Teacher, Guardian, Leader, Friend: Rambo Moves On

Rambo, the iconic sheep beloved by thousands, died peacefully this past Saturday evening, surrounded by a few of his human and animal friends. He was sixteen years old.

As I wrote in Where the Blind Horse Sings, Rambo arrived at Catskill Animal Sanctuary full of testosterone and rage. Indeed, he was the most dangerous animal we’ve had in our 11-year history. Over time, though, he transformed from warrior to wise man, from angry man to angel, and spent the final nine years of his life doing what rams do in the wild: protecting the flock. And we were all his flock – the cows, the horses, the chickens, the humans. CAS was his home, and we were his family. Rambo comforted the needy, welcomed the new and frightened, and rounded up the escaped. When the job was beyond him, he summoned humans (as he did one early morning a few months ago when he hobbled on arthritic legs to my back door to tell me that the cows were out).

It has been perhaps the greatest privilege of my life to witness and to honor the transformation of a rare and magnificent animal, and to learn life-altering lessons that inform so much of what we do here. Rambo taught us how to truly see each animal as a unique being with unique needs. Had he not insisted on absolute freedom (he rammed through the door of every stall we offered him; eventually, we gave up trying to shelter him in a stall and made him two thick beds of hay at opposite ends of the barn), he’d have been unable to evolve into the being who saved lives, patrolled the farm terrified, but insisting on doing his job during thunderstorms, comforted new rescues, greeted guests in the parking lots, hid behind the rabbit house from Hannah the sheep (his stalker), and so much more. His life and his lessons are etched into the ethos of Catskill Animal Sanctuary in ways too numerous to count.

The evening of the first day without Rambo, I am sitting in my Adirondack chair overlooking the horse pasture. Plus One (an orphaned Canada gosling adopted by a family of six) and her family are on the far bank of the pond, nibbling at grass. When I look again, a new family, five goslings in tow, is crossing the pond to settle on the near bank. A male mallard makes a diagonal flight above the pond, heading west into the sunset. A Great Blue Heron floats over, landing in a large willow. Julius and Brutus, two geldings, gallop towards their barn.

I look out across the pond to the cows in the far field. The Sherman Family, a mama and her children Buttercup and Caleb, are grazing in the distance. My friend Tucker the steer plods toward the barn.

TUCKER! I bellow, and my voice bounces back to me off the cliff in the distance.

MmmmOOOO! my pal responds.

Come on, Hannah, I say to my black doggie. Gotta go see our friends.

One day after Rambo’s death, life is unalterably different and exactly the same. Rambo was our leader, our guardian, our hero, our teacher, our friend. To honor him by living joyfully and fully, and by humbly attempting to bring our best selves to each new experience is the greatest tribute we can offer. May his noble life spent watching over his flock of CAS creatures great and small, human and non, be a reminder to each of us to make our lives matter.

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All Beings Considered, Saying Goodbye

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13 Comments

  1. I cried very hard when I read about Rambo.  Thank you Catskill Animal Sanctuary for giving him the life he deserved.  My dad just passed away not too long ago and in lieu of flowers we had all donations go to the Sanctuary.  CAS  is devoted to the care of these poor animals and forever will live in my heart and that of my family’s and all flowers will be forfeited and money sent to the sanctuary when anyone of us passes away.  

  2. What a beautiful tribute to Rambo.  A most remarkable life, indeed.  Kathy, you are an absolute angel on this earth, as was Rambo!  I had the privilege of meeting Rambo a few times over the years, and I could instantly tell just how loved he was.  Kathy and everyone at CAS, thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing what you do.  Rambo was able to blossom into this magnificent being with the help of you all- words cannot describe just how precious your hard work and effort is.  Rambo will be truly missed!

  3. Rambo taught me the joys of giving my animal friends tushy rubs. He will never be forgotten.

  4. What a beautiful animal.  We all cry as we remember.  Your work is so rewarding and I love every time I take in a new animal so I can love and nurture it like you did for Rambo.  Many of them come in like a lion but we together turn them all into lambs.  God Bless all of you and everyone who helps an animal in need.  There is no love like the love of an animal!

  5. Tears and more tears for Rambo. Truly, as Kathy said, a wise and kind soul who reciprocated the love showered on him at CAS through his ever-watchful presence, his patience with visitors and volunteers (like me) and gentleness with the other animals. A beautiful boy; I looked forward to seeing him each time I worked at the barn. While I will miss him greatly, I will forever remember him, and be humbled and honored to have known him. My condolences to all the CAS family.

  6. Kathy: You’re right about the need to celebrate Rambo’s life. I’m sure you’ll miss him deeply, but just think about the wonderfully safe, happy, innocent life he led at CAS– all thanks to you and your staff. I truly think you and your staff and volunteers are angels.

  7. I love you guys, for what you do. We will all meet again someday in a greater kinder place.

  8. Rambo was indeed a memorable and welcoming spirit at CAS barn. I remember him well. What will Hannah do? How is she managing the loss?

  9. After reading and hearing about CAS I finally had the privilege of visiting this past April for my 40th birthday. As a huge animal lover I was extremely touched and fell in love with all the animals there. The last animal I met that day was Rambo and I immediately fell in love and felt a strong connection. I could tell there was just something very special about him. I’ll never forget him “pawing” at my shoe because he wanted more rubs! I just read the e-mail about his passing and burst into tears. I was soooo looking forward to seeing him at the shindig next weekend (However, I am so grateful that I at least had the honor of meeting him.)

    Thank you to Kathy and all of the special staff at CAS for giving animals like Rambo a second chance!

  10. Thank you, friends, for sharing your memories, and for your loving words of support. To have one’s life matter as much as Rambo’s did–now THAT’s a lofty goal.  More to come. Meantime, thanks again.

  11. I never had the pleasure of meeting Rambo, so I’m very grateful to you, Kathy, for sharing him with the world through your two books and the CAS Web site. For humans to develop compassion and respect for animals, they need to hear as many stories as possible about animals’ intelligence and compassion for one another especially between species. Rambo was a role model, not only in his barnyard but in the world at large as well. He proved we can change to be our best selves. Still, his loss is deeply felt. Hugs to you, the CAS staff, and the CAS animals. For Miss Hannah, I hope this marks a positive turning point in her life.

  12. I cried when I saw your video and I loved reading what you wrote Kathy, your words gave me the this feeling of connection, and that’s what I feel when I come to CAS.
    I’m so grateful to CAS for allowing me the opportunity to be with these beautiful animals.
    My last memory of Rambo left me with a smile as I watched him on his bed of straw surrounded by his friends with his feed tube next to him with just enough left in it to get the attention of Arthur who seemed to say if you’re not going to finish  it than I will, at that point Rambo nudged Arthur with his horns to try and discourage him, I was so amazed at the gentleness of that interaction.
    In every sense of the word, you truly have created a Sanctuary for these animals and in doing so you have contributed to changing the consciousness of all beings.
    Thank you for your leadership and your unconditional love, you are a difference maker in our world.
    Jamie

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