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.
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!