I’ve been fortunate to know gifted teachers. Mrs. Eggleston, my fifth grade teacher, nurtured my nascent interest in art and writing. Mrs. Yarborough, my twelfth grade English teacher, pushed me to strengthen my skills. In college, Professor Garrison’s poetry classroom was electric with possibility and promise. There were others. You had them, too. Whether we recognize it or not, the good teachers in our lives helped us hone both our skills and our character, and on National Teacher Day, we honor them.
I’d also like to honor another type of teacher. In fact, it is they, not the teachers we normally think of when we hear the word, who’ve offered the greatest lessons of all. It is they who’ve inspired, who’ve challenged, who’ve transformed my thinking. It is they who’ve changed who I am. I’m talking, of course, about the animals.
The great sheep Rambo helped me understand that the beliefs I held about “differences” between human and non-human animals were based on my own limitations, my own “human-centric” view of the world, my own biases. Samson, a 3,000-pound Holstein steer, taught me about the deep emotional lives of cows, and Paulie, a rooster rescued from a cockfighting ring, was the first of many remarkable chickens to offer lessons about their desire for love and connection. Paulie knew the sound of my car, and chased it around the farm until I stopped, picked him up, and carried on as he settled happily into my lap.
At Catskill Animal Sanctuary, our job is to do all in our power to ensure that each individual who calls CAS home truly thrives. When they do, remarkable things sometimes happen. In all their glorious fullness, they shatter our beliefs, and demand that we understand that in the ways that truly matter, we really, really are all the same.
To Mrs. Eggleston, Mrs. Yarborough, Dr. Garrison, Rambo, Franklin, Babe, Paulie, Casey, Henrietta, Buddy, Molly, Aries, Atlas, and all the rest: thank you.