Alpacas and pigs and wolves, oh my!

Last Saturday I had the best day and wanted to share my experience. It almost didn't happen due to my hesitation to be anywhere at 8 am on a Saturday morning, but I got my act together and was not disappointed.

Shy Pedro pretending to talk to a tree rather than look at me.

Shy Pedro pretending to talk to a tree rather than look at me.

I arrived at Kindred Spirits Care Farm to volunteer, and met Karen Snook, the multi-talented Executive Director of the organization, who offered me fresh-out-of-the-oven vegan mulberry scones she had made earlier that morning. They alone were worth the early morning visit. I rounded the corner to see two adorable alpacas, Evan and Pedro (I imagine Pedro sounding like Johnny Utah from Point Break); a couple of portly pigs, Gordy and Peanut; enthusiastic goats, Domino and Sweet Pea; lots of chickens and roosters (click here to read about the very chivalrous Astaire); and so many happy geese and rabbits. All of them roaming around happily, free, and copacetic.

This face!!!

This face!!!

Evan enjoying some carrots.

Evan enjoying some carrots.

I spent the morning feeding carrots to all the above (with Evan appearing to be the pushiest and/or hungriest of the crew), volunteering in the garden by planting seeds and pretending to know how to do other things that involved a pitch fork (yep, I wielded a pitchfork), cuddling Miss Peanut, and holding the softest, sweetest chicken (apologies, sweet girl, I forgot your name) who closed her eyes while I pet her - be still my vegan heart. Holding that chicken and cuddling with Peanut, I can assure you there's no difference between these animals and what you love about your own domesticated furry family members. 

Peanut in post-lunch bliss.

Peanut in post-lunch bliss.

I had no clue chickens were so soft and cuddly!

I had no clue chickens were so soft and cuddly!

At noon all the volunteers were presented with a delicious vegan lunch (seriously, between the scones and the lunch, it was ridiculous), AND was sent home with an arm-full of organic produce that had been harvested that morning. To think, I was the volunteer, yet was given so much not only from the Kindred Spirits organization, but the animals

Yep, pretty great morning. I then headed home to shower and get ready for my evening of yoga and wolves. I met two girlfriends at Blue Bottle Coffee in my neighborhood, and in honor of their opening day, received a free (woot woot) almond milk latte made with the very yummy Mylk brand. Just FYI, Blue Bottle also sells an excellent vegan dark chocolate bar. Note: best to eat entire bar at purchase vs. letting it sit and melt in your purse during a Science March. Some lessons are learned the hard way. While this is all completely tangential, the point is, there's a demand for compassionate products and businesses are listening! 

After a quick hour drive through the beautiful Angeles National Forest we arrived at Wolf Connection and were greeted by two of their very sweet ambassador wolves before getting a tour and introduction to The Pack.

The stories of each wolf, much like those from Kindred Spirits, are ones of neglect, abuse, and humans projecting their expectations on animals. I’m not sure there was a dry eye by the end, especially once we learned their alpha female, Maya, had passed the night before. Here’s Maya’s description from the Wolf Connection website:

Maya, an original pack member, is the quintessential alpha female: She is the wise teacher. Maya spent her first few years reared by her mother ensuring that she would learn the way of the wolf. As a result, one of her gifts is to nurture new pack members when they join Wolf Connection. Several of the younger males have been kenneled with Maya who quickly instructs them in proper wolf etiquette. Maya also exhibits true alpha behavior: she simply IS alpha. She does not have to prove it. Her presence is as serene and expansive as one might imagine the silence of the Arctic to be. During the summer of 2012, while visiting the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers in Lame Deer, Montana, her sacred spirit joined the festivities as she was heard to howl, often alone, during times of prayer and ritual. Her howl, and the rest of the pack that joined her is said to have inspired the return of the wild wolf to the Cheyenne people. 

I was lucky enough to have met Maya a few times prior. She was awe-inspiring and special, to say the very least. She definitely projected a sense of worth, like she knew she was somebody and not something. A lesson we could all use.

After an emotional tour, we had a wonderful yoga class led by Sam Bianchini, in front of the wolves' enclosures, with them howling at what seemed to be the perfect moments. Following  savasana, we made s'mores around the fire (there were even vegan marshmallows!) and closed out the incredible experience with a Sacred Fire Ceremony.

 

Sam and Annie getting the wolf stamp of approval.

Sam and Annie getting the wolf stamp of approval.

A day spent with animals felt like a dream, but was also extremely emotional. To hear the hardships these animals faced at the hands of humans felt awful; yet learning about their growth and forgiveness filled me with an overwhelming sense of pride. These animals are testaments to the power we all hold within. It just takes the right people, support, and settings for us to dig deep and uncover our true strength and potential. By sunset I was exhausted and excited to get home to my own rescued animals, Max and Mina. 

Throughout this incredible day I saw the connection between the animal and human spirit. When humans slow down long enough to observe non-human life, and show compassion, the gains we receive are exponential. Each sanctuary was inhabited by animals that experienced gross neglect; yet, were still willing to give, teach and receive love, amongst many other things. 

Both Kindred Spirits and Wolf Connection are not just about rescuing animals, but also rescuing human beings. Whether through work with students, foster kids, or veterans, these organizations know the incredible healing power of animals. Animals and humans are meant to work symbiotically, but somewhere along the way humans allowed greed and selfishness to take over. Rather than honoring our fellow Earthlings, and all that they offer by just being, we've taken advantage of their voicelessness and trusting nature.

This summer, rather than making a trip to the zoo, I encourage you to find a local animal sanctuary (click here to see a list of animal sanctuaries in the U.S.). Seeing animals out from behind bars and out of cages, makes a world of difference. Hearing their stories, interacting with them and looking in their eyes is an incredible experience you won't soon forget. Observe their mannerisms and their different personalities.  I wish you all the opportunity to hold a chicken and pet her soft feathers and see the individual. 

 

Much love,
Maria