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!
What could be more merry than shopping for holiday presents for the kids in our lives? While it’s super fun to make their holidays magical, don’t forget to balance out all that consumerism with some charitable giving—specifically, teaching children about the spirit of giving and helping those less fortunate during the holidays. With that in mind, here are five easy ways kids can help animals this holiday season:
1. Focus on their favorite animal. Does she love horses or dolphins? Does he love K-9 dogs? This is a perfect time of year to foster that love and show them how they can help the animals they love most in this world. Find a relevant sanctuary sure to interest them, then find ways to make it real and really bring the issue home. You can sponsor an animal in their name (which usually comes with photos and updates on the animal’s progress) and even plan a visit to a local rescue where they can see these animals being helped.
It’s easy to get really down about the future of this planet when you read the news: polluted water, oceans and air. Genetically modified food. Animal testing. Lost biodiversity. Climate change. But then I see teens and kids already working passionately to make our planet a better place—and I see a ray of hope. Check out these amazing youth advocates, who have already dedicated a good portion of their young lives to educating others and enacting change:
1. As a child, Birke Baehr started reading food labels and researching the ingredients of everything his family was eating. “I discovered the dark side of the industrialized food system,” he said in his popular TEDx Talk at age 11 (he’s now 15), which covered the topics of factory farms, GMOs, pesticides and herbicides. He soon turned his passions for natural food into a website (www.birkeonthefarm.com), a children’s book, speaking appearances and a solid foundation for a future in organic farming. His tips for other kids (and adults): “Think local. Choose organic. Know your farmer. Know your food.”
First, the good news: Meditation has risen in popularity in the U.S. in recent years, with more people experiencing the wonderful benefits of meditation than ever before. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has written a best seller on the topic (Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple), Jerry Seinfeld is a well-known fan of transcendental meditation, and even more doctors are starting to prescribe meditation to their patients. But here’s the bad news: So many people still believe a variety of myths about meditation, and as a result, they never try it or experience its amazing benefits. Here are five common meditation myths debunked:
1. You have to be sitting with your eyes closed in a perfectly quiet room to meditate. This is a really common misconception about meditation. I have found from working with animals that the opposite is true; truly any moment can be a meditation, because meditation is about bringing compassion into our lives—and then sharing it with the world. We do this by taking our practice out of the quiet room and learning to meditate not just in a sitting position, but rather when walking our dog, taking a stroll on the beach, standing in a pasture with our horse, cuddling our cat and so on. These forms of meditation may be considered “informal,” but they’re just as powerful—if not more so.
2. Meditation is just woo-woo nonsense. Unfortunately, this is a common belief among many people. However, science has shown again and again that there are powerful health advantages to the regular practice of meditation. As explained in this WebMD article, those benefits include: improved heart health, lowered blood pressure, stress relief, a boost in your immune system, help with infertility, an improvement in the symptoms of PMS and hot flashes, stress management and more.
3. Meditation is time-consuming. Some people—especially busy ones balancing jobs, families, hobbies, aging parents, you name it—think they just don’t have time to meditate. While it can feel that way (and I can relate!), it’s very empowering to realize you don’t need to set aside an hour of your time every day to do this. It can be incorporated into your already busy life, and even just 15 minutes can help you feel better and more balanced.
4. You have to put your animals in another room to meditate. I’ve heard this so many times, and I’m not quite sure where this myth originated. But truly (and luckily for animal lovers), the exact opposite is true! I have found that animals make the best meditation teachers, if only we would open our hearts and listen. With their calming and compassionate presence, they are able to help us stay present and peaceful when meditating. You may have already discovered this on your own; your dog and cat have probably crawled into your lap when you’re meditating! I wrote more about animals and how essential they are to my meditation practice here.
5. Kids are too young to meditate. A lot of people think meditation is an intellectual, mysterious activity only for adults. This just isn’t true! Kids can learn meditation and mindfulness, too—they not only love it, but it helps them in many ways, such as improving test scores and attention spans and decreasing drop-out rates and suspensions, as reported in this piece on the recent trend of “ohm schooling” by ABC News. Teaching meditation to children doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start with simple breathing exercises and go from there. Here are a few tips to help.
What myths have you heard about meditation? Include them the comments below.
Just when I think I’ve run out of inspiring reading material, a whole new slew of authors comes out with important works of nonfiction I can’t wait to read. Here are a few new releases for animal lovers worth that coveted spot on your nightstand:
1. Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld and the Truth Beyond Blackfish by John Hargrove In this New York Times bestseller, former orca trainer and one of the stars of Blackfish John Hargrove reveals his journey from fulfilling a childhood dream of working at SeaWorld to realizing his life’s work was morally and ethically irresponsible. The book details the lives of cetaceans held captive at SeaWorld and lays out his reasoning for why it’s time we stop treating orcas like circus animals.