Once a Rescuer, Always a Rescuer

I had a dream last night in which I saw someone abusing a horse and I went nuts on her. The young woman who I confronted then went nuts on me and told me she was “training” him and it was none of my business. There were lots of other people around, and I went up to each of them and asked how it was possible they could watch this happen and not do anything about it. They all shrugged, and while they agreed that the horse was being abused, they also agreed it was none of their business. The worst of it was, I could only whisper my opinion in this dream, which nobody wanted to hear. I finally gave up and went off to rescue feral kittens (two orange, one grey and one white) which I tucked into my old navy Carhartt jacket, which has cradled more than its share of puppies and kittens over the years.

Even in my sleep, I never stop working. If I’m not rescuing, I’m cleaning. And cleaning. And cleaning. But I never, ever finish, so again, it’s a reflection of my waking life. Of course, a feral orange kitten will always show up in my dreams and I will pick it up and save it. 

Once a rescuer, always a rescuer, awake or asleep.

I woke up and went downstairs to help feed all the dogs, inject Ursa’s insulin and make sure everyone got their meds. Then I drank my coffee and tried to interpret my dream. First, I thought about how the work never ends and it keeps me from doing all that I should to speak up for the animals. I just don’t have time to post on social media very often; running a farm sanctuary is heavy work and very unpredictable. For example, this past Sunday morning I went to the horse barn and found Cheyenne had an abscess in her left front foot and Adel was acting colicky. Cheyenne is not a fan of having her hooves soaked and wrapped and is the only horse I know who can stand on two feet for an abnormal amount of time, foiling all my efforts. Adel, on the other hand, is a perfect angel, but it took an entire day of bran mashes, injections of Banamine, syringes filled with Miralax (like, a dozen) before we finally saw some poop at 6pm. Meanwhile, everyone still needed to be fed and turned out and stalls cleaned and my grandkids needed their Sunday morning pancakes after they mucked their allotment of stalls . . . and somewhere in there, our house had to get cleaned. 

And then, I was tired. So, while I know I should be documenting all of this on Facebook so people know what’s happening on the farm, at the end of the day I just couldn’t. Which is probably why I was reduced to whispering in my dream, unable to fully communicate about the animals.

The second thing I thought about was how no one in my dream wanted to listen. It was too damned inconvenient to step up and speak for the abused horse, and when I did, the response from the abuser was, well, abusive. People are too busy to care, or inconvenienced, or afraid of being bullied. It’s hard enough for cats and dogs, but for farm animals, it’s worse. Do people know the abuse and torture that factory farms inflict on animals before they are brutally killed? Sure they do. Do they care? Actually, yes, they do. Do they do anything about it, even when they are confronted by the harsh reality of it? 

No. 

With apologies to Al Gore, again, it’s an inconvenient truth. The distance between the horrors of raising animals for meat, and the sanitized, portioned and plastic-wrapped product presented in the grocery stores, is enough to soothe the conscience of any consumer. Also, isn’t it the way this has always been done? (Actually, not at all, but that’s for another time.) 

At the end of my dream, I went back to saving kittens. It’s easy. People understand it. Everyone loves puppies and kittens, and we don’t eat them in this country, so it’s safe territory. Except in my real life, I still wake up and deal with our reality. Locket’s Meadow rescues and gives sanctuary to the animals few others want. We take in pigs saved from slaughter, calves rescued from the dairy industry, old horses that can’t be ridden, horses who are crazy from abuse (our Bobby was an Amish horse so badly beaten he has severe PTSD and is extremely unpredictable and unsafe.) As I’ve tried to write this over the past several hours I’ve been running back and forth to check on our pig, Oliver, who seemed to have some sort of seizure after eating breakfast this morning. I’m waiting for him to finish napping so I can assess whether I need to call the vet out today. The stress of caring for all these animals is constant, and the guilt I carry for not speaking out enough for them eats away at me every day, and obviously, all night long, as well. 

I want to vow that I will do a better job in the future, and promise to write and video frequently, but then someone will need meds, or hoof care, or turnout or injections or a trip to the vet . . . and heaven forbid we need groceries . . . AAAAAAAAAHHH! I will continue to do the best I can, and that’s all this old Meemaw can do.

We are getting older every day, and sometimes we get tired. My husband’s knees are broken. I can’t count all the broken knuckles, toes and ribs I have endured. Would we change anything? I don’t know. Here’s my advice to everyone who tells me we live their dream life, and they want to do the same . . . if you want to rescue, make a butt load of money first. Not just a million or two. IT’S NOT ENOUGH. You need tens of millions. And even so, be prepared to live like paupers and smell like horses and seldom travel, at least not with your spouse (someone must stay home and watch everyone!) So yes, maybe we should have raised a ton of money first, but I believe we would have followed the same path.

I’m the first one in the horse barn every morning. Adel knickers a hello, followed by all the others, loudest of all is my Captain. I feed the cat in the office then soak the grain for our old, toothless ponies, chatting with each of the horses as they call out to me. Then I load hay onto the truck and drive up the hill, throwing flakes into each paddock (walking it way out past the mud near the gates.) It’s quiet except for the singing birds and the pair of geese that lands in the top right paddock every day at 7:10am. Clockwork. I talk to the crows and ravens that swoop overhead, some of whom have become quite friendly. I whistle to the redtail hawks. The moon sets and the sun rises, sometimes at the exact same time. Then I head back to the barn and feed buckets of grain to all 26 inside horses, each with a specific routine that never varies. My favorite part of each day is leading my ponies up the hill along the crooked driveway. That’s when we check in with each other and get a few pats and hugs in before I turn them loose and wish them a good day.

My husband arrives after he’s fed the cows, pigs, goats, sheep and every other animal on the “farmhouse” side of the property. He starts cleaning stalls while I finish turnout. It’s peaceful and lovely, these mornings with our friends. 

No, I don’t think either one of us would change a thing, aside from making a ton of money first. 

If others got to know farm animals the way we have, would they change their lifestyles to support a better life for them? I don’t know. I can only hope our lives and our work have influenced some, and that the ripple effect will carry on. 

Meanwhile, it’s time to get back to the horse barn and check on the farrier, who is shoeing ponies today. I will stop and see Oliver, who lifted his head and gave me a few grunts when I peeked at him a little while ago. Pigs sleep all morning after breakfast so I really can’t tell if he’s back to normal or not . . . he’s currently normal for a pig at midmorning. While I’m next door I will see how Cheyenne is doing in her paddock. Her abscess started draining during the night, and I was able to put her outside today. Yay!

Life goes on, and I will count that as a win. Tonight, in my dreams, I will clean houses and barns and collect up feral kittens, as always. 

Once a rescuer, always a rescuer.

Peace to all, humans and animals alike . . . my greatest hope is we finally learn that we are all one Spirit, and not just dogs and cats, but all living creatures, including our beloved farm animals.

Kathleen Schurman and her husband, David, are owned by the animals of Locket’s Meadow Farm Sanctuary in Bethany, CT. For more information, visit www.locketsmeadow.org or find us on Facebook, where I try to post several times a week . . . but not nearly enough . . .

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