Two nights ago, 21 goats arrived at Catskill Animal Sanctuary from a hoarder in Pennsylvania. The hoarder, an educated woman, has hundreds of animals on her derelict property: pigs, horses, sheep, donkeys, alpacas, many species of birds, reptiles. Like many hoarders, she considers herself an animal rescuer; indeed, lots of folks have entrusted their beloved animals to her.
Tragically, many of those animals are now dead.
The convoluted story of how the goats arrived at CAS, whom among her animals the woman chose to let live and whom she killed, and why she is finally surrendering some of her animals rather than euthanizing some and allowing others to languish will continue to be discussed by the many good folks involved in the rescue effort.
Meantime, 21 sick animals are here. Well, now it’s 20. One, a lovely boy named Harvey, died a few hours after he arrived. The necropsy revealed blood in the stomach, something our vet suspects was caused by an intestine that ruptured due to an extreme parasite load. The remaining goats are thin (some are emaciated), infested with lice, and extremely infested with worms. One girl, whom we named Fiona, is crippled, her lower legs permanently bent back from the knee at a 90-degree angle, her knees the size of baseballs. Standing requires all the strength she can muster, walking is impossible, and it is all due to lack of hoof care. It’s probably accurate to say her hooves have never been trimmed. (When Animal Care Director Abbie Rogers trimmed over six inches of excess hoof — far more to be removed over time — she literally squeezed the hoof rot out from the top.)
“Aren’t you angry?” people are asking. This question always comes up when CAS takes in large numbers of animals from cruelty situations. And we hear plenty of “I’d kill her” mumblings. Vengeance. An eye for an eye.
I have learned many lessons from the creatures who have found their way to Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Most arrive in conditions similar to what I’ve just described, conditions that indicate they’ve received little other than water and whatever sustenance the Earth could provide. Their malnourishment and dehydration are often extreme, their coats fall out in big hunks, and often, years of hoof neglect result in chronic lameness. They have every right to be mistrustful and angry.
Mostly, though, they aren’t. Of the 1,700 animals who’ve come to CAS, only a handful have arrived angry, holding onto whatever piece of their history tells them that humans are bad, hurtful, not to be trusted. Most have the capacity to be fully in the moment, and Fiona is no exception.
6:00 Tuesday morning, and I am sitting in the goat barn with Fiona. For a while, she simply lays next to me, allowing me to stroke her shoulders, her ears, her cheeks. But after a minute she flops over, head in my lap, and looks up at me. She is as grateful to be here, as grateful for a chance at life, as I am to be able to provide that chance. In this moment, my lap feels as good to her as her silky ear does to me. Anger would serve neither of us. We have healing work to do, and it begins with surrounding our new friends with love. There is no room, there is no time, for anger.