Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

their joy

I’ve had the occasional request for pictures of animals expressing joy. I’ve learned to turn those requests down, as inevitably the joy i see being expressed is not witnessed at all by the people requesting the pictures. I think Disney has a lot to answer for.

Most of us have an intense desire to have animals look at us and love us. We want to feel that connection. We want them to want to be around us. We want them to accept our own love for them.

But it doesn’t really work that way. That is to say, it can – there are plenty of chickens who love to be held, many of the goats pester us for attention, many of the pigs patiently wait for their back scratches and belly rubs. However some of the strongest expressions of joy, in my experience or perhaps in my interpretation, is when these animals are doing their own thing.

When the chickens are being so chickeny that you can imagine that they live in a world without humans. Just them out in the woods doing their thing.

When the horses are racing across a field, for reasons only Tally herself knows, perhaps running just because she can. Definitely not because she’s being told to. Her decision, her action.

When the pigs are hanging out in their stream, oblivious to all but the sun, the water, and the other pigs.

When the goats are head-butting each other, half in greeting, half in play.

When it has nothing to do with us, that’s where I see the real joy in them.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t feel joy myself, when they are happy to see me (even when I know it is because they are hoping I have food)…but one of the fundamentals of sanctuary is also that they are free to find their own joy. They don’t owe me anything, they don’t have to like me or want to be around me, their joy doesn’t have to have a single thing to do with me. I celebrate their sanctuary by being joyful to see their joy, whatever form it takes, whether it means they never let me close, or whether they bug me constantly for attention.



Their joy is theirs. Even when I can’t recognize it. Maybe especially then.


11 responses to “their joy

  1. Seb November 2, 2008 at 6:43 am

    So true! It’s good to be reminded of the reality every now and then, in such a beautiful way.

  2. nothoney November 2, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Aw, Harley! I overheard you and Terry talking about this subject when we were picking up the pig poop yesterday. Great pictures and it was a fun shift (even the pumpkin-unloading).

    I’m always in a good mood when I leave the farm.


  3. greentangle November 2, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Great post.

    It can be a difficult line to walk, because just as it’s important to acknowledge other animals’ independence, it’s also important to remember that WE are animals too. We’re part of this community of life and shouldn’t isolate ourselves from it, either intellectually or physically.

  4. SoCal Muchacha November 2, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    You put what I’ve thought so often, into incredible words–you nailed it! 🙂 Just a couple days ago, when I was tossing a new ball around for my beloved shelter boy, Rudy, I realized that I actually found greater enjoyment in watching HIM play with his toys more than I did when he and I played with them together; to watch him gnaw on the rope section of one toy, or to figure out how he was going to get the ball (that I’d done a miserable job of throwing to him) out of the mess of garden items all piled up, or to watch him use his paws to hold down parts of a toy while he sniffed and chewed on another. I sat there in wonderment (is that a word? :)), trying to put myself inside his head and figure out his thought process with everything he was doing. What a mental break that was for me, and what a new appreciation it gave me of the incredible 4-footed love of my life!

  5. Deb November 2, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    @ Kelly, thanks!

    @ Seb, it can be a challenge sometimes to look beyond the cute and the friendly, I’ve found, but I think it is so important. I’ve learned the most from those who have the least desire from human interaction! What is surprising is that those who have suffered some of the worst abuses are often the ones who are friendliest. I’d expect the opposite!

    @ Sheryl, yes, Terry probably understands better than most! And I agree – whether picking up poop or schlepping pumpkins, the sanctuary always gives me some peace of mind.

    @ greentangle, while I do agree that we need to remember that we are also animals, what I observe is mainly that we (as a species) keep ourselves further from nature when we seek to control it. And that’s how all of these animals came to need rescue and sanctuary. Most of them, if they’d had the chance and hadn’t been genetically manipulated, would stay far from humans in the wild, if they were truly wild. Spending time at Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary (co-founded by pattrice jones) is where I could see that directly. The chickens there have the chance to choose for themselves whether to go feral or remain closer to humans; pattrice’s ultimate goal in fact is to let the chickens have as chickeny a life as possible. Every sanctuary is quite different, not every sanctuary could make that same decision, but I find it beautiful that pattrice (and her partner) could and did. And if you’ve seen a feral chicken, it is an amazing thing…the few glimpses you’ll ever catch of them! So, to me, there isn’t much of a line to walk in the scope of what I talked about here. Humans have a tendency (in my experience) to want the control, even when it is benign. We want to cuddle the sheep, even though they’re afraid of us, things like that. Working at the sanctuary events, I have to remind people that while they might be disappointed that the horses and cows are staying in the far pasture, that they should still be able to see the beauty in the very fact that the horses and cows have the freedom to make that choice. Most people can see that, but only after they’ve been reminded. What they *want* is to pet the horses and cows. That’s the kind of connection they want, which is actually a type of control, when it isn’t what the horses themselves chose.

    @ SoCal, yes, that’s exactly it! There is something so incredible to be able to see that, and to really see it. I’m glad you had such a good time watching Rudy. 🙂

  6. greentangle November 3, 2008 at 6:34 am

    I agree that humans are control freaks, including with our own lives. But I’d argue that the behavior you see is better than the attitudes which the vast majority of people have toward animals…the folks who’d never think of visiting or supporting such a place.

    I know there’s one sanctuary organization made up only of places which are non-public which I suppose is the best way for the animals if it can be afforded. On the other hand, I see some websites of sanctuaries which seem to be sort of free range zoos. I don’t have a lot of faith in the educational value which they often claim. I know there’s an emotional benefit to the people who visit and a financial benefit to the organization. As for the animals, as you say, it depends on the individual.

  7. Deb November 3, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    greentangle, I am getting confused as to what we are actually talking about! The point of the post was to express how I see the strongest expression of the animals’ joy, and to also point out that it is not necessarily how we humans tend to see things, without either prodding or time and exposure.

    I’ve heard of the elephant sanctuary (the one in tennessee, I think that’s its name) which isn’t open to the public. I’m sure there are others. A lot of those elephants are traumatized already – I can definitely understand why they make that choice. And I can’t imagine how allowing visitors would possibly pay for the cost of maintaining an elephant sanctuary!

  8. Gary November 17, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    I think the desire to interact with individuals outside our own species can be pure and unselfish, motivated only by friendship, and tempered by respect for the others’ choice. And I’ve witnessed all kinds of interspecices friendships which are richly rewarding to both members. Unfortunately, like you say, human interaction with nonhumans tends to be very controlling and lacking in true empathy and consideration of the nonhumans’ choices and welfare. And we live in a society that promotes and presumes and is built around the notions of human superiority, entitlement, and domination, so those biases get locked in very early.

  9. Gary November 17, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    >>>When the horses are racing across a field, for reasons only Tally herself knows, perhaps running just because she can.<<<

    “Because she can.” I love that way of looking at it. I think similar thoughts when I see a hawk catching the updrafts, soaring through the air. What a feeling that must be.

    And the geese in their V’s. How lucky we are just to see that!

  10. Pingback: » Blog Archive » easyVegan Link Sanctuary, 2008-11-02

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