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Selick: Brother Light

Yoga Animalia: Porcine - Selick, Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, Mehoopany, Pennsylvania

Yoga Animalia: Porcine - Selick, Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, Mehoopany, Pennsylvania

There are some beings that we bond with effortlessly, two souls recognizing one another and lighting up at the contact. Selick was one of those souls at Indraloka Animal Sanctuary that lit me up. Trying to outsmart (and always failing) his explorations and quest for food not his own, sneaking hoof trims and giggling when successful and he yelled at me for the intrusion, helping him shed winter hairs and blackheads like I was searching for gold, enjoying his slow descent to the earth for a belly rub and then the sounds of joy he proffered when the belly rub was especially good - these are moments of light that are now dear memories. 

Muddy adventures

Post Thanksliving Pumpkin Feast...for more than a month!

Post Thanksliving Pumpkin Feast...for more than a month!

The heart attack that took Selick's physical form cannot take these memories, but it did take that brother light. The grief will continue to hurt my heart and wet my eyes, but Selick's zest for life inspires me and all those who knew him. When the heaviness of his absence hits me, I am striving to remember that I am now one of the people whose light needs to shine in memory of this special boy. As I do with so many other lights whose radiance strengthens my own, I will continue to share Selick's story, his love, and his light.

Christmas Day Snuggles

Christmas Day Snuggles

Read on the Indraloka blog the story of how Selick came to sanctuary: the challenges he faced and his personal growth.

Selick 9-22-15 (8).jpg

Christmas Greetings from Selick

Thanksliving Spirit: Jake

Yoga Animalia: Meleagrine - Jake, Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, Mehoopany, Pennsylvania

Yoga Animalia: Meleagrine - Jake, Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, Mehoopany, Pennsylvania

On this overcast and warmer than frozen day, this day that solely caused 46 million beautiful individuals to be slaughtered for their flesh, this day where I headed into the upper barn to retrieve some meds before the sanctuary residents began their morning greetings, this Thanksgiving Day I began with sorrow.

This sorrow was not from dwelling on the 46 million individuals who lost their lives - I have built healthy and loving new traditions with family and friends that help create joy and celebration on what is otherwise a very dark holiday - it was instead from an unexpected discovery I made early this morning. There is a sense that caregivers develop; a sense of homeostasis disturbed, of energy flows disrupted, of something not-quite-right. That sense drove my attention to where Jake turkey was, or should have been, except Jake wasn't there, it was just his corporeal remains.

I am not ashamed to say I lost it. The grief hit my entire body and I sobbed. It is Thanksgiving day, ThanksLiving as I now think of it. The turkeys I know personally are supposed to eat pumpkin and explore and thrive. We had already had to say goodbye to two brand new turkey friends to whom we could only give a short amount of time due to their insurmountable genetic and physical problems, and I just could not bear saying goodbye to Jake also. But that is part of sanctuary work; we say goodbye when we think it is the last thing our hearts can handle, and I feel fortunate to know humans whose hearts hurt as much as mine, but who do the work and translate that sorrow into a beautiful part of life.

Jake was 13 years old; he lived a glorious and long life, and today was his day. The beauty of a free and beloved turkey's spirit departing on Thanksgiving Day was eloquently stated by sanctuary founder Indra Lahiri, Jake's longest human friend who had originally saved he and his siblings from slaughter prior to Thanksgiving in 2003. 

Indra's thoughtful and authentic response, even amidst her own grief to Jake's passing, had the intense effect of transforming my emotional space. It didn't hurt less, but rather it shifted my energy from tragic to something calmer. It opened up my ability to hold space for Jake's transition, and though my Thanksgiving began with sorrow, it ends with peace.

Beatific Emma: From Broken Beef Calf to Blessed Bovine

Emma, Farm Sanctuary, Orland, California

Emma, Farm Sanctuary, Orland, California

One of the highlights of early 2015 was this beauteous young lady who came into my life while road-tripping on a separate Farm Sanctuary-related quest spearheaded by my besty Alicia. Half way home from Vegas, the call about a calf in need arrived, propelling us to drive into the late hours. We stumbled into a hotel room, slept (maybe), then drove to the rural vet where Emma was supposed to be cared for overnight before we took her to UC Davis. That vet is not high in my estimation to put it mildly, having left her outside in a cold lean-to with barely enough straw for warmth and no pain meds. Alicia and I miraculously kept our tongues in check, got Emma pain meds, and got her loaded for the trek across Utah, Nevada, and into California for proper vet care.

Emma ready for travel

Emma ready for travel

I became instantly obsessed with this big-eyed girl, and wrung my hands a fair bit while we waited for positive word about her condition. Receiving that word brought a relief to my whole body and tears to my eyes. Though at that point she wasn't out of the woods totally, she had a fighting chance, and a beatific presence conveyed through those large eyes.

Tongue acrobatics not hampered by the pain in her leg

Tongue acrobatics not hampered by the pain in her leg

More than a year later, after trekking from New York to Florida to Pennsylvania and then flying back to California, I got to see Emma again, thriving at Orland. This young lady has endured months of hospitalization, surgeries, humans fretting, and yet she still carries serenity in her eyes and her being. She is such a magical friend I feel so blessed to know.

Yoga Animalia: Bovine - Emma

Farm Sanctuary, Orland, California

Emma was found on the side of the road in rural Utah. Her mother was standing protectively by her, and the concerned human who saw them in the same place a second time realized something was wrong. Emma had likely been hit by a car and was unable to walk. The woman contacted the rancher who owned the herd, but his solution was to shoot her. The woman got him to release Emma to her, but sadly could not get her mother. She contacted Farm Sanctuary who raced up to take the calf immediately to UC Davis. There life-saving vet care was provided to Emma, and it was determined her leg was infected and would need to be amputated. After many surgeries, much waiting, and many months, Emma is starting to settle into her three-legged life of love and devotion at Farm Sanctuary's NorCal shelter.

Miracles Come in Pig Sizes: a Family's Healing at Rooterville

Miracle & Sampson, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Miracle & Sampson, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Yoga Animalia: Porcine - Miracle & Sampson

Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Putnam County Animal Control discovered a property where a family of four pigs had been abandoned. They were starved, bones protruding under skin, near the brink of death. Emaciated, the father, mother, and two sons arrived at Rooterville and began their healing process. The mother became known as Miracle, for her recovery was miraculous, yet challenging. Her spay surgery resulted in a hernia and an infection that forced her back to the vet hospital she had been rushed to upon first arrival. After stall rest and yet more recovery, she finally got to become part of the sounder with her family, able to create nests for her sons Sampson and Logain, and finally enjoy the good life.

This image of Miracle and her son Sampson is one that begs a bit more story. Their tale could have ended so tragically, and even after their rescue, the journey of recovery was lengthy, especially for Miracle. The images that follow show the condition in which she and her family were discovered.

Miracle at University of Florida, Gainesville animal hospital right after rescue. Photo courtesy Rooterville Facebook.

Miracle at University of Florida, Gainesville animal hospital right after rescue. Photo courtesy Rooterville Facebook.

Sampson, Logain, and Daddy overjoyed to have grass to eat after their rescue and arrival at Rooterville. Photo courtesy Rooterville Facebook.

Sampson, Logain, and Daddy overjoyed to have grass to eat after their rescue and arrival at Rooterville. Photo courtesy Rooterville Facebook.

Original Facebook album with more photos via Rooterville can be seen here. When I first saw these images, I could barely believe she was the same pig in the photo. My brain had moments of difficulty relating the healthy, happy, and rather boisterous lady with the barely functioning one in the rescue photo.

Later when I originally captured the first image, I had yet to know the full details, that the young pig next to her was in fact her son. It made finding this image as I perused my captures all the more special, because it spoke to me of a long and challenging healing process. Her glance at my camera seems satisfied and happy as she rests next to her sleeping son. That I got to witness and record this simple moment of mother and son closeness that could just as easily never happened is truly magical for me.

Miracle's story is one of mercy and hope, a story of a family's second chance.

Miracle on one of my first days at the sanctuary, after months of healing and stall rest, anxious to spread her porcine wings.

Miracle on one of my first days at the sanctuary, after months of healing and stall rest, anxious to spread her porcine wings.

March Sanctuary Spotlight: Rooterville

In mid-February I traveled to a rural part of north-central Florida, about an hour south of Jacksonville and 50 minutes east of Gainesville. After my Apple GPS told me several wrong ways, nonexistent roads to take, and other tomfoolery, I arrived on the outskirts of Melrose at Rooterville's doorstep, marked by a marquee like you might see outside a church or a theater.

Rooterville Sign lit up for the night

Rooterville Sign lit up for the night

It marked the second sanctuary of the new year I would visit, and I was soon to learn that the source of its name were the potbellied pigs who originally inspired the creation of the sanctuary. Rooterville had grown from its early days as a potbelly rescue into a more fully-fledged farm animal sanctuary. Here I met a host of porcine characters, lounging, rooting, and exploring almost everywhere I looked.

Pigs & Clouds, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Pigs & Clouds, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Doodle & I, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Doodle & I, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Leo & I, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Leo & I, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

I also met a few equine and caprine friends, including (pictured) Doodle and Leo, both whom insisted on selfies with me, and many photos of themselves besides. I must say, both boys have dashing hairdos - I don't think I've quite seen the like at other sanctuaries!

Paul & Pancake, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Paul & Pancake, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

While later perusing Rooterville's website, I noticed that they had several open staffing positions available. I did not intend to leave Florida until April, so I reached out to Elaine, the founder of Rooterville, and asked if she would be interested in me working at the sanctuary for the month of March. It fit for both of us, especially given my previous caregiving and tour guide experience, both roles for which she is looking, and thus I have been helping out the last week and a half. Katie Kowhugger is getting acquainted with several of the most curious porcine residents, and it has been a delight to get to know the residents even better myself. More photos to come throughout the month!

Miracle in her recovery suite after her spay, anxious to join the larger population, and for more treats, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Miracle in her recovery suite after her spay, anxious to join the larger population, and for more treats, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Rudy helps me out with my email, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Rudy helps me out with my email, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Good Night Peepers & Chica, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida

Good Night Peepers & Chica, Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Melrose, Florida