From Dawn Hayman: Today we stand on the threshold of one year ending and another beginning. We turn the page to a new chapter as we gently break in the binding of our book, remembering the last chapter, and eagerly starting the next to see where our story goes. Today is the start of a new decade, a new year, a new month, and a new day. The past 34 days we have shared with you some of the messages received from the animals who call this sanctuary home. It never ceases to amaze me how they see life and how they approach things with gratitude and unconditional love. We learn so much from all of them.
My hope is that these messages brought something to your heart as we moved through the holiday season. I am grateful to every one of these animals. And I am grateful to all of you. Many of you have shared with us that you spent time reading these messages daily with your children and families. Some wrote comments that the messages touched you at a time when you needed to hear that very message. We’ve heard of groups of senior citizens sharing the messages each morning at the start of their day. We heard of more than one family that used the messages at their Thanksgiving and Christmas family dinners. And I know that some of you in the depths of feeling alone, read the messages and felt understood and heard.
All of this has been very humbling. I hope as we now step into this new decade that we remember what the animals have shared and taught us. I hope we remember to look for the light even when we feel at our darkest times. That we remember that no matter how hopeless things seem, they will change, if only we give it the chance. That gratitude can be for the simplest of things and that love is always a guiding light. I hope we remember that kindness has a greater power to make change and bring peace than any other force.
We wish you all the best and hope that you will join us in creating a world filled with kindness. Because this is, after all, our story to write. As we turn the page today, you as the author of your own book, have the ability to change the world.
In the words of my old horse friend and teacher, Deeteza, “Believe in it and it shall be so. It is the natural force of the universe to do so. Just be the you that you are meant to be. No one else can do that but you.”
From Carley: “I have learned so much in such a short time. I’m still learning and I suspect I will be learning my whole life. You see, I didn’t start out in such a great place. But the truth is that I knew no other place before that, so I thought that where I was living was how it would be forever for me. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking things will never change. But the biggest thing I have learned is that actually things are always changing. Opportunities are waiting for us in unexpected places and sometimes at unexpected times. Because now, I know a whole different life. My other donkey friends who had started to give up on life are so much happier now that we are here. And I am now aware that the world can be a very beautiful place. I am here to say, never give up on hope. But, you must always remember, that change is not easy but if you want to see something different in your life, then change is what gets you there. This is what I have learned so far. I am grateful for every change I have experienced. It has brought me to where I am now and I am forever changed.”
From Belle: “I have done this message ritual for many years now. I actually requested to be a part of it again this year. I do not interact much with humans. Actually, that is not totally true. Humans just think that I don’t interact with them because I don’t like them handling me. But I actually am grateful for my human friends. They may not know this but I watch where they are all of the time. I know the running of this farm probably better than anyone. I know when to expect the caretakers to arrive and when they leave. I know when they are late and when they are here but not really totally here, if you know what I mean. I care about them. I have lived a life of my own choosing. I’ve made my own decisions. I’ve interacted in the ways I wanted to. Yet they have never given up on me or shut me out. I would like to let all of them know how much they mean to me. Because, even though I lost the last of my horse herd this year when Viva died, I still have my human family. They’ve never given up on me and for that I will always be grateful.”
From Woodward: “Sometimes gratitude is measured in tiny little steps rather than giant leaps. Life was rather difficult for me as I was outside trying to survive. And then an animal grabbed me and I thought I was going to die. I didn’t. But I couldn’t walk and I was helpless. A human found me and picked me up. I wasn’t used to humans and they were scarier than the animal that attacked me. But they brought me here and that’s when things started to change. Like water droplets, drip by drip, I started to understand a different kind of safety. In order for me to walk again, I needed their help. Sometimes the things we fear the most can offer the greatest healing and gifts. That is what I am learning. I can walk again. And play. And my purrs now represent a whole new level of happiness and understanding. I am grateful to be home.”
From Edith: “This is so exciting! I’m squealing with delight! This life is so full of opportunities. I am grateful for participating in all that I can. I had no idea that my life could be this fun and interesting. My mother and my siblings and I are very lucky pigs and we know it. I love to find out about everything around me. Cats, ducks, birds, people, dogs ….. I’ve met all sorts of interesting friends. I always stop and try to see how life is for them. What’s it like to be a cat? What do whiskers feel like? What’s it like to climb up high? I’m not really impressed with how they catch mice but oh well. They don’t understand why I like to roll in my tub either. I delight in learning about everyone. I am grateful for all of my life! I hope you find fun things too. Maybe you can come and visit and see what it’s like to be me!”
From Molly: “I am grateful for all of the smells that tell me what kind of day it is and what is happening. When I lost my eyesight, I thought my life was over. But I never could have dreamed how much it helped me to grow. I am grateful for this farm and everyone who creates and maintains this space for me to be safe and free to be who I really am. I can tell what my caretakers are feeding before they even reach my stall. I know what various grasses are in the hay and what variation we may have from the last feeding. I can tell what the weather is by the smell in the air. I can smell sunshine and I can smell rain. And I can feel everything around me. I know when people are happy or when they are sad. I understand so much more in my life now than when I could see. My world is not one of darkness. It is filled with more than I ever knew was there. I think people need to close their eyes more and open their hearts. You would be amazed at what little things you’d find to hold with gratitude.”
From Izzy: “I have done this every year for many years now. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do it again. One can never be too grateful in life. Gratitude can never be over expressed. I am old now. I am retired from the barn that I once was in charge of with my sister Bella. Now I live inside and I help with various projects going on here that are really important. I keep my eye on things always. I would like to make my message this year in honor of all the loved ones who are no longer with us in body but who are always alive in our hearts. Spirit never dies. Love never dies. It is important that we honor and remember that always. I am the keeper of memories. Loved ones are never forgotten. On this farm, the ones who have left are still a part of everything here. I know this for sure because I’ve been here for a long time and I have seen a lot of loved ones leave. But I can still feel all of them here just as I remember them. Let’s be grateful for our memories.”
From Mabel: “I am now and old woman and I have ever so much to be thankful for. One can never overstate the power of love. I have felt it and experienced this myself. Love can pull you through the hardest of times and help you reach for stars that you never thought to be possible. Love needs to be shared and felt and experienced. You cannot measure love but love will help you measure up to everything in your life. The greatest gift I know is the ability and freedom to love. Why do humans make this so complicated? I have an entire herd of donkeys that look up to me for guidance. And each of them also supports me in return. We all come from different backgrounds. We are all different ages. But when we stand together, we are present with one another in a sacred moment. I am grateful for those moments. Allow yourselves to find that in your lives too. You won’t regret it. I promise.”
From Flora: “I’m not particularly a chatty kind of goat. But I am grateful for friends. I have watched most of my friends die of old age or illness. I never thought I’d be the last one. Sometimes I get lonely and miss them. But then I realize that they are always with me in my thoughts. I am grateful to have known the gift of friendship, even when I miss it, at least I know that it is there inside of me still. And I know one day I will see all my friends again.”
From Henry: “At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to answer this question as I don’t always know what to say or how to say it. I didn’t feel that I’m good enough to answer. But, then I reconsidered after a little encouragement. I am a simple kind of guy. But my life has never been very simple. I tried and tried to make my body conform to the demands people put on me over time. It is not that I was stubborn. I tried my darndest but always seemed to come up short. I am not an athlete. I’m not even all that smart. But the one thing that always got missed on me is that I deeply feel things. No one seemed to notice that. This sanctuary truly has been a blessing to me. It is not just my body that found rest but my soul has found a deeper healing. I may not always be noticed because I’m not the flashiest horse around. But I am learning that it is ok to simply be me. I am grateful to have gotten that opportunity.”
From Olivia: “I am grateful for all I’ve learned. Age has offered me an opportunity to be wiser. I may move a bit slower now but I do so with more purpose. Whereas in my younger years I took any step just to move and didn’t care where that took me, now in my older years I take each step with purpose. I have more of a plan now. Years of learning has given me a more specific map inside myself. I realize now that every moment is one to savor and not to wasted thinking of somewhere I should have been or should not have gone. I took a misstep when I was young and it cost me one of my legs. But, had I not stepped into the trap that I couldn’t see, I wouldn’t have gotten here. And the real trap would have been for me to give up and throw away my life with the leg that I lost. Instead, I got up on the other three and took each step more gracefully and thoughtfully. I am grateful for everything in life. I don’t concentrate on the leg I have missing. I am grateful for the three I have left. They still got me where I was supposed to go and I ended up right where I needed to be.”
Today we had to say good-bye to our wonderful goat Lindy. Lindy had been with us since 2008 when she came with several other goats who were being sent to slaughter as they were being “liquidated” from a petting zoo. All of them lived out their lives here with us. Lindy was the last survivor of that group. Over the past few months, Lindy had been diagnosed with a mass in her bladder. She immediately received hospice care as we knew the placement of the mass unfortunately made it inoperable. Drugs helped reduce the obstruction temporarily and pain meds kept her comfortable. But the mass eventually grew to the point where Lindy could no longer urinate and we knew we had to let her go. Her last day here was spent enjoying all of her favorite treats from peppermints to Twinkies. She was pampered and doted on by her caretakers. Our hearts go out to Lindy’s goat companion Flora who misses her very much.
We think it appropriate to let Lindy speak for herself in her memorial. Just days ago, Lindy was featured in our Animal Message of the Day, a tradition we do from Thanksgiving thru New Years Day. We ask the animals what they are grateful for in their lives. Lindy’s quote says it all.
From Lindy: “One of the things I have learned most in my life is to never take life for granted. My life was deemed over before I came here. Not by me, but by others. I am here because humans allow me to be alive. But in my home here, I am not only alive but I am loved for who I am. My fondest wish came true and here I am. This year, I nearly died again. But this time, it was because something went wrong in my body. However, I wasn’t ready to go yet and my human friends saw that and they stepped in and helped. And once again, here I am. I am grateful to have the space to be me because being me was what I came here to do.”
Mission accomplished Lindy. You were the most spectacular you that you could be. We miss you and hold you in our hearts always.
From Mary Beth: “I am grateful for every single breath I take. I may have been born with challenges but those challenges became incredible opportunities for me. I am surrounded by friends and so much love. I never could have imagined this. My heart is so full each time I greet another day and see the people who I hold close to my heart and all my donkey and horse friends too. And I even have pigs for friends now as well. Life is good. There is never a breath that leaves my body that I take for granted. I have received the greatest gift of all, the gift of being treasured for who I am. I will never forget this.”
On December 10th, we said an unexpected good-bye to a horse who was born on this farm 28 years ago. Meloudee only knew one farm as his home for his entire life. Our loss is huge. His story needs to be told because Meloudee stood for all this farm is about. In fact, he is one of the founding horses who helped shape the mission and birth of Spring Farm CARES. There is only one more of those original horses left.
Meloudee was a magnificent Arab gelding. He was stubborn. He was strong. And he thought he was invincible. But Meloudee’s story is not about his royal Arab blood lines. Nor is it about show ribbons or trophies or titles. Meloudee’s story is about character and humility and growth – both of his own and for what he taught all of us around him.
Meloudee was misunderstood and mislabeled for most of his life. He was mostly seen as difficult and obstinate, or even called “crazy”. Granted, he could be all of those things, but he landed there because he wasn’t really being heard or understood. For most of his life he was content to be in the background and just hang out with his brother TLC. The two of them were extremely bonded. They spent their entire lives together until TLC died very unexpectedly earlier this year.
But in the past two years, something amazing changed for Meloudee and his life took a different turn. Cushing’s Disease led to chronic foot problems which required special trimming and shoeing and nursing care. His human caretaking team stepped in and began working with him differently. They began working with him and not against him. They began teaching him new ways instead of forcing things on him. He developed a new kind of trust. He started to understand things in a different way and Meloudee blossomed before our eyes. It took a lot of work and consistency and people working together as a team. He taught us so much and he learned a lot himself. For the past year, Meloudee could be handled and led and medicated and treated by his entire human care team. They developed a relationship that was quite deep. Meloudee was doing very well.
So the shock came at the end of the day, while he was standing in his stall calmly eating one second and then on the ground in pain the next. Meloudee was very stoic. So to see him in this extreme pain, we knew something terrible had happened. We knew he had reached the end and we had to say good-bye. Nothing prepares us for that moment. No matter how many times we go through this, it is always hard.
We are comforted by the fact that Meloudee’s life was so well lived. He grew in ways that was profound for his soul. The little Arab gelding who often stayed in the background taught us all more than we can even express. His story is also about the humans who made this all possible. The people who cared for him day and night and who enriched his life beyond measure. We thank Robin for heading up the team and for her patience and compassion in working with him in the way that opened doors and changed his life dramatically. And we thank his caretakers, Taylor, Cate, and Rachel. And his professional care team, his veterinarian Dr. Rachel and his farrier Loren.
From Lucy: “Well, I am grateful to be asked this question! I thought Dawn was going to pass right on by me as she was heading toward those crazy donkeys. Nah, that’s not true. I actually really like the donkeys. When we raise our voices together in song, it is a true masterpiece. I am grateful for so many things. I am after all pretty much in charge of everything here on the farm. I know every coming and going. Every year, we all look back together on the friends we’ve lost and the new friends who have come to join us. It feels like I’ve been a part of the fabric of this farm for 100 years. I can feel the energy beneath my feet. I feel the earth and the water and the air all around me. I almost left my body this year as I got a bit weak, but it was not my time to go. The humans took care of me to get me stronger but honestly it was the energy of this farm that lifted me back up and set me sturdy on these two legs. It is time we are all grateful for the Earth. Her heart beats right along with ours. That is what I wish to be grateful for and I hope you find that too.”
From Ginny: “We have seen a lot of change around this farm this year. There has been a big renewal in hope and faith and dreams. I’m not really sure the humans actually stop to take enough time to realize this. They see fencing projects and new pastures and building renovations and lots of work. But we animals see security and trust and hope being planted and nurtured and growing. My hope is for everyone hearing this message to find one thing today to be grateful for and hopeful about. Don’t let hopelessness cloud your day. There is always something to reach for and each of you have a seed of hope to give to someone else. I hope you can plant a seed today for me.”
From O’Malley: “I am and always will be grateful for my friends. I have human friends and cat friends that are just the greatest critters you can imagine. I love being loved. To me, it is what life is all about. I couldn’t imagine life without love. There was a time though that I thought I’d never find that. If you find yourself thinking the same thing, I can tell you that you need to think again. The greatest way to find love is to love someone yourself. If you love, love will find you. And when you love yourself and where you are, you will see absolute magic happen. That doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days. Sometimes I get sad and frustrated too. But then my friends step in and make it all better again.”
From Felix: “I am most grateful for my friends. At night, when it’s quiet, I am comforted by the breathing of all the animals around me. One of the sheep snores. Luna the goat dreams silly things and makes funny sounds. The horses all take turns resting and their breathing changes throughout the night. And my buddy Leo stands close and sometimes I can even hear his heart beating. It is comforting to know the breathing of friends. Life is precious. I am grateful for every breath around me.”
From Merlin: “Ahhh, everything in life brings about gratitude for me. Sometimes, it can be that first taste of a really good grape. Or the first light of the day greeting me. Or the sound of my humans singing in the morning. I’m grateful for that whistle that gets humans to follow me in song. I whistle then they whistle. Funny thing is that people think it’s the other way around. They think I mimic them, but in reality, they are the ones being trained by me! I get great joy watching how the human brain works. But, my hope for the world is that we all learn to mimic kindness in one another. Just like humming a catchy tune. Maybe we could all be kind and let it spread like a great tune or a catchy rhyme. That is my hope.”
From Piper: “I was born without eyesight. In fact, I do not even have any eyes. Yet, I see the world clearly. Maybe differently than you do, but clearly. My world is very alive to me. I can find a string in the dark that you can’t even see with your eyes. I can tell who all my cat friends are even though I haven’t seen them. Sometimes when you can’t see something you need to learn to trust that it is really there. If I spent my life doubting what was around me, I’d never have found joy in even one thing. Instead, I find joy in everything. I may not see it, but I experience it. I feel it. I am grateful for every single thing in my life. All of it. By losing my eyes, I gained a whole world of beauty in a different way. Life is very good. I hope you can feel that.”
From Lizzie: “I have gone through many changes in my life. When I came here to this farm, I thought it was just one more place to move to. What was left of my life? What was my purpose? It seemed like I didn’t have one anymore. But, suddenly, things are changing. I admit I have probably been a bit grumpy and impatient. Things are changing for me now. I am finding my purpose. This time, I hope I never have to leave. I like what I’m seeing. I’m grateful for all the support that has been given to me. I’d also like to give that back to all who are helping me. I think the most important thing in life is sharing what matters most to me with others. I’ve been around a lot of horses in many places and I have to say that not many of them could say that they feel understood. I know what that feels like now. It has changed my life forever.”
From Tessie: “With all of the goodness in the world, I have been fortunate to find it. Once, when I was younger, I was lost. I was alone. I was scared. But then someone found me and brought me to safety. I have always been grateful for that. But what came to me was that I now had a chance to help someone else. I found another person who was lost like I had been. I helped them find light inside their heart. It made me feel good to know I could do that. I feel it is an obligation to return kindness once it has been gifted to you. Because once you find kindness, you will always know that there is an endless supply to share. Even on cloudy, dreary days, the light and warmth of kindness is still there to share. It feels good to be the light someone needs in their day. I am grateful to have the light to share all because someone first shared theirs with me. I hope you will pass yours along as well. I would be grateful if you would.”
From Nell: “Geez, I hope I didn’t say the same thing last year! I’m still kind of new at this. But I have a lot to be grateful for. I have seen some difficult things in my life and there were times I didn’t think I wanted to go on. In fact, there were times I thought my life was over and it almost was. So, to step into each day with gratitude to be alive is a big thing. I think a lot of people overlook that aspect. People carry such heavy loads. Many times they then put those loads to us to carry for them. We try. But the only help for a heavy heart is love. I think if we could just all do that, there would be a lot more hope around everyone. Love is such an easy thing and there is no shortage ever. I hope you can all remember that simple thing. Just love one another. From there anything and everything is possible.”