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!
Living in Northern California, I can tell you the drought has been really difficult on everyone this year—not just the state’s 40 million residents, but California’s wildlife as well. It actually breaks my heart to think of all of the thirsty animals, and to read about their struggles in the news.
The drought has killed 12 million trees in California’s forests—just imagine all the animals who called these forests home. They now have to find a new place to live, and new places to hide from predators. A lot of them aren’t going to make it. The lack of water poses another challenge as well: As animals search far and wide for water sources, we’re more likely to see coyotes, mountain lions and even bears running through (and looking for food and water in) our neighborhoods. But it’s not just happening in forests: Even the iconic desert Joshua Trees are declining.
Marshes and wetlands and rivers are drying up, and the snow pack is a tiny percentage of what it should be, affecting not just fish populations but also the birds and other creatures who use those areas as a hunting source. This article details the historic drought’s severe impact on the state’s birds. Even hummingbirds, my favorites, are also at risk. They love nectar, but our dried-up hills are no longer blanketed with wildflowers. Mammals like squirrels and baby deer are starving.
More California sea lions and pups are stranding on beaches. Even the adorable giant kangaroo rat, so essential to the state’s ecosystem, is in danger. When grasslands dry up, and mice and other small mammals have nowhere to go, there are ripple effects: Barn owls and raptors also struggle to survive. The animals are in crisis. So what can we do?
On an individual scale, there’s not a whole lot we can do, but because I don’t like to feel helpless and do nothing, here are three small things I can do to make me feel a little bit better—and really, these are things we can all do, and the bonus is they’re both easy and affordable (and two of these tips don’t even require you to live in California!):
1. Dedicate your morning meditation to the animals. I’ve talked about this before. When my beloved dog Dakota died and I felt at a complete loss over how to recover from his passing, I began to dedicate my meditations to him, and it helped me immensely. You can always dedicate your meditations to your favorite animal, by your side or across the Rainbow Bridge—and even to the animals you care about that are threatened right now with the drought crisis in California. I have found that choosing a meaningful focus for your meditations can actually strengthen them.
2. Provide a food and water source for birds in your backyard. This is easy to do, but so helpful! Seeds can help to sustain birds that can’t find food elsewhere. A bird bath kept clean with fresh water helps them stay hydrated during these hot, dry months. Black oil sunflower seeds, which can be found at most grocery stores and pet stores, are best. (Squirrels and chipmunks like these seeds, too.) You can also landscape with native plants that attract bees, birds and insects and provide a much-needed habitat for them.
3. Donate to the organizations that are helping wildlife in California. Even a small donation in your eyes is a huge help to these organizations. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the following are great nonprofits working to help the state’s threatened animals: The Marine Mammal Center, WildCare, Earthwatch and Audubon California.
Do you have any additional tips to add? How can we continue to support the animals in California affected by the drought?