Sanctuary Groupie: Yoga Animalia Project Blog

Jake: Old Man of the Moon

Yoga Animalia: Caprine - Jake, New Moon Farm Goat Rescue & Sanctuary, Arlington, Washington

New Moon 8-3-16 (256).jpg

Yoga Animalia: Caprine - Jake

New Moon Farm Goat Rescue & Sanctuary

Arlington, Washington

Jake with sanctuary founder & farm director Ellen Felsenthal

After having met thousands of sanctuary residents from coast to coast, I've come to realize that certain individuals will instigate relationships that stick with me, despite perhaps only meeting them for a brief visit. Rather than think of this as favoritism on my part or theirs, I have come to think of it as no different than the humans with whom I have varying levels of relationship. Certain individuals feel like they have been part of my world for ages.

Jake goat was one such who demanded a level of intimacy from our very first meeting. He struck me as the kind of grandfather some experience: the one whose adventures continue unabated into elder life, unmitigated by concerns about leaving gates unopened or potential treats undiscovered. He was bold in character and in body, with his massive horns and toothy smile. My two visits to New Moon included following and being followed around by Jake, enjoying his company and his elder goat wisdom and moxie.

Jake assisting in the demolition of sanctuary property, aka the best goat scratching area, or rather, anywhere convenient when an itch occurs.

The actual goat scratching device. Apparently good too.

When I first arrived at New Moon, it was Jake who greeted me, despite being in an area where goats were not supposed to be. A gate was no obstacle for him however, as he figured out how to open them. He assumed the critical responsibility of being the greeter goat, and this extended to ensuring my time at the sanctuary was full of goat scratches. Jake was also frequently instrumental in the goat care classes that Ellen leads, and he helped educate so many humans as to the appropriate number of treats to be offered (all of them, obviously), in addition to the details about proper caprine care such as hoof trimming and anatomy and toxic plants.

Dandelion treats since the humans seem to have run out of decent offerings.

When I saw New Moon post about Jake's death, it struck me intensely. Though there was deep sorrow in learning this, he had a long, amazing life, and knowing him fills me with joy, as I know it does the many people with whom he was connected. I am honored to share these images and stories about his life. What also struck me were the beautiful tributes that poured in to the New Moon Facebook post about his death, testament that Jake touched many lives, so much so that a wake was held at one of my favorite restaurants in Seattle, No Bones Beach Club. A powerful figure was Jake in the sanctuary world, and one who will be dearly missed.

Jake's life and his celebration after death reaffirm for me the importance of sanctuary: holding space for connection. And treats, don't forget lots of treats.

The very first image from New Moon I edited, and still my favorite, showcasing his grin and reminding me of traipsing about learning his caprine ways.

Death Discussions: Part One of an Ongoing Series

  Happy times with Mr. Ed, Farm Sanctuary, Acton, California

Happy times with Mr. Ed, Farm Sanctuary, Acton, California

January was a challenging month. So many friends died. I almost typed "departed" or "passed away," but I have been trying to not mince words when it comes to death. Our language around death obfuscates, sometimes designed to stave off or mollify the grief we experience or witness others experiencing without actually engaging it.

I reference and reread the below linked article from Elephant Journal writer Ed Preston frequently, because it is a reminder of how important our words in relation to death are, how they can shut down or cultivate connection.

Via Elephant Journal: "Why We Need to Stop Saying, "I'm Sorry For Your Loss"

Preston discusses the language of "loss" in particular, and shares why that concept may not invoke the empathetic connection actually needed. I catch myself typing or saying "I'm sorry for your loss" in many instances, fumbling when I remind myself to engage versus this response ingrained in us, but that fumble reminds me to be present to the suffering the individual may be experiencing. 

It is a presence of mind I have to practice with my own grief as well. I currently have several blog posts in the works to celebrate the lives and mourn the deaths of some of these friends, but my brain is not allowing me to finish them. Earlier in January Mr. Ed, the magnificent Brahman bull with whom I spent many years, was euthanized when his physical pain could no longer be managed. His death did not feel real until just yesterday when Farm Sanctuary finally released a tribute video to him.

In what felt like quick succession, and actually starting on December 30th when part of my Maryland pack, Jesse dog, died, death came to Mr. Ed bull at Farm Sanctuary, Lucia goat of Catskill Animal Sanctuary, Jake goat of New Moon Farm Goat Rescue & Sanctuary, Ogie steer and Vanna goat at Indraloka Animal Sanctuary. There are beautiful tributes to these individuals linked with their name, followed below by portraits I am privileged to have created of these magnificent people. Sharing these portraits helps me process my grief due to the absence of some rather amazing individuals.

I am sure there are more individuals about whose death I have yet to learn just from this last month. However, as I will continue to discuss throughout the life of this project and blog, death is a natural and inevitable, and often frequent, companion in the sanctuary world. It will bring suffering in its wake, but also, with dedicated work and thoughtful support, healing and deeper relationships with the beings around us, even after death.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. In the meantime, may our dead friends be remembered and our suffering be acknowledged, and may so much joy find you, not despite death, but because it reminds us how beautiful life is.

  Jesse, Brewing Good Coffee Company, Odenton, Maryland

Jesse, Brewing Good Coffee Company, Odenton, Maryland

  Lucia, Catskill Animal Sanctuary, Saugerties, New York

Lucia, Catskill Animal Sanctuary, Saugerties, New York

  Jake, New Moon Farm Goat Rescue & Sanctuary, Arlington, Washington

Jake, New Moon Farm Goat Rescue & Sanctuary, Arlington, Washington

  Ogie, Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, Mehoopany, Pennsylvania

Ogie, Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, Mehoopany, Pennsylvania

  Vanna goat with her partner in crime Maddie in the rear, Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, Mehoopany, Pennsylvania

Vanna goat with her partner in crime Maddie in the rear, Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, Mehoopany, Pennsylvania

Resident Spotlight: Owen

Yoga Animalia: Bovine - Owen

Kindred Spirits Sanctuary, Ocala, Florida

Your resident spotlight this week focuses on a handsome bovine who resides at Kindred Spirits Sanctuary where I am currently staying. Sometimes I look out my bedroom window and Owen and his herd are casually grazing nearby. My first visit to Kindred was with the intent of photographing Owen specifically for LAIKA magazine. I have had the great privilege to photograph him on many occasions now.

  Yoga Animalia: Bovine - Owen, Kindred Spirits Sanctuary, Ocala, Florida

Yoga Animalia: Bovine - Owen, Kindred Spirits Sanctuary, Ocala, Florida

Born on a small beef farm, Owen’s mother likely had a disease or deficiency that led to his eyes improperly developing. Blind at birth, the young calf was seen as a waste of time and money, but rather than shoot him as many would, they contacted Kindred Spirits to take him. This unexpected bout of compassion extended to them allowing Owen to stay with his mother for a month before coming to sanctuary, but sadly did not include them surrendering her. At Kindred Owen has bonded with his small herd, including subsequent generations of calves. He can often be seen gentling and lovingly licking herdmates.

Owen Kindred Spirits Sanctuary Ocala Florida
  Betty and Owen

Betty and Owen

Yoga Animalia: Bovine - Owen Kindred Spirits Sanctuary, Ocala, Florida
  Brownie and Owen, with wild egret friends taking advantage of what the steers' hooves unearth.

Brownie and Owen, with wild egret friends taking advantage of what the steers' hooves unearth.

Editing, Editing, Editing

  Yoga Animalia: Caprine - Jack, Skylands Animal Sanctuary & Rescue, Wantage, New Jersey

Yoga Animalia: Caprine - Jack, Skylands Animal Sanctuary & Rescue, Wantage, New Jersey

A reality of how I edit photos: it makes very little logical sense. I'll confess it. I have found in the past if I am very regimented and work through them methodically, there is a lack of creative juice that I believe dilutes the potency of the individual's portraits. Or maybe I'm just too finicky and need to get the darn photos edited!

So I have been compromising a bit - editing a few from each sanctuary, doing small steps here and there. It very likely is far from the most efficient, but then I come across a photo like this one, demanding immediate full edits. 

I distinctly remember capturing this image because Jack is a goat who most assuredly does not want humans in his space. Patience and luck were the source of this sunset capture: patience to let Jack be Jack and me not to be a totally obnoxious interloper whilst I watched the sun dip lower and lower, and that hefty dose of luck that let it all work in time to catch the sun through the trees.

Sunset and sunrise photos are a particular favorite of mine, and given the opportunity, I love staying at a sanctuary to attempt to capture them. I find it highly amusing that Jack is one of the Skylands residents with whom I managed this feat. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that another one I might have gotten of Grover sheep will be equally as magical. It is hopefully somewhere among the 3400 photos of Skylands residents!

New Year, New Portraits

It is one month into my Winter 2018 at Kindred Spirits Sanctuary in Ocala, Florida. I have been editing, writing, backing up photos, getting to know the Kindred residents a little better, and working with (and learning from) Kindred's on-staff vet, Dr. Dow, including veterinary trips to Full Circle Farm Sanctuary and Rooterville. More new images captured from those visits, and lots of new Kindred photos to come. My current favorite newly edited photo is of young Luna cow from Kindred included below.

  Yoga Animalia: Bovine - Luna, Kindred Spirits Sanctuary, Ocala, Florida

Yoga Animalia: Bovine - Luna, Kindred Spirits Sanctuary, Ocala, Florida

Recently I was thinking about my need to write more: to record more of my travels and experiences at the sanctuaries in addition to sharing the resident's stories. It got me thinking about how intensely grateful I am to be part of the sanctuary world, so much so that the term "sanctuary groupie" popped into my head (and I may have been listening to Lana Del Rey's "Groupie Love" at the time :-). Hence the new name for my blog and missives from my travels.

I intend to be much more diligent about newsletters and blog posts in 2018, because after two and a half years of travel, the stories are starting to get jumbled in my wee brain! I am also committed to sharing sneak peaks and exclusives with my Patreon crew, because their monthly patronage has enabled me to start selecting and editing the massive backlog of sanctuary images - 40,000+ to peruse I estimate, from 74 sanctuaries. You can become a patron for as little as a $1 a month and contribute to the expansion of the Yoga Animalia Project.

I look forward to many more sanctuary groupie stories, and to connecting with you all once again in person at festivals across the US. The early 2018 festivals you can find me at:
Jan 28 Southwest Florida Veg Fest
Feb 17 Gainesville Veg Fest
Mar 3 Northeast Florida Veg Fest
Mar 31 Indy Veg Fest
Apr 7 Nashville Veg Fest
Apr 14 Wilmington Veg Fest
More to come!