Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Big Cats In Trouble--Maybe You Can Help

One Very Happy Patchy Cat

You never know when something is going to come out of the blue and knock you right upside the heart. It happened to me this morning when I opened my email inbox and found a message from a friend. She had seen a story on the news and immediately thought of me. Big cats in trouble, it said. Maybe you can help. And maybe I can. Because sometimes, once you start to think about it, a reason for that out of the blue knock to the heart becomes clear. I'm not sure where to begin, and I'm going to do my best to connect some seemingly disparate things without rambling, so I guess I'll just start typing and see where I end up.

If you've been reading Farmgirl Fare for any length of time, you know that I am crazy about animals. I mean, my daughter is a sheep for crying out loud. No matter what ludicrous or heartbreaking or backbreaking thing that may be happening on the farm, at some point every single day I feel grateful to live in a place where I am constantly surrounded by so many wild and domestic creatures.

My father, who died of a sudden heart attack when he was 40 and I had just turned 11, may have loved animals even more than I do. One of the few things I remember him telling me was that by the time I was grown up, there wouldn't be any lions or tigers or bears or elephants or other big animals out in the wild. The only ones left would be in zoos, he said. He honestly thought it would happen that soon, and it made him very sad. My father has been gone a long time now, and although his memory is never far from my thoughts, I do not dwell on the past or on what things might have been like if he hadn't died when he did. There is one thing I find myself wishing for every once in a while, though, and that is that he could see me here--living on this farm out in the wilds surrounded by animals. I like to think it would make him happy.

Many of you know that my brother (who was my only sibling) died suddenly last December 24th. He probably would have argued that he loved animals even more than me or our father, and he might have been right. He had several cats who were his best friends and constant companions for years. He wanted to be a veterinary assistant, and he dreamed of opening an animal sanctuary. He even had a piece of land picked out and people lined up who wanted to volunteer. Unlike my father, he did have a chance to see me on this farm. He stayed here for a month in February of 2005, and he didn't want to leave.

Back to the big cats in trouble. There is a place in Colorado called The Wild Animal Sanctuary. For the past 26 years, the volunteers at this non-profit organization have been rescuing lions and tigers and bears and other big creatures and giving them a chance to happily live in their natural habitats. The Wild Animal Sanctuary is being forced to close down due to lack of funds. All they are trying to do now is stay open long enough to find as many homes as they can for their 150 exotic animals. Not an easy task by any means. Any animals they can't find homes for will have to be put down. And now you might understand why their situation grabbed a hold of my heart. It's been an emotional day for me.

Yes, this is the part where somebody asks you for money. Nobody likes asking for money, let alone begging for it. It's easier to ask on behalf of someone else, though, and when those someone elses are some of the most magnificent animals in the world, I don't have a problem asking. I emailed the Wild Animal Sanctuary today and received a reply from Pat Craig, the Executive Director. This is what he said:

Thank you Susan. We are closing for sure – but the time is a relevant thing based on how much help we get. Right now we only have enough funds to stay open a couple weeks… and that isn’t enough time to find the animals new homes. It will take a lot of time and money to get the animals placed, so each bit of support that we receive buys another day that we can stay open and work on saving animals. Even if all the animals had promises of new homes, it would take a couple months to get them all to their new homes – but as it stands now – there are very few places for these animals to go… and no time to seek those places.

If you want to write about our situation we would be very grateful – as it would help buy time for the animals. Thanks.

There are several reasons I made the decision to write about this on my blog. One is that simply looking at the photos of these animals brought me to tears. Yes, I am one of those people who breaks down when they see six tigers romping together in a pool. Reading about their plight had me sobbing. And from the number of you who tell me how much you care about Cary and Donkey Doodle Dandy and Patchy Cat (who was rescued seven years ago from a home where he was no longer wanted) and Molly Doodlebug and Robin and Bear and Snugglebunny and the chickens and all the rest of the critters around here, I think a fair amount of you are animal lovers like me.

This brings me to something I have been wanting to write about for a while now, and I think now is the perfect time. We are all surrounded by those in need, and everyone has their own personal charities or organizations they choose to support. Me, I usually choose animals close to home. Joe and I make regular donations to a tiny animal shelter that is run on a frayed shoestring budget by a group of incredible volunteers. Although it is always packed to overflowing with dogs and cats and puppies and kittens because they absolutely refuse to put healthy, adoptable animals down, I have literally never seen happier animals at a shelter. To some of them, this is the only home they have known--and ever will know. But I have discovered a way to be able to send them even more money, and that is by giving donations in peoples' names rather than giving them gifts they don't really need or want.

For instance, when a friend has a baby, I hand write a letter to the baby explaining that we have donated money in their name to our favorite animal shelter, in the hopes that it will help some orphan animals find families as wonderful as the one the new baby has been born into. One friend sent me a note thanking me for the thoughtful gift--and for not sending yet another baby garment that would be too small to wear in a week. At holidays and birthdays, I tell animal lovers that I am donating money in their name to the animal shelter. When a friend's beloved pet dies, I donate money in memory of their animal companion. I realize this is not a new concept. But many people simply haven't thought of doing it on a regular basis. So many of us do not need another useless gift, and yet even $10 to this little animal shelter makes a difference.

When my father died, people were asked to make donations to Audubon Canyon Ranch (a place we used to visit often as a family) in lieu of sending flowers. Those donations funded the construction of a much needed bridge on the ranch property.

It's starting to get dark, and I have animals that need tucking in. There are 25 pounds of plum tomatoes sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be processed. And I'm hungry. But I thought this was more important than some tomatoes or my rumbling tummy. I'll end this by giving you some ways to rationalize a donation to the animals at The Wild Animal Sanctuary, but if you're still reading at this point, you probably don't need them. I could remind you that Farmgirl Fare and In My Kitchen Garden and Writings From Windridge Farm are labors of love that are available to anyone and everyone for free. I could ask you how much seeing the Daily Farm Photo is worth to you. Ten cents a day? Twenty-five cents a day? Is one of my favorite recipes now one of yours? Is it worth the price of a cookbook? And all donations are tax deductible of course.

Or you could do something really brilliant (not to mention time-saving) and take care of all of your holiday shopping right now. Imagine--done in August! Instead of presents, give everyone on your list a handwritten note letting them know that instead of getting another scarf or tie, this year they helped save one of the big cats.

Thanks so very much for your time. The critters and I are always here waiting for you, whenever you feel like taking a little e-trip to the farm. And if you choose to make a donation to The Wild Animal Sanctuary, I do hope you'll let us know. Click here to visit their website, where you can meet the animals, read all about the organization, and make a donation or buy something from their gift shop. Executive Director Pat Craig told me that "Donations can be made on our website – over the phone – or mailed in. We take Am Ex, Visa, Master Card, and people can send checks by mail or send their credit card info that way too if they don’t like using the internet. We can process donations from other countries – and I just processed one from Germany and one from Bavaria… Thanks again for helping us." Their address, email address, and phone number are all on the website.

Please feel free to pass this post along to fellow animal lovers. You are welcome to put a link to it on your own blog or use any part of it you like. Click here for the permalink.

8/18/06 Update: In a Denver Post article yesterday, Sanctuary Director Pat Craig was quoted as saying, "If 100,000 people gave just $5 each, it would buy us a year." What a wonderful way of showing how every little bit really can help--and that saving these exceptional animals is truly possible if we all pitch in.

I wish I had learned about this extraordinary place sooner, as I would have liked to have visited it (they built special highrise walkways so people can walk above the animals and view them without bothering them). And who knows. If things had turned out differently, I might have ended up working somewhere like this--and absolutely loving every minute of it.

8/20/06 Update:
Many, many thanks to all of you who have responded to this plea to help the animals at The Wild Animal Sanctuary. The news of their plight is zipping around the blogosphere, and donations are being made. Several people have kindly offered to contact zoos and other facilities in their area to see if places might be available for some of the sanctuary's 150 large carnivores needing homes. Others wondered if the Sanctuary could receive assistance from organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund. I emailed Sanctuary Executive Director Pat Craig about these things, and just received a reply:

"We appreciate everything that you have done - and are very glad to see that your supporters are truly animal lovers. We have approached every organization you can think of - especially all the big animal welfare ones.

In any case, the zoos (in the US and all over the world) have a huge surplus problem of their own, so there isn't any room for these animals in theirsystem. Once in a great while one or more of our animals have been able to fill a spot in the zoo system - but in most cases - many more animals flowout of the zoo system than go in.

Tell your supporters we greatly appreciate their caring so much--and we have one good chance at saving the animals by each person spreading the word to others (just as you have to them) - as that's the only way this situation will gain enough traction to get positive results."

Let's not give up hope yet.

9/17/06 Update: Wonderful news! The Wild Animal Sanctuary has received so many donations & promises of donations that they are able to keep operating for now. Click here to read the latest closing update on their website. Many, many thanks to all of you generously made donations and wrote about the Wild Animal Sanctuary. Note: they are now accepting donations from anywhere in the world via PayPal. Please keep spreading the word! IT REALLY IS WORKING!


  1. Susan, I too am one who sobs easily over things like these. Just reading your post today brought tears to my eyes. I know some people call me goofy or overly emotional. I've even had a colleague say to me during a surgery I was doing for the Humane Society, "Good grief, it's only a cat!" I cry over the plight of homeless animals, and I cry again at happy endings.

    What a great idea for donations as gifts! We're overflowing with material things, and I'm always saying please don't give me anything. Now I know just what to ask for. And just what to give.

    As for your father, you know, he does see you on your farm. He knows and he's smiling.

  2. basketweaver8/16/2006 9:30 PM

    Hi Susan, I am going to send this information to everyone on my e-mail list tomorrow. I work for a large company and it is full of animal lovers like us. Hopefully, we can help make a difference. It's just too much to think of losing these beautiful animals.

  3. I too am going to forward this along, as I am a big supporter of wildlife causes, especially big cats.

  4. vickie in mo8/16/2006 11:29 PM

    Thank you for the information. I too am a huge animal lover. Our four dogs were all unwanted by someone else but loved dearly by us.

    I went to the site and made a donation and put in the box that I was making it in honor of Farmgirl Fare. I would love to have more money so I could give more away!

    I also worry about the animals at Buena Vista Animal Park in our state at Springfield that is closing and the animals will be sold.

  5. Susan, thank you thank you thank you for posting this. You made me cry. We're even.


  6. Susan,

    If you have helped my friend, Cathy, accomplish one iota of her intention to help these animals, THANK YOU.

    You are blessed, and you bless everyone your pixels touch, and I am so glad to "know" you. Thank you a thousand times.

  7. I'll obviously have to pass this along on my weekend cat blogging post.

    I do the same thing with gifts, except mine go to the food bank. awesomeGrrl has been 'giving' them $ on her birthday since she was born.

  8. Hi Susan, a great gift idea so often overlooked. Ironic that on the same morning I read one of your country singers Troy Lee Gentry committed such a heinous crime in shooting a tame bear for his 'trophy' wall. Wild or tame, these animals are for enjoying alive and where possible, roaming free.

    Anyway, as always your post is touching, thought-provoking and an essential part of my daily routine. XX

  9. Beverley, UK8/17/2006 6:40 AM

    Don't know why that came out as anonymous?? It's me Beverley, UK.

  10. Susan, you are such an excellent writer. I was overwhelmed with thoughts as I read your post.

    First, I am so sorry that you lost your father at such as young age.

    Second, I've even more sorry than you also lost your brother to alcohol.

    I went to the site. I will donate and forward your message on. I think that in most instances, awareness is what is needed here.

    It sounds as if it would be an awesome place to visit. Who even knew it was there! And we've been to Colorado so many times. In fact, I'll send your blog to our daughter-in-law who lives in Colorado and loves animals, especially her pound doggie, Ducie Do.

    I see a beautiful children's book (remember I'm a children's librarian) with Cary and you in it. The kids would "eat" that book up! Just write it!!!

    Blessings on you,
    Nana in Hot Texas

  11. This story gives me a stomachache and breaks my heart. I tried to make my donation without having to look at the pictures but no luck. At any rate, thanks for letting us know. I'll gladly trade my donation for recipes!

  12. That sounds like a good cause. Good for you!
    To Love, Honor and Dismay

  13. Susan, I passed this information on to the DeYoung Zoo located nearby in Wallace MI. Maybe they can help or have some connections in the zoo business. Thanks for your passion of all creatures great and small!

  14. Susan, your post was wonderful, and I felt the love pouring from it. I'll do what I can to help the critters at the santuary. =)

    Also, you've given me the greatest idea, from here on out I will no longer buy baby gifts...a donation, with a note will go to the wee one. What an awesome ideal.

  15. I have just found your blog and this post touched me so much in any number of ways. We have four rescued dogs and one rescued cat and feed every stray in the neighborhood.
    I will be checking your blog often.
    I hope that they get lots of donations.

  16. You know what I thought you were going to say?
    I thought you were adopting the tigers.
    Thanks for the info!

  17. Good on you, Susan! I'm glad you made us aware of this issue.

  18. Nana Texas also thought that Susan was going to "adopt" all of the critters! We do think highly of you, Ms. Susan.

    Nana in still hot Texas

  19. Thanks for the info Susan. I'm making a donation today and I've forwarded the info to a couple people to help promote assistance. I also emailed my city's zoo. We're known as a Big Cat city (NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars) so I thought they should know they can help out some Big Cats in need.

    I can also relate to your losses. I just came home from visiting my sister who is dying of Hep C and cirrhosis of the liver. Alcohol has claimed my mother, brother and now my sister.


  20. Hi Susan. Of course we'll be making a donation! I had not heard of this place so thank you for making us aware of it. Thanks for all you.

  21. Cristina - UK8/17/2006 12:15 PM

    Hi Susan,

    I'm not sure if by keeping this issue local you will find a solution. Surely organisations like the WWF have been set up to protect animals like tigers etc... and they should be able to help you on a larger scale? They certainly have a HQ to which you could email all the relevant information? They may be able to help financially and as such by you time or they may be able to keep the animals elsewhere for a while.

  22. I posted the link on my little blog!! I'll be donating also, after I finish wiping up my tears! Bless You, Farmgirl and your family!!

  23. Absolutely. Consider my holiday shopping done. Donation has been made and all my friends and family will be getting a set of custom notecards made with photos of these beautiful creatures along with their gift donation. Not to pry, but if you are willing to share your address, I'd love to send you a set, too.

    Thanks for bringing this to all our attention and reminding us how much our animal friends mean.

    Also - that photo of Patchy Cat is great - looks like the Farm Boss is on a much needed break :)

  24. I will be sending a donation.

    But I also emailed them directly to let them know that a shelter in my area recently lost one of their own "big cats" and therefore might be open to receiving another.

    I will keep you posted if I hear anything more about it.


    The people at The Wild Animal Sanctuary are so grateful to all of you for your amazing kindness and generosity. I really think we can help these poor animals. Doesn't this feel good!?

    And I am thrilled that so many of you have already let me know that you've latched right onto my idea of giving donations in lieu of (often needless) gifts. There are so many small charitable organizations in need of funds and supplies--and for many of them even $10 really can make a difference.

    Again, THANK YOU!

  26. Susan, thank YOU for writing about this in such a compelling, heartfelt way - and for attracting such caring, generous readers. What an overwhelming response!

    In a Denver Post article yesterday, the sanctuary director was quoted as saying, "If 100,000 people gave just $5 each, it would buy us a year." I'm much more hopeful about the animals' future than I was a few days ago!

  27. Well Susan...I too have always had a big place in my heart for animals. Although I have no money to donate this week, I do plan on contributing A.S.A.P.

    But right now, I am doing what I can to spread the word for have created a blog alert on my Care2 blogsite, which focuses on issues such as this one daily. So it will catch attention! In my post, I have attached the link to your heartfelt page, and the direct link to the Wild Animal Sanctuary. Hope this helps. Keep up the good work Susan, as you make a difference in peoples' lives everyday...Including mine!

  28. Thanks for letting us know about this Farmgirl, I will make a donation today!

  29. You're an incredible advocate for animals, Susan - we all appreciate your willingness to dedicate energy to helping them. Thanks :)

  30. Not to become too political here, but for the animals it is sometimes necessary. Another thing people can do to help is to stop supporting zoos and circuses who use animals. They contribute to the problem.

  31. Thanks for the update! Pat should post a permalink to your blog entry on the sanctuary's site; your suggestion to donate in honor of a friend or occasion is a great one, and it might encourage more people to give a little.

  32. Hi Susan,

    Well said! I have put in a donation, written a blog entry and encouraged others to do the same.

    Maybe with enough networking, we can get them through the hardship (or better, get them on their feet for good!)


  33. Hi! I am Joss from Mexico City, I have just read about another sad news about Pat Craig family and the Wild Animal Sanctuary, his son was involved in a car accident, now they have to deal with major problem and also do their best in order to save those animals.

    Please keep preading the word and if you have a rich relative, this is a god time to call him.

    Best wishes,

    Josefina Hernandez

  34. Sorry for my English! =^.^=



December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

Hi! Thanks for visiting Farmgirl Fare and taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love hearing about your experiences with my recipes. Comments on older posts are always welcome!

Please note that I moderate comments, so if I'm away from the computer it may be a while before yours appears.

I try my best to answer all questions, though sometimes it takes me a few days. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your e-visits to our farm!