How do your pets or animals in nature show their independent thinking?

Animals as Independent Thinkers

Anyone who lives with pets or watches animals in nature knows that they are independent thinkers. Animals have their own ways of viewing the world.

Animals make decisions that often are incomprehensible to humans. Yet if we’re observant and reflect upon animals’ choices, we can learn a lot about our own mental, emotional, and spiritual processes.

In our family of animals and humans, we often look at our animal companions and appreciate the friendship, unconditional love, and sense of family that they provide in our home. We’ve made the mistake, at times, of presuming to know their routines, needs, and moods. Humans are funny that way.

But the animals teach us that although they are in our care, their independence and sense of self are totally intact. These traits keep them unpredictable and immensely interesting to live with.

For example, our yellow cockatiel, Sunshine, decides when he is ready to go to the mantel each morning. His flight from the cage to the mantel, where he struts back and forth and looks out the windows on either side, is always on his terms and timetable.

Sunshine regards our act of opening the door to his cage as simply an invitation, not a command performance. When he is ready, he ventures out.

We say, “Sunshine, you’ve been cooped up all night. It is time to fly around.” He ignores human reasoning, though. If we try to assist by offering to give him a finger-ride to the mantel, Sunshine opens his beak threateningly and squawks.

Sunshine is quick to let us know that he’s in charge of the decision about if and when to fly. To us humans, Sunshine’s refusal of instant freedom is illogical. So we’ve settled for labeling our curmudgeon bird’s behavior as “independent thinking.”

As an aside, one of Sunshine’s old tricks, before we had broadband, was to make the sound of uploading AOL on the computer. He would sing every beat of it perfectly. When he sat on Linda’s shoulder in the morning, he’d remind her to check her e-mail by turning on his version of AOL.

How do your pets or animals in nature show their independent thinking?

We welcome you to answer this question and the “Something to Think About” question at our blogs and forums, so everyone can see your comments.

Note: Horse with a Mission and Angel Dogs with a Mission are half price at shop.angelanimals.net until December 14th.  Visit www.angelanimals.net for details.

Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network
www.angelanimals.net

***To subscribe to the Angel Animals Story of the Week newsletter send a blank e-mail message to angelanimals-on@mail-list.com. Visit http://archive.mail-list.com/angelanimals to read past Angel Animals newsletters.

 

How have horses or other animals listened to your deepest longings and heard what no one else could hear?”

Excerpt from HORSES WITH A MISSION: Extraordinary True Stories of Equine Service by Allen and Linda Anderson (New World Library, 2009), pp. 114-118. Reprinted with permission. All Rights Reserved. To subscribe to the Angel Animals Story of the Week newsletter send a blank e-mail message to angelanimals-on@mail-list.com. Visit http://archive.mail-list.com/angelanimals to read past Angel Animals newsletters.

Horses with a Mission is on sale for half price until December 14th at shop.angelanimals.net

BUTCH, THE HORSE WHO BELIEVED IN MY DAUGHTER
Jodi Buchan, Bemidji, Minnesota

While raising my ten-year-old child, Katie, who has profound mental retardation, my family experienced many encounters with the two-legged cherubic kind — or what I like to think of as earthly manifestations of guardian angels. What I didn’t expect to come across was one with four hooves and a whinny who tucked his Pegasus-sized wings beneath his saddle.

Butch, a retired chestnut gelding, standing about 14 hands high, was one of the horses at SMaRT, the Snow Mountain Ranch Therapeutic Riding Program at the YMCA of the Rockies in Fraser, Colorado, where I took Katie for therapeutic riding. When corralled in with the mares, Butch would thrust his maleness in the direction of every potential mate. Since I’m not an equine specialist, I can’t say if this was typical behavior, but I came to learn that Butch was not a typical horse. Whether the mares responded with a kick or a stampede, he was not deterred.

On the other hoof, whenever he assumed his role as therapy horse, his stride became patient and gentle. His slow, rhythmic, and repetitive gait and the natural movement of his hindquarters influenced his riders, improving their core strength, range of motion, and stamina. It seemed that whatever his mission, be it misguided mating attempts or guided therapy activities, wherever his heart led him, Butch’s dedication was unflappable.

Butch was not merely the “object of modality,” as his purpose is described on paper in grants to funding organizations and reports to medical partners.

The breadth of Butch’s contribution to the multidisciplinary therapy team, helping clients with movement, communication, and behavior is broader than that of his four-wall office counterparts: the hammock-like net swing and the padded, tubular bolster. These are. tools for aiding a therapist in creating positions that strengthen weak neck muscles or challenge balance for their clients, but the net swing and bolster are still inanimate objects. These aids can be useful, even stimulating, but they cannot come close to duplicating the immeasurable benefits of the human-animal bond.

By the time midsummer 1997 came around, Butch and my daughter, Katie, had developed an unspoken understanding, a trust between rider and provider.

Katie’s Breakthrough

At the beginning of one therapy session, I brought Katie to the base of the wooden mounting ramp. Off in the pine-framed meadow, Rose, the program director, led Butch by the reins. Her golden hair lassoed into a ponytail, Rose led a sun-ripened band of three volunteers who trailed behind Katie and Butch.

Katie didn’t look directly at any of them. She tipped her head. Using her peripheral vision to briefly glance in their direction, Katie made a guttural note of excited anticipation-her version of language. I held onto Katie’s arm as she circled and circled in a jig, similar to what she does when waiting for her school bus to pick her up.

Once Butch was safely between the mounting platform and another elevated wooden base, he stood still and patiently remained with his colleagues. Rose took my daughter up the ramp and guided Katie’s hands to the saddle horn. She lifted Katie’s right leg over the saddle. A second volunteer, standing on the platform across from Rose, put Katie’s foot into a stirrup. When Katie was centered, Rose said, “Katie, tell Butch to walk on.”

Katie smiled, unresponsive to Rose’s request. Aside from various pitches of sound indicating her excitement or discomfort, Katie’s only other form of expressing herself was through an adapted sign language. This was limited to “eat,” “drink,” and occasionally “more,” along with a turn away of her head for “no.” We all waited for any kind of response.

Rose repeated the prompt. Katie waited for something to happen, seemingly content just to sit on Butch. Rose waited and repeated the verbal cue a third time. While we listened for any kind of sound from my daughter, the volunteers watched her feet for a slight kicking movement, another way a nonverbal rider could tell Butch she was ready to go.

Finally a volunteer on each side of the horse lifted Katie’s feet to help her tap Butch’s flanks. Rose spoke for Katie and cheerfully said, “Walk on,” and they all headed toward the corral.

Katie’s usually curved, slumped posture straightened. She lifted her head and beamed a smile of pride to the audience — me. I swallowed her joy in a lump and claimed it for my own. Katie has had little to say in her own life, and she attempts whatever is asked of her. In spite of significant challenges, she is completely trusting and seems at peace with her circumstances. In that moment I filled with admiration at the way she sat upon Butch. My daughter, my Katie, my Dale Evans.

Engaged in fun and motivated by Butch, Katie didn’t recognize that she had been positioned on him to achieve therapeutic goals. They were goals that would help her to walk with more stability, sit and stand with a stronger spine, and engage in developing communication. The fact that the assisted motion of mounting him was the same for getting into the bathtub at home — a specific life skill — was an added bonus. Therapy was boring. Butch was inspiring.

After he walked in the corral, Butch matched his gait to the stride of the volunteer holding his lead rope. The other two volunteers, who were walking on either side for the rider’s safety, helped Katie pull back slightly on the reins to stop Butch. They added a “whoa” for her. They handed Katie a plastic ring and guided her hands to drop the ring over a fence post.

Next, they wove their path around barrels, stepped over a row of logs, and even turned Katie around to ride Butch backward. Butch was in sync through it all, even to the point of helping to right his rider by giving a little bump of his bum when she started to slide out of position. To offer Katie and Butch a change of scenery, they all headed out to a trail in the woods.

At the end of nearly an hour riding backward, forward, and sideways, Katie’s stamina faded. She still smiled but was physically exhausted. As they walked back toward me, before they had even reached a halt, Rose said to me, “Katie said, ‘Walk on.'”

“She did?” I asked, a tone of disbelief in my voice.

Katie didn’t talk. Ever.

After nine and a half years of occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy, none of her human therapists had been able to stimulate Katie’s language. And none of those synthetic bolsters, dangling net swings, or cause-and-effect toys, which when poked, shaken, or rolled rewarded the effort with a sound, a light, or other stimulus, had prompted any language.

In fact, after years of stomped hopes and dreams with words such as, “Maybe when she’s three, she’ll be able . . . ,” “When she’s five, eight, ten . . . ,” I’d learned to lower my expectations. The fighting with our city and school district for inclusive activities and appropriate services had gotten to me. The words, “Jodi, you can’t expect miracles,” spoken by a school administrator, had begun to resonate. I’d become half empty. I’d become a mother who thinks of her child, “She can’t do that.”

Nevertheless, there is something ethereal in therapeutic horseback riding. In spite of her disabilities, Katie was participating in an activity some city slickers find terrifying. She had placed all her trust, vulnerability, and ability in Butch’s care without a moment’s hesitation.

That very next week on the mounting ramp Rose again told Katie, “Tell Butch to walk on.” I could see Butch’s left brown eye. His ear twitched backward. I thought I recognized an expression from him of anticipation, of hope.

Then we all heard it – the “w” and “k” sounds were absent. There was no lip closure, but the rhythm and inflection was unmistakable. She said, “Ahh, ann.” Butch gently began to walk. He’d heard it. I don’t think he ever doubted that he would.

At the end of the session that day, after his biscuit and some TLC, I watched a volunteer lead Butch back into the corral with the rest of the horses.

Butch had become the horse who taught me to look up again, who taught me to raise my expectations, to have a little more faith in my daughter’s unknown capabilities and future. Butch is the horse who taught me that miracles can happen 14-hands high above the corral dust.

To see a photo of Butch, go to www.horseswithamission.com

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

“Meditation: Butch’s belief in Katie brought about a miracle for Jodi to witness. How have horses or other animals listened to your deepest longings and heard what no one else could hear?”

BIO:
“Jodi Buchan has been a merchandiser, advocate, and writer. She is currently working on the story of a mother’s metamorphosis, NORMAL: A MYTHICAL MEMOIR.”
Allen and Linda Anderson
ANGEL ANIMALS NETWORK
www.angelanimals.net
shop.angelanimals.net  — Horses with a Mission is on sale for half price until December 14th
www.horseswithamission.com

To subscribe to the Angel Animals Story of the Week newsletter send a blank e-mail message to angelanimals-on@mail-list.com. Visit http://archive.mail-list.com/angelanimals to read past Angel Animals newsletters.

 

Horses Who Found Their Purpose

We’re doing a special edition of the Angel Animals in Our Midst Blog to make sure all our readers know what a treasure-trove of stories are in the new book, HORSES WITH A MISSION.

Since it’s nearing the holiday season, we’re combining this special edition with a half-price sale on the autographed book from our bookstore (shop.angelanimals.net). The book is now half-price at $7.49 for U.S. only. Sorry, but our bookstore doesn’t accept orders from outside the U.S.

THIS SALE ENDS ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2009. Last year’s new book, ANGEL DOGS WITH A MISSION, is also being offered at half-price for the duration of this sale.

The book is also available at other online bookstores around the world, at www.newworldlibrary.com, and at chain and independent bookstores.

To read more about this book and see photos of the majestic horses in it, go to www.horseswithamission.com

But first, we want you know how much love and devotion each of the twenty-one amazing contributors put into this book. We all worked along with Georgia Hughes, our wonderful editor at New World Library, to bring you the best telling of each story.

Our hope is that you will both enjoy and be inspired by these incredibly heart-opening testaments to the spiritual nature of horses. The stories honor horses who have helped people to fulfill important dreams and who have found their own meaning and purpose in life.

In this book you’ll meet:

MOLLY: a pony who survived Hurricane Katrina and the loss of a leg, but went on to spread her message of hope to children and adults with disabilities. Her story went viral with coverage on the Internet, in the New York Times, and on the CBS Evening News.

SANKOFA: an Arabian stallion who made it possible for social studies teacher Miles J. Dean to complete a cross-country journey in tribute to African American ancestors. Millions of adults and schoolchildren followed their odyssey as Miles and Sankofa made history come alive.

DIANA: a wild horse of the rare Gila herd who proved to be a proud and resourceful lead mare, protecting her herd and teaching the great lesson of forgiveness.

VIOLA: a Norwegian Fjord horse who was imported from Norway to become a broodmare in upstate New York and eventually made her way to Tanya Welsch and MN LINC (Minnesota Linking Individuals, Nature, and Critters). With her innate maternal wisdom, Viola is incredibly intuitive and nurturing, especially with at-risk youth.

PEGASUS: an ornery and unfulfilled horse who found his mission in life by nurturing a rescued foal with a gravely ill mother and went on to provide surrogate care to numerous weaker horses.

The book has been reviewed in a number of magazines and newspapers and we’ve been interviewed about it on radio and television.

For about a month now, the book has been listed as a Top 100 Bestseller in the “horse” book category on Amazon.com. Last week, it became a Heartland Indie (independent bookstores) regional bestseller.

Below is a partial list of print reviews:

**Best Friends Magazine (Nov.-Dec. 2009)
**Equine Wellness
**The Latham Letter
**New York Daily
**News Santa Barbara’s The Daily Sound
**Ride Magazine

Rather than our going on and on about what a great book this is to read, we’ll let readers and reviewers express what they appreciated about its unique ability to bring good news to a world that needs to be reminded of the best in human and horse nature.

“The stories in Horses with a Mission demonstrate the soul presence in horses as they use their innate creativity, sensitivity, and intelligence to make choices that serve themselves and others. Karen Sussman’s account of rescuing and documenting a wild horse herd reminds all of us that native and indigenous horses have been here for 52 million years. With hearts and minds open, we can learn from the wild and domesticated horses in this wonderful book.”
–Joe Camp, author of The Soul of a Horse and creator of the films starring the canine superstar Benji

“This collection of stories will remind anyone who has ever had a horse as a best friend, confidante, and soul mate of what a special gift that can be.”
–Carson Kressley, Emmy Award-winning TV host, designer, and author of Off the Cuff

“The brilliant complilation of lovely and touching stories reflect upon the remarkable connection between humans and equines. You don’t need to be an avid equestrian like me to truly enjoy this book, as the stories resonate with a spirit of hope and harmony that is shared by all creatures great and small.”
–Alison Eastwood, actress, director, and producer

“The spiritual and physical bond between horses and the humans who love them often reaches mystical proportions. Nothing celebrates that very special relationship more movingly or with greater clarity than Horses with a Mission.”
–Steven D. Price, editor of The Whole Horse Catalog

“Through their courage, sensitivity, and kindness, the horses in this book become our inspiration and guides. I was especially taken with the way each story gives us something to reflect on in our own
lives. And each chapter ends with an invitation to follow up on what we’ve just felt and experienced, a way to experience quiet time with these magical beings.”
–Michael Mountain, former president of Best Friends Animal Society

“This important book will spark your imagination and inspire you to embrace the magical moments in life that happen every single day. This book is a joy to read.”
–Melanie Sue Bowles, author of Hoof Prints and founder of Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary

“Horses with a Mission allows us to travel into the world of the horse from so many unique perspectives and introduces horses that have touched and changed the lives of many people. To have our own writer, Cooky McClung, featured in this wonderful work makes it all the more fun. It’s a fabulous read.”
–Mason Phelps, Jr., president, PhelpsSports.com

“As an equine professional teaching in seven countries for over forty years, I have read and witnessed many inspirational, magical, and  wonderful interactions between horses and humans. Horses with a Mission is an exceptional collection of such stories. The contributors fine writing abilities and talent share the deep appreciation and love they have for their equine counterparts. Bravo. Enjoy!”
–Franklin Levinson, www.WayoftheHorse.org

“Many pets are here on this earth to help humans in the journey of life. Horses, with their primal nature as prey animals, daily make choices to override their fears, get past traumas, and put themselves in danger
to be one with the humans who love them. The stories in this book are  great examples of the power of unconditional love, which I am reminded of every day in my work helping clients.”
–Lydia Hiby, animal communicator

“When I was a child I was fascinated by the love for horses the cowboy heroes showed — like Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger. Indeed, Trigger at times seemed almost human. This book [Horses with a Mission] celebrates horses that have helped people heal in various ways and that have become special servants to people in need. Horses clearly can have therapeutic uses, and the collection of stories here captures some of the more remarkable examples.”
–Bill Tammeus, Bristol Herald Courier, October 10, 2009

“As with all the Andersons’ books, Horses With a Mission relates amazing, poignant stories of animals who make a difference in people’s lives. These horses, though, go beyond the expected to true acts of courage and heroism, demonstrating the powerful link between humans and horses and also the feats of love and compassion possible when we follow our best instincts.”
–Eason.com, October 2009

“[Horses with a Mission] With twenty-one dramatic true stories of courageous, loyal, and loving horses who found their life’s purpose, this book reveals the wonders possible when both humans and horses are encouraged and allowed to follow their best instincts.”
–New Consciousness Review: Books that Expand Minds and Lift Hearts, August 28, 2009

“Horses with a Mission: Extraordinary True Stories of Equine Service is a feel-good book that any animal lover can appreciate. While I am a dog person at heart, I found many similarities in the stories included in Horses with a Mission and several of the dog-human stories I’ve read in the past. This is a brilliant compilation of loving, heart-warming stories and would make a wonderful gift for any animal lover on your list this year.”
–Nicole, Lapdog Creations, October 2009

“Horses with a Mission is a great book that shares amazing and heart-warming, true stories about horses. The stories show how horses help humans by enriching, inspiring, and even saving lives.”
–Ride Magazine, November 18, 2009

“Another great work [Horses with a Mission] by authors Allen and Linda Anderson. This husband and wife writing team have put together such classics as the popular Angel Animals anthology series published by New World Library including Angel Dogs, Angel Cats, Angel Horses, and many more.”
–Pet Memorial World, October 2009

Another wonderful book [Horses with a Mission] by Allen Anderson of stories from his readers of how horses have changed peoples’ lives. Very touching stories of horses that return to their original home, the impact the horse had on a person and/or the whole family. All the stories touch the reader and you find yourself remembering the stories and talking to other animal lovers about them.
–Victoria Yates, Chapters.Indigo.ca, November 14, 2009

When have you witnessed an animal overcoming fear or anxiety to burst into the light of self-confidence?

Facing Your Fears

We often take Leaf to the dog park.  We especially like the one that has a river running through it.  At this park Leaf runs, plays, explores, and has a great time.

On a recent November day Leaf was having a lot of fun.  I (Allen) would throw the ball into the river, making sure it didn’t float out too far. Leaf would go in after it with only a bit of hesitation as he evaluated the distance and possible challenges.

We walked the long distance to where there is an inlet of still water from the fast-moving river. The water in this inlet is dark, undisturbed, and appears to be deep. It’s unlike the river where there are all sorts of activities with dogs jumping in, small waves from the boats passing by, and people chatting and throwing sticks into the water while intermittently sipping on their Starbucks coffee.

This inlet also had a few ducks swimming nearby. But the real difference was how still the dark surface of the water was, as if there were unknowns lurking below it.

Leaf loves his black-and-white ball.  He lives to chase and find it, often running into the water and retrieving to bring back the ball for more tosses.

After we arrived at the inlet I threw Leaf’s ball into this different type of water. He hesitated.  He looked at the ball and at me. I said, “You can do this.”  It was not that far for him to swim and retrieve the ball, maybe six feet away from where he stood on his short legs with water up to his knees.

A gentleman sat on a log nearby and watched us.  I learned later that his larger dog was also a rescue. Like Leaf, the man’s dog had become a wonderful friend and companion. The man called out words of encouragement for Leaf to go and get his ball.

Leaf barked at the ball. He whined and whimpered as if pleading with it to return on its own. Since the ball wouldn’t cooperate, Leaf took one careful step after another into the water. It was clear that he did not know if he might be hurt by some unknown danger lying in wait below the surface.

Nearby, maybe three or four feet to the left of where Leaf’s ball floated, an old rather large tree branch had fallen into the inlet.  Leaf looked at the branch. He assessed the situation and worked out a strategy.

Carefully he jumped up onto the long branch and slowly walked toward where his ball floated.  He took one cautious step after another. As he drew closer, I could tell that he still felt conflicted. Should he continue on his quest or retreat to the safety of land?

Bravely he continued onward.  After arriving at the spot closest to his floating ball, Leaf had to make another decision.  Would he jump into the ominous water or retreat from a dive into the unknown?

The gentleman said that watching Leaf’s dilemma and problem-solving skills was the cutest thing he had ever seen a dog do. He commented on how smart Leaf was to find a way to retrieve his ball.  He also observed how conflicted Leaf seemed to be.

I said nothing to Leaf at this point. I knew he needed the freedom to make his own decision.  And he did.

He held tightly to the branch with his paws. He jumped into the murky, still water. His head and body dipped under the surface for a second.  He emerged from the dive, saw his ball, grabbed it in his mouth with determination, and victoriously swam back to shore.

Leaf had conquered his fear. A bright light of new confidence emanated from him.  Both the man who had been watching and I were totally enthusiastic about Leaf and his victory over fear.  He had made the decision to face the unknown, and I was so proud of him.

See Video of Leaf playing at the dog park at www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiVo_Jdt8lA

What fears lurk in the dark, still waters of your life? When have you witnessed an animal overcoming fear or anxiety to burst into the light of self-confidence?

Allen and Linda Anderson
ANGEL ANIMALS NETWORK
www.angelanimals.net

Have you had a special relationship with a chicken or other animal most people only think of as edible?

“Boots, A Chicken with Options” by Sam Griffin was first published in the Angel Animals Story of the Week Newsletter on November 7, 2009.  Visit http://archive.mail-list.com/angelanimals to read past Angel Animals newsletters.

BOOTS, A CHICKEN WITH OPINIONS
By Sam Griffin

There was a time when I would shop at the grocery store, never giving a thought to what it was I was really eating. Slowly I became aware of all the chemicals and preservatives in the food, the pesticides and irradiation used on the produce, the inhumane treatment of the animals whose meat I was eating.

I became vegetarian, started growing vegetables in my tiny backyard, stopped buying anything that had ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, and purchased a few hens to have my own eggs.

Finally, I decided it was time to leave the city behind and move somewhere I could become as self-sufficient as possible. I planned to leave materialism behind and live a simpler, more rewarding life. I moved to a small farm in rural Virginia after selling my row home just outside of Philadelphia. Quite a radical lifestyle change, but it was time to “put my money where my mouth is.”

The hens on my new farm were the biggest challenge. I had five chicks and no idea what I was doing. I read everything I could find about raising chickens. As they grew and thrived, I learned just how fun and curious chickens are. What a surprise to discover that they had personalities, different food preferences, and odd habits unique to each bird.

One lovely spring day, while I shopped at the local flea market, I was astonished to see goats, turkeys, and chickens for sale. Most of the animals were sad, sickly specimens. It broke my heart to see them. I just wanted to buy them all and give them a better life. But if I did that, I would be encouraging the owners to breed more.

In the back of the flea market lot I noticed a man whose birds looked well cared for, clean, and healthy. As I looked over the birds, proud of myself that I could identify the different breeds, an older gentleman approached the vendor and said in a booming voice, “I need a rooster!”

The vendor asked, “What breed?”

The man hollered, “I don’t care; just as long as it makes a lot of noise. I’ve got a hen in the coyote trap now, but she doesn’t make a sound, so I’m not catching any coyotes.”

Needless to say, I was stunned. Using live chickens as bait? Do people really do that?

The vendor showed the man a rooster in a cage with a hen of the same breed. The man wanted the rooster, but the vendor said he sold only in pairs. The man said he’d take the pair.

Unable to be quiet any longer, I asked, “What are you going to do with the hen?”

He said, “I’ll just turn her loose in the woods. Something will eat her.”

I said, “What about the hen in the trap?”

He replied, “I’ll just turn her out too.”

Without hesitation I asked, “Can I have both hens?” Luckily, he said yes.

Soon I was following his pickup all over twisting back roads and into a dense pine forest. We approached the trap, and there was this tiny hen, laying in inches of muck with no food or water. Choking down my anger, I took the hen and thanked the man. Somehow I managed to find my way home.

After getting the flea market hen settled in, I took the tiny trap hen out of the box and looked her over. She was in horrible condition. She stank, her comb was purple, she was sneezing, and her breathing was labored.

Her feet were completely infected. She only had one toe left on each foot. The toenails were so long she couldn’t stand. I was completely at a loss. I knew I didn’t have the skills to help her.

I put her outside in a flowerbed with food and water nearby. She stretched a wing and a leg, soaking up the warm sunshine rays. Every so often, she reached up to take a sip of water and a few pecks of food.

After a time, she dug a little hole, which took a while with those two remaining toes, and rolled around in the dirt. A look of complete bliss came over her face. I remember thinking, “Well, if she doesn’t make it, at least she’ll have one perfect day in the sun.”

After dozens of phone calls, I finally found a veterinarian who would look at her. He said she had pneumonia. He gave me antibiotics and showed me how to treat and bandage her feet. He said if the infection in her feet got into the bones, she couldn’t be saved.

I took her home. For weeks, I gave her medicine and changed her bandages, clipped her nails, and fed her treats. Slowly, she began to recover.

One morning I was awakened at six in the morning by an unbelievably loud squawking. I raced downstairs to find little Boots (named so for her bulky, bandaged feet) standing at the front of her cage and hollering her head off.

Nothing appeared to be wrong, so I went to the cabinet that contained the container of oatmeal, figuring I’d give her a treat to quiet her down. As I walked toward her with the container, she began jumping up and down excitedly.

I put a handful of oatmeal in her dish, and she immediately stopped yelling and began to eat, making little contented cooing noises. This ritual continued every morning for months until she was able to move out to the coop with the rest of the flock.

In the meantime she slowly came to rule the household. I bought her a little chicken diaper. During the day she would sit on my desk while I worked, sauntering across the keyboard, pecking at all my papers.

She began sneaking upstairs to lay eggs under my bed. She loved to fly up on top of the refrigerator and stare down at the silly mortals below. She would steal and hide shiny things and swipe food if I made the mistake of leaving anything lying around. It was time for her to be an outdoor chicken.

I put Boots with the other chickens. She rapidly moved to the top of the pecking order, attacking anyone who messed with her, even though she was the tiniest.

She seemed a little lonely. I got her a boyfriend of the same breed, a cute little guy I named Bill. She ignored him pointedly at first, rejecting his advances. Eventually, she relented.

Today Boots is the proud mom of three daughters — Shoes, Sandals, and Slippers, all carbon copies of her but with more toes. She is a fiercely protective mother. Even my huge Orpington rooster lives in terror of her.

In the winter Boots lives inside. The nerve damage to her feet makes her unable to keep them warm enough. She is one tough little girl, and I’m proud of her.

I now have forty chickens, six turkeys, and ten quail. Most are rescues; a few have disabilities. Bringing them back to health and watching their antics is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

Living on a farm in the middle of nowhere is hard work, but one look at Boots, and I know it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.

See photos of Boots at www.angelanimals.net/nlimage20.html

BIO:
Sam Griffin lives near South Boston, Virginia. She has turkeys, quails, and chickens. A story about Boots was published on September 28, 2009 in PeoplePets.com. Prior to the story’s publication one of the writers for PeoplePets was on a poultry site looking for people who owned chickens in the city. She planned to do a story about urban chickens. Before Sam moved to the country, she had kept chickens in the backyard and garage of her city row home. After Sam called the writer, the woman used other people’s stories for that article, but loved Boots and ran Sam’s story in PeoplePets later. Sam does not have a website or an organization, however she seems to be gaining a reputation in the area for taking in all unwanted/broken/special needs/abandoned animals. Her friends tease her that it takes five of her chickens to make one complete bird with all functioning parts. Sam says that she writes about Boots the way some people go on about their kids.

 

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:
Have you had a special relationship with a chicken or other animal most people only think of as edible?
Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network
www.angelanimals.net

 

To subscribe to the Angel Animals Story of the Week newsletter send a blank e-mail message to angelanimals-on@mail-list.com.

Visit http://archive.mail-list.com/angelanimals to read past Angel Animals newsletters.

When have you noticed animals in nature or your pets displaying a sixth sense?

Animal Sniffers and Sixth Senses

We live in a houseful of sniffers. Anything new, in a different place, or that could possibly be food gets sniffed by our two cats and dog. The bird checks out the new and unusual with his calls and screeches.

As we observe how the animals who share our home carefully inspect and analyze objects with their noses, it’s a reminder that we’re living with a different life form — one that doesn’t approach the world as humans do.

Animals have their own ways of viewing the planet. No matter how hard we might try, we’ll never experience the world as they do. We can’t imagine what we’d understand if we explored life with the noses and licking tongues of dogs and cats, the ultrasound of dolphins, or the pecking of birds.

And then there is the animals’ sixth sense. The mystical, spiritual, extrasensory sense that many of them seem to have in abundance. Anyone who lives with an animal and has an open mind and heart has to admit that there are just some things animals seem to know.

Early on, after we started Angel Animals Network, a reporter from our local newspaper, the MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE, came to our house. She was doing a story about this strange couple who were collecting, writing, and publishing stories about the spiritual nature of animals.

The reporter got out her tape recorder and placed it on the table in front of us. Then she proceeded to ask questions. We answered them as honestly and carefully as we could.

Our cockatiel, the yellow, orange-cheeked Sunshine, sat on his perch in the living room where the interview took place. Mostly he remained silent. Occasionally he would join in the conversation with a chirp, a song, or a string of words that were unintelligible to the reporter.

Later, in the article that appeared accompanied by a half-page photo of us walking around Lake Harriet with our yellow Lab Taylor, the reporter commented on an unusual thing she had observed in our home. Listening the tape recording of the interview had been quite a revelation for her.

Every time the reporter asked a question of a spiritual nature, Sunshine seemed to chime in with a comment. Only questions about Spirit, God, or miracles caused him to express an opinion. She was amused but also mystified by Sunshine’s ability to sense when the subject matter had turned to a less mundane or more unearthly topic.

When have you noticed animals in nature or your pets displaying a sixth sense?

Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network
www.angelanimals.net