Animal Writes
© sm
From 8 May 2005 Issue

What the Animals Teach Us
Allowed to Thrive, Farm Animals Become
So Much More Than One Would Imagine
From Kathy Stevens - [email protected]
Catskill Animal Sanctuary

"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,  Some animals would like to show you a thing or two.

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
Return to 8 May 2005 Issue
Return to Newsletters

** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Home Page




Your comments and inquiries are welcome

This site is hosted and maintained by:
The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation
Thank you for visiting

Since date.gif (991 bytes)