"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are being treated". - Mahatma Ghandi
I have been an animal fanatic for about as long as I can remember. Actually, one of my first memories is of my Dad placing me on a Shetland pony he had given to my sister and I as a gift (seeing as how my Dad is also an animal lover, it was a gift for him just about as much as it was for us) and feeling as if everything in the universe had just fallen into place. We all have those moments of clarity, those times when you just know that you are in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. For me, that moment was when I was 3 years old. I would not say it was my calling or that I'm sort of proverbial Dr. Dolittle who goes about carrying on philosophic conversations with chickens and rabbits (which we also raised along with a plethora of other horses, goats, doves, a couple of cows, ducks, several dogs and cats, pigs and even a llama for a short period of time) but I did know that, generally speaking, I just felt more at ease when I was hanging out with the animals than I did with most people. In some ways, this still applies to me today. I'm not saying I don't like people, I'm just saying that if you asked me who it was easier to spend time with 90% of the time I'm going to prefer hanging out with those of the furry persuasion. I'm not a hermit, I'm not a crazy cat lady, I'm just more at ease with something with a cold nose and warm heart.
I wasn't one of those kids who just wanted 15 minutes of cuddle time a day with whatever animal phase I was going through at the moment ( you know the types, kids who just HAVE to have a duck or a puppy, love it for maybe 2 days and then the responsibility falls on Mom and Dad to clean the poop, provide food, water and shelter and ultimately find it an appropriate home) I enjoyed helping my dad at feeding time. At least 2 hours of every evening was spent mucking (shoveling for laymen) out the barn, providing food and water, brushing manes and tails, clipping hooves, and various other activities that were dependent on whatever animal we were currently taking care of.
My parents house became known as a sort of "shelter" or "go-between" for animals that just didn't "work out" (like the 15 minute pets mentioned earlier) for families that thought it seemed "like a good idea at the time" to get that bunny, those ducks, that pony, or that puppy. My Dad never turned anyone away. We provided a safe haven, sometimes for months at a time, until a proper home surfaced for the abandoned furry (feathery) friend.
I miss those days of getting up early and staying up late, walking along side my dad in rubber boots that were at least 3 sizes too big, learning what a immense responsibility it was to care for such a variety and multitude of animals. I miss the smell of horses and sweet feed laced with molasses ( a favorite for any horse with any taste buds), of hearing my Dad laugh as I tried to catch the wily rabbit that wiggled it's way out of it's cage,and riding horses with my sister as fast as we dared to go.
I haven't abandoned my animal loving ways. I currently have 3 dogs and 1 cat that I share my home with. I still get that feeling that all is right with the world when I get nuzzled with a cold nose at the end of a long day. As I'm typing this I have two dogs sleeping peacefully beside me bidding their time until I finish up and take them to the park to romp around with their neighborhood amigos. I look forward to the day when I have a home on a piece of land large enough for me to have horses again and maybe build my own no-kill animal shelter. Until then, I'll keep my memories close and my heart open.