EP011 The Wonderment of Catskill Animal Sanctuary

This is a true story. I say this because there are parts that feel like a dream. Recently I returned from Catskill Animal Sanctuary in New York state. My memories still fresh, I recall little details that make me smile. So, I open this podcast with “This is a true story.”

Hello, welcome to my podcast. My name is Dee and I am The Introverted Advocate. The mission of my podcast is simply this – to create a kinder, more compassionate world through advocacy. I began advocating back in 2014 and I have a few stories I’d like to share. Advocating is like an adventure and it can be done from the comfort of your keyboard at home, or it could be an adventure of meeting new people, learning new skills, or finding out that the world is full of caring individuals who are ready to lend a hand or their heart when they see a need. I invite you to look around in your world and see who might need a little support and kindness. It could be one individual, it could be a group or a cause, it could be a community. Are you ready? All right, let’s get to it.

This is a true story. I say this because there are parts that feel like a dream.

Recently I returned from Catskill Animal Sanctuary in New York state.

My memories still fresh, I recall little details that make me smile.

So, I open this podcast with “This is a true story.” Because it is.

Twelve months ago, I booked my flight to Albany, New York. Then I booked 4 nights in the Dino Room of The Homestead, the bed and breakfast on the grounds of the sanctuary.

Having read two books written by founder and director, Kathy Stevens, my excitement increased.

Kathy’s books are magical short essays portraying the animals who live there. She pulls you in with each word. My mind’s eye reveled in the beautiful descriptions – so heartwarming.

I was stoked! This would be an educational vacation! I am an animal advocate with much to learn.

But then…daily life got busy. Over the year, I worked very hard and focused on projects.

Launching a podcast, writing my stories, building my website and holding down a full-time job – all of this wore me out. Our Florida summer was scorching hot. Overwhelm was creeping in.

Just one week before my flight to Albany, my body told me that self-care and time away was coming “not a moment too soon.”  I was on the verge of being so tired that I might forget my own name.

I messaged my friend, Jennifer, who lives in California. I described my state of exhaustion and she responded with this:

“You are doing a thousand times better than you think you are. Go to the sanctuary and fill your cup.”

(Deep sigh!) What a wonderful phrase to read. “Fill your cup.”

I replied: “I love you for that!”

So that is what I did. I traveled to Catskill Animal Sanctuary and stayed for four nights. On the last evening of my trip, I accepted an invitation to have dinner with new friends. We talked and laughed for three hours. It was the perfect ending to my vacation.

When I returned to my room at the Homestead around 10 o’clock, I sat on the bed and gathered my thoughts. Then my eyes began to fill with tears.

“What is this? Tears?”

I was puzzled for a moment.  I took inventory of my emotions… was I still exhausted beyond words?

No. Exhaustion was gone. Stress was gone. After three full days at the sanctuary, I was feeling calm and hopeful and… (what is that word? What I am trying to say?)

Grateful! I am grateful!  That is it!  These are tears of gratitude. Oh, my word.

It’s been awhile since I’ve felt THIS MUCH new gratitude.  It’s new, because I’ve never experienced any place quite like this one.

All my life, I’ve felt thankful for the many gifts and lessons that enriched me.

Yet Catskill Animal Sanctuary is different. It evokes a new gratitude…a “down to my soul” type of gratitude.

Sitting on the bed, teary-eyed and reflecting a bit more, I reached for my cellphone to message my friend.

I wrote: “Jennifer, cup is full.”

More tears came to my eyes. And just so you know, I don’t get teary at the drop of a hat.  When tears come to me, it’s from a deep place.

I wrote another message to elaborate.

“Jennifer, it is like walking into the pages of the founder’s two books where she painted extraordinary portraits of these animals. I met some of them. They are exactly as Kathy Stevens wrote.  I walked into a fairy tale.”

Exhaling with a mixture of emotion and joy, I sank into the bed and fell asleep.

(Grin)   But at 3AM, I woke up.

“Fairy tale?” I said to myself. Sitting up, I reached for my cellphone. I re-read my message to Jennifer. Indeed, I used that phrase “fairy tale.”

What? Really? I never liked fairly tales as a child. While I knew they imparted good messages or wise advice, my serious childhood found fairy tales frivolous. So why in the world did I type those two words?

The last thing I want to do is use the wrong phrase to describe my experience. This trip has been life-changing. I need to get this correct. And I’m not sure what meaning “fairy tale” conveys.

Now it is 3:10AM.  And I am wide awake on a mission to solve this mystery.

Googling would help! Typing in the two words, the results came quickly.

One source offered this: “Fairy Tale – a story full of interesting characters that evokes Wonderment and often includes A Series of Unexpected Events.”

I gasped out loud.  I held my breath to re-read those words.

Then releasing my breath, my shoulders relaxed as those words rang so very true.

Wonderment. Yes!

Interesting characters. Yes!

A series of unexpected events. Most definitely, Yes!

This was the feeling that overcame me over time at Catskill Animal Sanctuary.

I had indeed walked into the pages of Kathy Stevens two books. The wonderment, the interesting characters, the series of unexpected events. Oh, my word!

I had indeed – Walked into a Fairy Tale.

At this point, more tears. This was an epic moment. This revelation was overwhelming.

After working hard for 12 months to take to this vacation, I fulfilled my dreams.

All of them. And more! Catskill Animal Sanctuary gave me more than I anticipated.

My cup was full. And my heart and soul were beaming with childish delight.

Our inner child that resides deep within us craves wonderment. That young spirit inside craves a series of unexpected events. Deep down inside, we all want and need to be inspired.

The people and animals of Catskill Animal Sanctuary offered me these healing gifts.

All that was required of me was to breathe the fresh air and relax into the peaceful vibe of the beautiful scenery.

All I needed to do was observe the different animals and their friends.

All I needed to do was offer a soft greeting to the Underfoot Family of seven sheep as they casually sauntered around and past me on their way to the barn.

All I needed was to whisper “thank you” into Tucker the cow’s fuzzy ear.

All I neededwas this place.

Having walked down the lane and into the fairy tale on Thursday morning, I departed Sunday afternoon with a heart full of compassion, hope and inspiration.

And if you wish to feel the wonderment, I’d suggest Kathy’s two books:  Where the Blind Horse Sings and Animal Camp (the 2013 edition).

Special thanks to Kathy Stevens for creating this extraordinary sanctuary. Kathy, you brighten our world with your vision of hope and kindness. Thank you for sharing your joy and your stories with us.

And finally, to the animals at the sanctuary: Tucker the cow, Junior the sheep, Russell the pig, Travis the rooster, Julius the horse, Leo the baby goat – you touch my heart more than I could ever say. My future stories will be about you.

Stay tuned for more real-live fairy tales from the Catskill Animal Sanctuary.

…and they lived happily ever after.

The End.