A Very Early Christmas Present
|Photo © www.kathystevenscas.com|
Last month, I was contacted about a brand new book by Catskills Animal Sanctuary founder Kathy Stevens called Animal Camp: Lessons in Love and Hope from Rescued Farm Animals. I'm about sixty pages away from finishing it, and it has already made such an impact on me. I'll be featuring Cathy in a big interview and review of the book in the coming weeks - and if below is any indicator, it's going to be a glow-filled, joyful post!
Last night, I came across a passage about how Kathy celebrates Christmas. As you all know on here (or as you will soon come to learn), I live for all things Christmas. I'm actually listening to my Pandora Christmas station as I type these words. Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year, and any chance I get to celebrate it, I surely do.
I was humbled and moved so much by Kathy's words last night, and I know you will be too. Kathy has devoted her life to a cause that needs her desperately, and every single day, she spends her time caring for and advocating on behalf of the animals at Catskills Animal Sanctuary. And Christmas Day is no exception.
So, grab some hot cocoa (with soymilk of course!), nestle up to your computer, and bask in the beauty and glory of a Catskills Animal Sanctuary tradition.
Merry Christmas World!
Merry Christmas World!
I could be with David in Hawaii, my Dad in Florida, my brother in Virginia, my sister and her wonderful brood in Michigan, or my grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins - the whole maternal clan - in Nashville.
Instead, clad in long johns, jeans, boots, gloves, hat, T-shirt, turtleneck, fleece vest, and jacket, I'm scooping poop at Catskill Animal Sanctuary, assisted by the great dog Murphy, and I couldn't be happier.
With our two animal caretakers either on vacation or taking the day off, I'm in the barn - per usual - on Christmas Day. WAMC, the public radio station, is airing Christmas essays, including David Sedaris's hilarious account of his single day working as an elf in a shopping mall. April and Allen and Alex [the CAS volunteers] are here with me. Quickly and effortlessly, we divide up the morning feed routine: April and Allen will feel the "outside" animals, mostly big animals in big pastures the farthest from the barn; Alex feeds the "barnyard" animals, the rabbits, ducks, and chickens in seven different shelters clustered closer to the main barn; and I feed the menagerie inside the barn: eight special needs horses whose age or condition have earned them a permanent spot there; the eighteen potbellies and big pigs who appreciate the heated stalls; twelve goats; Lama and Jack, our two blind (or nearly) sheep; an eclectic assortment of birds - five roosters, Norma Jean the turkey, roosters Sumo, Rocky, Doodles, and Scribble... and so on. Today, a few extra treats are placed in each feed dish. Today, every single animal gets a kiss. Every chicken gets held, every pig is massaged, every horse muzzle has a kiss planted on its smooth, warm center.
"Umh umphh," Franklin the pig grunts in gratitude. And Norma Jean, our rescued turkey, settles into my lap - uncertainly at first, but with each new breath, she lets go a little until her eyes are heavy and she's asleep.
I steal away mid-morning and an hour later return with three dozen pancakes. Christmas brunch in the barn! We pass juice and maple syrup, and vegan dietician George Eisman and his girlfriend, Melanie Carpenter, come by with one of Melanie's extraordinary desserts. So what if we've just finished a pound of strawberry pancakes apiece? It's Christmas! We dive into Melanie's chocolate mousse pie. This food is all made without animal products. And it's all divine.
Outside the kitchen door, Franklin grunts. "Can I come in?" he pleads. We're tempted, but as you know, Franklin is no longer the five-pound piglet who arrived at Catskill Animal Sanctuary three winters ago. He is 700 pounds, and a 700-pound pig loose in a kitchen wouldn't be pretty... not even on Christmas.
I grab a handful of pancakes and slip out the back door. "Merry Christmas, best pig in the world," I whisper to my friend, who gleefully gobbles the pancakes. "Come on boy, it's time to go back to work," I say to him, and Murphy, Franklin, and I head down the drive to clean the goose house.
Merry Christmas, World.
Located two hours north of New York City, Catskills Animal Sanctuary provides a safe and loving haven for abused horses and farm animals – animals who have never known warm shelter, spacious pastures, good food, or the touch of a kind hand. Since 2001, CAS has provided refuge for over 1,700 such animals, and served as a center to raise awareness of their mistreatment and its impact on all of us.