As residents and cities still try to dig their way out of the blizzard of 2016, which dumped more than three feet of snow on parts of the East Coast last weekend (thanks to winter storm Jonas), heartwarming stories of animals have begun to emerge. Especially in times of crisis and hardship, it seems animals always find a way to crawl into our hearts and help us—either directly (see the story of some powerful horses below!) or indirectly, guiding us to finding our compassion or reminding us there are still reasons to smile in challenging times such as theses. Below, we’ve rounded up six of the most heartful and amazing animal stories from the blizzard of 2016, sure to warm your heart on a cold day:
Piglet saved from freezing in the snow
When Perry Smith noticed a shivering piglet on the side of the road, stuck in the growing piles of snow, he and his 13-year-old son rescued the little guy from certain death. The heroes then nursed him back to health with warm blankets and plenty of healthy snacks at their ski resort hotel room. Wee Wee thrived and has since been placed at an animal sanctuary in Washington State. Here, check out Wee Wee enjoying a banana from his hotel bathtub.
Horses help to plow the streets
When even snowplows aren’t enough, local citizens, including farmers, kind neighbors and even the Amish, pitched in to help clear the roads. In fact, someone took a photo of this Amish man and his two powerful horses working hard to plow the streets in Auburn, Kentucky—and the feel-good snap soon went viral. As reported in this News Democrat Leader article (which also features the photo), the Amish often help out their neighbors when there’s a big snow; one local citizen has even set up a GoFundMe page to help out the local Amish community.
Southampton mayor’s cat returns after getting lost in the blizzard
When animals get lost during a blizzard, we often prepare ourselves for the worst. But luckily for 13-year-old Lilly, a beautiful tuxedo cat belonging to Mayor Mark Epley of Southampton Village, New York, she miraculously made it home safe. The entire community came together via social media to help spread the word and offer support, but as reported in Southampton Patch, she came home safely on her own.
Adorable blizzard puppy videos fill social media
Being snowed in for days on end can be tough for us humans—but for our dogs, it’s just another excuse to play! After animal lovers took to Twitter and Instagram to share pics and videos of their dogs hopping and playing in the snow, Gothamist rounded up the best of the bunch. Click here to see puppies acting like “tiny buffalos,” making snow angels and just having a blast! Kathleen and I especially love this pic: what an impressive “snowdog”!
A quick-thinking Twitter user called @ltrayers captured this amazing video of four deer leaping through the snow-piled streets of Washington, D.C. What beautiful, elegant (and playful) creatures they are!
One cannot be humble and aware of oneself at the same time. —Madeleine L’Engle
Humility, as a human character trait, is a virtue sorely lacking in the modern world. If human beings learned to practice humility more often, it would heal and elevate the place of animals in the world. We would realize that animals are not just products for us to use as we wish. We would realize that we, too, are animals. We would awaken the joy of service, to be a steward—rather than a consumer—on the planet.
Meditating on the Reiki precept “be humble” is a wonderful way to let go of the ego and honor animals in a deeper spiritual way. When we learn to be humble and see animals as our teachers, we can soften the edges that separate us from other species and remember that we are all connected. Sometimes we think—well, I am the human and my animal can’t possibly understand things as deeply as I can. What I have learned over the years is that animals actually understand connectedness even more deeply than we do.
I remember sitting with my dog Dakota, while he was in hospice from lung cancer, and feeling all my sadness and grief overwhelming me. This was a problem that all my human reasoning, actions and money could not solve. The more upset I became, the more agitated he was. The only time he could relax in peace was when I would let go of all my worries and just meditate. Through meditation, I could remember that we would always be connected by our hearts, no matter what happened. To be humble in the face of death required surrender to the flow and wisdom of the universe, and this was something my dog could model for me.
Because dogs and cats still live in the original state of connectedness with Being, they can help us regain it. —Eckhart Tolle
By practicing humility, we can become more open to receive the wisdom of our animals. We can become better listeners and contemplators, able to discern the subtle aspects of right action. If we take time to meditate with our animals, learning to just “be” with them—then we can cultivate a heart-to-heart connection that will nurture a deeper awareness of the Oneness of the universe.
This might seem at first something very difficult to understand—and, yes, if we are trying to understand it intellectually then it might seem impossible to grasp. But we just need to drop our minds into our hearts and it all becomes very simple. Because our animals inspire us to open our hearts and LOVE to our fullest, they are the best partners to us to help us to explore the deep wisdom of Oneness of all things. The Oneness of the heart.
Humility is a simple practice that can heal ourselves, our animals and the world.
“With love and patience, nothing is impossible.” –Daisaku Ikeda
The animals of the world face many challenges these days. As much as I try to keep my focus on the good things, sometimes I can’t help but feel angry and helpless to make a difference. In times like these, my Reiki meditation practice helps me to find my balance again. One meditation I like to do is to meditate on the Reiki precept, “do not anger.” As I meditate on this, allowing my thoughts to come and go, my mind eventually comes to rest on the healing power of patience. Patience is quiet and calm. Patience is accepting. Patience is a profound state of “being” in the world. In many ways, patience is the opposite of anger. If we can remember patience when we feel angry, perhaps we can find healing.
To empower patience, we must also love. Animals are wonderful teachers of this, as it is often our love for them that helps us to be patient through difficult times. When animals are facing illness or healing from past trauma or abuse, patience can also serve us well. It helps us to open our hearts and “be” in a loving space with them when they are sick or suffering. To be patient and loving with animals, we must let go of the anger we might feel at their situations or anger at ourselves that we can’t change the situations to be better. Shifting out of anger, we can bring ourselves back to patience, and empower the patience with love from our hearts. This will create a space of trust and connection with the animals we love. In this space, we can see miracles of healing happen!
The story of Shirley the elephant is a wonderful example of the power of patience and love to heal. As you know, elephants live very long lives. Captured as a baby in the wild, she performed in circuses for 24 years (being terribly wounded there by another elephant who crippled her back leg, and then losing part of her ear in a fire) and then lived in complete isolation at a zoo for another 22 years. (Elephants are social creatures, so this must have been so difficult.) In 1999, she was brought to The Elephant Sanctuary to live in peace and contentment—and immediately became matriarch of the other elephants. She is such a wise and gentle elephant. She never lost her love and patience, even through all those years. When she arrived, she was reunited with Jenny after 22 years of separation—Jenny already lived at the sanctuary when Shirley arrived, and she hadn’t seen Shirley since she was a baby! It was an amazing and emotional reunion you can watch in this video:
Her story touched me very deeply, inspiring me to travel there in 2002 to teach Carol Buckley and two other staff members Reiki 1. I hoped to support them in helping to heal the elephants in their care. Believing I was there to help the elephants, how surprising it was to find that Shirley actually helped me. Seeing her living peacefully and contentedly at the sanctuary was wonderful. Realizing how she made it through all her years of difficulty with such patience and love was a wonderful spiritual example for me to emulate.
If she can do it, I can do it!
Who are the animals in your life that teach you the power of patience and love?
What always restores my faith in humanity? When I see humans going out of their way—and sometimes even putting their own lives at risk—to help animals in need. Thanks to the heroic actions of these kindhearted individuals, the following creatures were saved from harm’s way in 2015. In case you missed these stories in the news last year, here are 12 of the most dramatic (and heartwarming) animal rescues from 2015:
1. Two dogs rescued from the rubble following a tornado
Two days after tornadoes devastated Texas right before Christmas, a family’s two dogs—a Golden Retriever and a Miniature Pinscher—were pulled from the rubble of their home, alive and miraculously without any broken bones.
2. Woman buys 100 dogs to save them from the dog meat festival
Every year in China, about 10,000 dogs are slaughtered for the annual dog meat festival, known as Yulin. This 65-year-old woman, an animal lover and shelter owner, was able to save $1,100 and drive 1,500 miles to buy 100 dogs, saving their lives and now giving them a second chance at life.
3. Dog rescued from icy waters
The U.S. Coast Guard saves lives—of both people and animals. Here’s the dramatic rescue of a dog that fell into icy waters in Michigan. The dog was later reported to be doing well while recovering at a local animal rescue.
4. Frozen kitten brought back to life
A family discovered a frozen kitten in the snow in their yard on Thanksgiving morning. They rushed into action—performing CPR and warming the kitten for over an hour.
5. 200-pound pig rescued from manhole
When the pig, named Rick Ross, fell into a 10-foot manhole, he was stuck for two days before firefighters were able to rescue him. Click here for dramatic video of the rescue.
6. Dramatic sheep rescue from a cliff in Wales
The rescuers from RSPCA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, had to rappel down dangerous cliffs to bring the ewe to safety.
7. Donkey stuck in deep floodwaters surprises rescuers
When the donkey got stranded in floodwaters in Ireland, rescuers led by Animal Haven Animal Rescue were able to pull him to safety—and were rewarded with a huge smile!
8. Firefighters rescue kitten from storm drain
When Maren Swanson saw the amazing footage of a kitten rescued from a storm drain in Miami, she knew in her heart she just had to adopt the baby cat. So she flew to Miami to bring little Storm home. Here’s a heartwarming video of Storm’s long journey—from a storm drain in Miami to her new home in Los Angeles:
9. Horse pulled from well
When Daisy the horse got stuck in a deep well, a team of local rescuers, including a vet, spent more than two hours extricating her from the large hole in the ground. Luckily for Daisy, she escaped with no injuries. Click here for unbelievable video of the rescue.
10. Whale trapped in rope rescued
When a humpback whale became entangled in a lobster trap off the coast of California, a team of rescuers from SeaWorld hurried to save the creature, who would have died without help.
11. Dog rescued from fast-moving LA river
After the little brown dog was swept a mile downriver, a firefighter lowered from a cable attached to a helicopter rescued the little guy, who escaped without injury.
12. Motorcyclist stops traffic to save a kitten
You’ll sit on the edge of your seats watching this dramatic rescue! When a tiny kitten is seen running across lanes in the middle of a busy highway, this heroic woman on a motorcycle stops traffic and waves down cars until she can scoop up the little ball of fluff (which she named Skidmark) and take him to safety. (All caught on her GoPro.)
It’s a new year—which means an opportunity for new beginnings. You may have put a lot of thought into your own personal resolutions this year, like exercise more or eat less chocolate (that is definitely not one of mine!). But there are also so many ways we can all make small changes to help the world’s animals. Looking for some ideas? Here are 10 smart resolutions sure to help the animals of this world throughout 2016:
1. Support a new animal charity. You probably volunteer and send money to the same charities year after year. But new ones pop up all the time, and plenty exist out there that you’ve never even heard of—and even small individual donations can be a huge help. Spend a morning researching options and see what you find. Perhaps there’s a nonprofit in your community or a neighboring one you didn’t know about before. Or perhaps it’s a national or international charity that works hard on the causes close to your heart. So in addition to the ones you already support, choose one new favorite and map out easy and simple ways you can help out this year. By the way, do you know about my favorite charity, nearest and dearest to my heart, the Shelter Animal Reiki Association?