"It's just a chicken," we recently overheard a visitor to
Catskill Animal Sanctuary say to his friend. "It's not like it's a kid."
Perhaps our guest had witnessed a volunteer placing Consuela, a 15-pound
broiler hen, in a custom-made hammock where she rests for several hours a
day in order to alleviate the pain in her legs-pain caused by
growth-hormone induced obesity. Perhaps he walked in as we were bathing
her, or saw one of us carrying the chubby girl around-after all, she would
like to be in our arms all day!
The comment gnawed at us. We longed to share some stories
of our "just a's" -just a chicken, just a pig, just a pony-demonstrating
affection, curiosity, senses of humor, courage, gratitude, and very strong
preferences. We delight in watching one metamorphosis after another: once
an animal understands that he is truly safe here, he goes about the
business of becoming who he is meant to be. It is these transformations
that are our greatest source of joy.
Here are just a few of hundreds of remarkable incidents
witnessed at CAS. If you're skeptical, please come visit: directions can
be accessed through our website,
www.casanctuary.org. Some animals would like to show you a thing
When Rambo, a large Jacob sheep, arrived, he was so
dangerous that our safety was at risk. He'd stand on his rear legs,
charge, and attempt to send us flying with his massive horns. "Oh, it's
the breed," we were told by a woman who raised Jacobs. "I've had to put
down almost all my males." Today, Rambo wanders through the barnyard,
greeting other animals and following us as we feed. At night, he walks to
our director's house and stands outside her office window, calling to her
to come out and keep him company. When she walks the farm late each night,
he accompanies her. With guests, he is gentle and affectionate, often
leaning against a thigh in hopes of a head scratch. He seeks out Dino the
pony, who gently nibbles on his wool, licks his face and horns as the two
stand head to head. Surrounded by love, Rambo has dropped his defenses.
Peepers was terrified of humans when he arrived last
spring. Today, this young Peking duck runs up and down the barn aisle
quacking out orders, and stands amidst a circle of guests demanding
attention. When we tire of holding him and bend down to place him on the
ground, he swiftly wraps his neck around our arms in an attempt to prevent
the release. "No, I'm comfortable right here," he says.
When she could still walk comfortably, Consuela, too,
would waddle up and coo, asking to be picked up. Now she sits by the
radio, singing along with Brahms, Handel, and Beethoven and watching
humans go about their chores. Approached by Murphy, the yellow lab, she
reaches out, gently-very gently-touching his nose with her beak.
The stories abound. We try to share with our visitors what
the animals have taught us. Mostly, we let the animals speak for
themselves. Their messages are so very clear-if one is paying attention.
Here are just a few from the residents of CAS:
1. Even if I am "just a chicken," my legs can still hurt.
Pain is pain, fear is fear, suffering is suffering, and I am entitled to
quality of life just as every living thing should be.
2. If you help me feel better, I will show you how
grateful I am.
3. Love me, and I will love you back. I will not simply
tolerate affection… I will seek it out.
4. Treat me as an individual-one with feelings, emotions,
and a unique intelligence-and I will respond as one. Allow me to thrive,
and I'll show you what I can do. I am so much more than you ever imagined.
I am not "just a chicken."
Go on to Merger Creates
the Animals and Society Institute
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