S asked me the other day why it is that I like having so many animals.
I had a really hard time answering that question.
They certainly complicate life, and fostering (especially fostering highly energetic puppies) makes even the standard daily routine a lot more difficult. Its not as if I don't have enough on my plate to begin with.
I've always loved animals. We had a dog growing up, a german shephard mix my folks adopted from the Humane Society. Queenie was a big furry baby sitter to me. When the big kids were playing too rough, she would pen me in the corner of the yard and not let me out, despite my rather vigorous protests. If my mom's hands were full with groceries, she would herd me from the car to the porch to the slider door. She tolerated my attempts to treat her like a horse without ever once losing her temper. She was my father's dog, loving him the best of all, but she was my other mother. She was always there, for 15 years, and I can still feel the tug on my heart when I think of how much I miss her.
When we moved from the city to the country, my parents set the bar for me when it comes to farm life. We went from being a one-dog city family to a one dog, three cat, five duck, one (and at times two) horse, ten chicken and occasionally a donkey and a steer or two country family.
Rescue and having a large contingent of animals was never something I planned to do, but for whatever reason they just kept showing up. With one exception, all of the animals who found their way into my life were either strays, adopted from a shelter, or adopted through a rescue. Its not that I need to have them all - its that I can, and that the need on their part is so great. Each and every one of them is an individual, with unique personality and traits. Hercules wiggles, Roscoe can be counted on to tolerate the loving abuse of children with equanimity, Juliet rules the house like the little princess she is.
T-Bone, his job is just to follow me and make sure I don't get lost.
I see no reason why people should be irresponsible with the lives of animals. With dominion comes great responsibility, and it is my fixed opinion that a great number of people have been terribly lacking in their duty to properly care for our planet and the animals who inhabit it. The best leaders are the people who understand that leadership is not power at all, but a terrible burden. In the same way, being at the top of the food chain doesn't mean that we ought to be sitting on our front porch having target practice with the neighborhood squirrels or killing animals simply for a trophy set of horns. We are stewards, and we ought to be mindful of that. I'm not against hunting and I'm not against eating meat. What I'm against is the irresponsible decimation of animals for no other reason than sport. Killing for the sake of killing.
We have, over thousands of years, formed a partnership with dogs and with cats. We have bred them to be loyal, loving members of our household. All recognized breeds have a purpose for which they were created, and there are a number of breeds whose only job was to be human companions.
I've seen dogs treated horribly by people, abused, neglected, starved. They come in to rescue with no reason whatsoever to retain any loyalty to the human race and still they trust us to care for them. Back in New Jersey we'd get dogs surrendered by the puppy mills in Pennsylvania (there are Amish farmers in PA who use those great big barns as breeding facilities) who had never in their life been out of a crate. They'd never been OUTSIDE. Or seen a vet. Or played with a toy. Elderly dogs, sick, taken to shelters by owners who couldn't be bothered to care for them in the last days of their life. Abandoned dogs, starving, barely alive.
I've never been able to see an animal or a child suffer abuse without feeling all the way into the center of my being that I should do something about it. Now, my therapist has told me that is an emotion I should be on the watch for, as it apparently connotates something unhealthy. Frankly, I beg to differ.
My mom said in passing a while back, "You know, you really need more acreage for all these animals." Then she looked at me and laughed and said, "I take it back. If you had more room you'd just have more animals." She's right. I'd run a horse rescue in a heartbeat if I had the acreage and resources.
While browsing one of my favorite horse blogs, I clicked on a link that led me to this story. I'll warn you that if you click through, you'll see some graphic photos of a horse that was terribly abused and near death. The person who responded to the craigs list ad for her realized how poor her condition was and convinced the owner to let him take her away for a decent burial. She couldn't even stand up, and had to be loaded onto his trailer by being carried on a plywood board.
Miracle's story has a happy ending, she has made a remarkable recovery and just last week made the trip to her new adoptive home. Sadly, for many animals who are abused or neglected, there IS no happy ending. The people who volunteer for the rescues, who donate food and supplies, who foster, who give us air time and feature our adoptable animals on the news or who write articles about us in the paper, they are the ones standing in the gap.
I stand with them. I can't explain to you why - nor should I have to. Its just something I do.