And in the end, I believe most people are good and kind and will do their best to help. Somehow we will provide for all our “babies.”

Peace, love and wishes for health and happiness to all, humans and animals alike . . .

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.