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From Issue Eighteen, January 2012 « Previous Article Next Article »

The Wisdom of the Wild

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Thunder the Wolf spent the summer of his sixteenth year in Earthfire’s wildlife garden, resting his huge, ancient frame in the cool grass under the shade of his favorite tree. As August rolled into September, he could no longer stand or even roll over. But strong wolf that he was, his heart beat on when his organs failed. Seeing him linger, my partner and I felt compelled to help ease Thunder’s passing, so we called our vet, Don, a practical, no-nonsense fellow. On a sunny autumn afternoon, as I sat caressing Thunder in the garden, Don arrived. He took out his stethoscope, knelt down beside Thunder, gently gave him his final shot, and listened to his heart. The very instant when Thunder’s life left his body, all thirty of our wolves began a long, low, mournful howling. They had no way of seeing or hearing what was going on, yet somehow they knew. Don, still on his knees, turned pale and murmured, “That’s eerie.” He stood up, urgently looking around for some realistic explanation. He asked if the wolves were being fed or if someone was driving up and repeated, “That’s eerie . . . the timing.” The wolves’ howling was so unexpected and so clear that it reached the depths of him. The wolves were responding to Thunder’s passing, and Don will never be the same.

Jean Simpson, my partner and a wild animal trainer, founded Earthfire Institute with me in 2000 to give sanctuary and voice to the wild ones. Named after a passionate wolf with an urge to protect the vulnerable, Earthfire is located on forty acres near the base of the Grand Teton Mountains, on the Wyoming-Idaho border. It is home to bears, wolves, cougars, lynx, bison, and other wildlife native to the Rocky Mountains who can never be set free for various reasons. Our animals come from fur farms and roadside zoos; they are orphaned wild babies, captive pets who could no longer be kept, or deformed or “undesirable” animals. Because they can never be set free, these animals live their whole lives with us. During the day, they play in specially constructed gardens; at night, they rest in private enclosures that protect them. We give them the best available medical care, both Western and alternative, and we are constantly seeking new ways to help them. In caring for them and living with them, our lives, hearts, and minds intertwine, and we are all immeasurably enriched. Each animal is a distinct being, with a soul and a passion to live.

After much thought about how best to help the animals’ voices be heard by more people, Jean and I began to offer retreats in which people are able to experience the animals. They see them, hear them, feel them, and make a connection with them. The animals’ reactions and the humans’ experiences continually astound me. We all grow and are changed and enriched—blown away, in fact. Somehow we have created the conditions for a sacred space in which humans and wild animals meet, and the communion between them occurs on its own, quite beyond my understanding. While a recounting of their experiences are outside the scope of this article, we highlight here some of the animals and the experiences Jean and I have had with them that lead us to believe wild animals are sensitive, passionate, individual beings with soul and spirit—all a part of the fabric of life we share.

Humble Bumble’s Sweetness

Most of our animals are named for their magnificence—Northwind, Midnight Journey, Prairie Smoke, Stardance. Humble Bumble is a “differently abled” or “specially abled” grizzly bear. We brought him home as an infant from a roadside zoo that was closing. No one wanted him. It was clear that something was wrong with him. When we tried to feed him, he would lie on his back, absolutely rigid in our arms, his eyes staring up at the ceiling, his mouth sucking ineffectually at his bottle for twenty to thirty minutes at a time as he tried to sooth himself with a panicked burbling sound. Any movement frightened him. Perhaps he had been dropped. We don’t know what happened.

As Humble Bumble grew, we saw that he wasn’t coordinated and that one eye sort of wandered, as a host of unique characteristics continued to show themselves. When we give the other bears hay for their winter den, they gather up every single piece and spend days carefully arranging the hay into a neat, snug bed. Humble’s hay is scattered everywhere in random, chaotic confusion. It took us years to ease him into the world, to help him try new experiences. It was a momentous day when he finally dared to go into a pool to swim. He had spent months slapping the water and leaping back in fear before we finally heard that great splash of entry. When Humble feels overstimulated or nervous, which happens easily, he goes to a corner of his enclosure and faces the wall while he repeatedly bounces up and down, much like a child rocking to and fro.

Earthfire visitors who have relatives with Down’s syndrome tell us that Humble’s innocent, sweet, trusting, and joyful nature reminds them of those relatives. To see the care with which he plays clumsily but sweetly with his friend Boychuk, a German shepherd who is one-tenth his size, adds a new dimension to our perception of bears. Although all the other bears go into hibernation during the winter, Humble remains quite social, often coming out to greet visitors. Every living creature has a gift to give, and Humble is a unique “spokesbear” for his kind. Everyone who meets him falls in love with him—quite a feat for a grizzly bear. Over the years, he has led me to wonder if the potential for such inexpressible sweetness in a grizzly bear might mean that the same underlying potential exists in all of us. How can we bring this forth and override the hardwiring for fear and self-preservation that is so strong?

Windwalker, Spiritual Cougar

Windwalker is a cougar who came into what appeared to be a spiritual state of beauty and gentleness as he reached a ripe old age. In his book Alzheimer’s Isn’t What You Think It Is, Elmer Green describes how statements of great spiritual wisdom came through his wife even as Alzheimer’s destroyed her physical brain and left her unable to speak for months. It was as if she were occupying two worlds at once, bringing glimpses from beyond. Perhaps as age weakens the grip of biological forces on the brain, a similar thing happens with all old creatures—humans and animals—allowing a connection with the larger life forces to blossom. When retreat participants met with Windwalker in his last year, he would purr the entire time. It was a deep, resonant purr that gave us the impression his purring was a healing offering. Diane, a retreat participant who suffered from an autoimmune disease, told us that she was telepathically called by Windwalker to visit Earthfire.

Near the end of his days, Windwalker could no longer use his hind legs; he spent his time lying on his side. We gave him soft, clean blankets to lie on, and cleaned him as best we could. Knowing he would leave his body before I returned from a two-week trip, I went to him to say goodbye. He purred, looked at me, and then turned his head away as if to say it is done. A few days later when Jean checked in on him, he sensed that Windwalker’s end was near. Jean returned a few hours later and found Windwalker sitting tall and upright, magnificent even in his old age. He was looking up and out of his protected enclosure, gazing up at the sky. Windwalker was so lost in wherever he was that he didn’t hear Jean arrive, didn’t feel him approach until Jean touched him. Jean says Windwalker startled, as though he was suddenly reminded he had a body. As Windwalker got weaker, Jean lay down next to him. Windwalker purred and purred, although it grew weaker and weaker. At the end, Jean purred for him and held Windwalker in his arms as he took his last breath. Jean’s account reminds me of the stories I read about the dying in Final Gifts, a book by two hospice workers, Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelly. With a foot in both worlds, Windwalker behaved the way people approaching death often behave.

The Healing of Apricot and Teton Totem

Apricot is a wolf who somehow survived distemper in her brain but a few years later began to display neurological symptoms. Her eyes were unfocused, her neck arched at a strange and uncomfortable angle, and her weaving walk was uncoordinated. The vet told us that prednisone might help but that there was no real treatment. Prednisone did help a little, but we really didn’t want to keep Apricot on a steroid that might shorten her life. I asked Jill, an energy healer whose specialty was damaged nervous systems in humans, if she would like to try healing a wolf, and she consented.

Apricot is a shy wolf, not used to other people, so we didn’t know how she would take to being touched by a stranger. Jill wanted to do the work in a comfortable setting and suggested that we take Apricot to our yurt. Apricot had never been there, which added another element of uncertainty to the healing we had arranged for her. We walked her into a new setting to meet a new person for a new experience. Jean and I reassured Apricot as Jill put her hands on her. In a few minutes, Apricot lay down and went into a deep trance while Jill worked on her neck and head. For forty-five minutes, she lay there taking in energy. When Apricot came out of the trance, she looked around, apparently dazed, then got up and walked around a bit before coming back to ask for more. The next day there was a brightness in her eyes and a bounce in her step, though the symptoms persisted. The second time we gave her the energy healing, we tried it on a massage table. After a couple of minutes of adjustment, Apricot went into a trance again, and when Jill was finished, Apricot continued to lay there for a long time, breathing deeply. The third time, Apricot pulled us over to the massage table. Over time, all symptoms disappeared. For the last two years, Apricot has been symptom free. She is now fourteen, and last summer, in an expression of pure joie de vivre, she leapt from the top of our 15-foot waterfall into the pond.

Since then, I have asked energy healers to work on two other wolves with neurological issues, Cucumber and Uintah. Though tentative at first, each went into that same healing trance, and afterward each was better, if not fully healed. The effect of energy healing appears to cross species, all of us responding to universal healing energy.

There are obvious limitations to hands-on healing with a grizzly bear, especially one like Teton with an aggressive streak. Over two years, Teton Totem had slowly become paralyzed in his hind end, though he was still in his prime. He would drag himself across his enclosure with his front paws. After we had tried all that Western medicine could offer, I turned to Penelope Smith, well known for her work in interspecies telepathic communication. She had previously met and loved Teton. Penelope agreed to do what she could and contacted Teton telepathically from her home in Arizona. She received an image of a slipped disk in Teton’s lower back. She asked him how it happened, and he flashed her a picture of a time when he was standing a few years ago and felt something slip in his lumbar. Penelope worked with Teton daily to facilitate his healing. Whatever the explanation, the facts are that after the first day, Teton dragged himself to his pool and placed his right hind leg in the water as he tried to swing it to and fro. Each day we watched him and observed microscopic improvement. In time, he was able to walk again. That winter he entered his den walking normally, and when he came out the next spring, he was still walking normally.

Cindar’s Telepathic Cry

Cindar was a beautiful, vibrant, black wolf. One evening when she didn’t look well, we brought her into the cabin. She seemed terribly vulnerable, so we asked Summer, a vet, to examine her. X-rays showed congested lungs, and Summer diagnosed severe pneumonia. Although we started Cindar on heavy antibiotics, none of us felt right about the diagnosis. How could pneumonia take hold so suddenly and strongly in a healthy young wolf? One night Summer woke up with a new diagnosis: Cindar had a lung torsion, a twisted lung. With the blood supply cut off, a part of the lung died, filling the rest with fluid from a massive infection. No one local could perform the necessary surgery, so we frantically made arrangements for Jean to rush Cindar to a specialist in Salt Lake City. Cindar died on the way there.

Whenever we lose an animal from an unknown cause, or in this case an unusual one, we have an autopsy done to be sure the other animals are not at risk. Cindar’s autopsy confirmed Summer’s diagnosis. But why would a healthy young wolf die of such a rare illness? Summer said she probably wouldn’t see another lung torsion in her lifetime. Trying to understand, Jean and I eventually remembered that in Traditional Chinese Medicine each organ has not only its own function and vibrational frequency but also holds the energy of a specific emotion. The emotion associated with the lungs is grief. It depletes the lungs and causes them to contract. If people with lung problems suffer from deep sadness, why not wolves?

Now we wondered about the possible causes for Cindar’s grief. There were no recent losses or changes at Earthfire, and then the same explanation suddenly occurred to both of us: hunters in Idaho had recently begun to kill wolves. Not only were they shooting them, they were rejoicing in the killings. Many in the Rocky Mountain states want to eliminate wolves by whatever means, and they regard the wolves’ suffering as irrelevant and justified. The governor of Idaho himself held a rally on the state house steps to declare that he wanted to be the first to shoot a wolf when the ban was lifted. There is considerable documented evidence that wolves are telepathic among their packs across long distances, much like our experience with Thunder’s passing and the wolves that responded with mournful howling. Is it possible that Cindar was feeling the pain of her nearby kin?

Death is a part of nature, but death inflicted with a cruel intent to destroy is another matter. Therapists who work with people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder report that recovery from PTSD due to natural causes such as an earthquake is different from PTSD due to torture. The element of malicious intent by a fellow being compounds the suffering. Psychologists also report that some children who are not listened to or understood attempt to communicate through illness. Some animal communicators believe that illness and death can sometimes be an animal’s way of communicating. Did Cindar develop a fatal illness not only in response to the slaughtering of her kin but also to communicate this tragedy? Her death has left us with a profound sadness for the plight of wolves—and of all other animals.

I think we humans “survive” by becoming numb, tuning out the pain around us. It is too much to bear unless we have a framework that helps us tolerate the suffering, such as the Buddhist way of compassion. Animals do not have this kind of framework for their suffering. They are being driven off the earth, and so we hear of elephants that rampage, chimps that go wild, and bears that attack humans encroaching on their space. Those unable to fight become ill or sadly melt away. Deena Metzger says of her alliance with the elephants: “I do not think I called the elephants to me. I think they are coming to us, calling us. I think they are consciously transmitting cries of anguish and grief, and some of us are hearing them and are responding.” I would add that all the animals are calling out to us. When we tune out, it doesn’t save us; we still somehow feel the suffering of other living beings. If we take the time and make the effort to tune in to the animals, they will remind us of what is and what can be. During one visit to Earthfire, Penelope Smith came rushing up to me to say, “The animals are beside themselves because we are listening to them. It has already gone twice around the world that humans are listening to them!” Animals can keep us connected to our hearts, without which there is no real meaning. When we are connected to our hearts, we won’t lose our way in top-heavy abstractions and technological innovations. The animals at Earthfire have lifted a veil and made a connection with us in that place where we are all one. The animals are calling us to council.

Our Calling

I have the privilege of living with wild animals. My astounding experiences with them have taught me that when we leave any beings out of our consideration, we cannot be whole. Still connected to nature, which is our heritage too though we are largely lost to it, animals have much to teach us. Our story together is still being written, and there is much we can do to honor the animals, the earth, and all its beings. Here are some starting points:

1. Saving land for the animals is a top priority because they are being pushed off the earth. Many local, national, and international organizations are working to address this threat. Learn from them and support them. For example, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, which focuses on wildlife corridors, offers a model that can be applied to your region. The Wild Foundation is another good organization that can provide guidance with its broad perspective.

2. If you are interested in preserving critical habitat, why not start with your local planning and zoning commissions. Again, organizations like the Wild Foundation and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative can assist with connections and advice.

3. Give yourself some quiet time each day. Without it, we risk losing contact with what is most important and clarity about how to act effectively.

4. After careful consideration of who we are and what needs to be done, tithe 10 percent of your time each week or month to help the earth in some way.

5. Cultivate mindfulness, and help others to be mindful as well. Many forms of meditation and awareness practices can help us with this. Work to make mindfulness practices a part of our schools’ curriculum.

6. Incorporate an enlarged sense of community, one that includes all living beings, into your thinking and that of others. Self-centeredness and human-centeredness cost us dearly, for we make decisions without understanding the consequences to the whole. Nature is not a backdrop against which human affairs are played out; it is where we come from and what sustains us.

7. Eat and live both mindfully and sparingly. Our food and the raw materials for the production of our consumptive and affluent lifestyles are derived from land that has been taken away from the animals. Support curricula in the schools that explore where our sustenance and affluence come from and their costs. Raise awareness in your neighborhood and in on-line discussions.

8. Read The Way of Council by Jack Zimmerman and Virginia Coyle, and learn about “the council of all beings” that Joanna Macy and John Seed have taught. Then, sit in council with the plants and animals in your area. Deena Metzger shares interesting ideas about this on her website. In her book Quest, Denise Linnsuggests variations on vision quests, which can be adapted even in the city. Look into the shamanic perspectives that build a bridge between humans and animals. Penelope Smith’s website also offers many resources. All of these can lead to new avenues of activism.

9. Attend a retreat at Earthfire Institute. Suggest retreat leaders who can explore new horizons and solutions for our relationship with animals and nature.

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  • Anonymous Icon

    Scotty9085 Jan 04, 2012

    Dr. Erich, thank you for your inspiring article. I looked at your website as well your passion is inspiring. Thank you.

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    nbtruthman Jan 05, 2012

    A moving and inspiring story. A few thoughts. Dr. Eirich, you have contacted and felt the inner spiritual essence of many of the wonderful wild creatures you house at your facility. Are these qualities shared at least in part by the countless millions of factory farm food animals like cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, etc. being raised and slaughtered by humans every day? If so, this would make this business of eating animals by humans, already a terrible cruelty, an evil beyond imagination.

    Is there some romanticizing and anthropormorphising here? The other side of the coin with respect to the nature of wild animals is their inherent cruelty and amorality. Looking into the eyes of a lion or tiger, what I see is total alienness. The horror of the screams of the baby elephant as it is being eaten alive by several lions. A part of nature, but a part not to be cherished as a spiritual glimpse, unfortunately.

  • Saoirse Jan 06, 2012

    Humans often think that it's less cruel and more moral to eat animals if they haven't been witness to the animal's demise. It's okay for a lobster to be boiled alive as long as it happens in the kitchen where you can't see it. It's okay for a steer to be dragged, bellowing in terror into a bloodsoaked slaughterhouse and have his throat cut, as long as you don't have to watch. How is that any less cruel and amoral than what a lion does? I submit that it's MORE cruel and amoral, because humans have a choice. A lion on a vegetarian diet would go blind initially and then die of malnutrition. Humans, on the other hand, live longer and healthier lives on a vegetarian diet, and in many countries, there's a huge industry making soy and TVP products look, smell, and taste like meat for the people who like the taste of meat but make a moral or health decision not to eat it. But still, the majority of humans choose to eat meat because it pleases them to do so. Isn't killing other species less moral when it's being done for pleasure than when it's the nature of the beast and necessary for survival?

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    balaboy55 Jan 07, 2012

    Kudos to Earthfire Institute for your inspiring work, much like that of Orangutan Outreach. One of the truths of our existence is that we are here to learn to let go of judgement. Who are we to say what is right for one person or the other, or how another person should live. There is much evidence to suggest that the consumption of soy is unhealthy for the human body, particularly that which is genetically modified and processed...which by the way, most soy is. There is also much evidence to support a Paleo (hunter-gatherer diet), the diet humans survived on for thousands of years before we found it necessary to start judging one another. But I suspect Earthfire Institute is far more concerned about saving animals then it is about deciding what is best for us to eat.

  • Saoirse Jan 07, 2012

    And yet, by refusing to judge in any way, we would devalue all of life. We would stand impassively by and watch while a man rapes and kills a child, because, who are we to judge him for his chosen lifestyle? We would tolerate genocide, because it wasn't our place to tell others how to live. We would condone slavery, because it's someone else's lifestyle and nothing to do with us. As Nobel Peace Price recipient Elie Wiesel said, "“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

    Something to think about anyway.

  • Susan B. Eirich, PhD Jan 09, 2012

    I appreciate the thoughtful comments that have been posted to “Wisdom of the Wild.” A few thoughts:
    To Scotty – Thank you.
    To nbtruthman: re your question do factory animals have a spiritual essence as well….

    I am no expert on spiritual qualities – I can only share with you what I have seen and felt. My personal belief and experience is that these qualities are inherent in all living beings. They may be dimmed by inbreeding; by distorting a breed for commercial use or human tastes as in the pet industry; dimmed by a degrading and debilitating life until they are slaughtered, but somewhere in there is something that shines through if one has the time and orientation to relate to the animals that way. Since we all may define “soul” differently I don’t know quite what to call it without getting into another whole discussion - a sense of self ? A passionate desire to live? I also feel that trees and plants “want” to live. An acquaintance of mine once told me that as she pulled up a burdock plant by the root she “heard” it scream. As with Thunder and Don the vet, she was totally unprepared. It just happened to her. Some time ago the New York Times Sunday magazine carried an article titled “Brussel Sprouts Want to Live Too.” They cited research suggesting the possible equivalent of a chemical nervous system in plants and that they are much more responsive that we previously thought. No surprise to anyone who believes that we are all one and all connected; just different life forms. My partner Jean had two vivid telepathic experiences with our chickens, who live extraordinarily happy lives and have a chance to develop into full “chicken-hood” as well as connect with humans. One of those experiences was externally verifiable.

    Regarding eating animals, that is a really important discussion but not directly related to the topic at hand – the millions of wild animals starving; dying of thirst; watching their loved ones ”culled” because of human overpopulation or bizarre projections of what they are; lives destroyed because we want another parking lot or a second home, often in a lovely watered area which is a luxury to us but essential for animals. Then we kill them because, desperate for food or water they are “intruding.” On and on. the devastation and attacks on all fronts for their chances at life are overwhelming. It is simply easier for us to ignore because we don’t see it. There are admirable projects in developing countries where they take over land to raise trees to make decent human homes – which however does not take into consideration that that land was home and feeding grounds to animals. Our human-centered focus skews our thinking and leads to disregard other living beings; our seeing nature as a resource for humans impoverishes us, and I was trying to show that those living creatures are individual emotional and spiritual beings that deserve consideration in our thinking and planning.

  • Susan B. Eirich, PhD Jan 09, 2012

    Balaboy55 writes “I suspect Earthfire Institute is far more concerned about saving (wild) animals than it is about deciding what is best for us to eat.” Yes. That is important, but I would rather not take the discussion in that direction as it is already an active discussion among humans. Realizing the devastation we are doing to wild animals as individual emotional and spiritual beings, is not and needs to become more active. This article was to try to dispel some of our preconceptions about wild animals based on unfamiliarity with them, give us an enhanced appreciation of the wonder and richness that shares the earth with us, and to hopefully give them a better chance to survive if we come to care enough to save land to for them to live.

  • Susan B. Eirich, PhD Jan 09, 2012

    In response to your suggestion, abtruthman, that there is some romanticizing in the article and your comment about lions eating a baby elephant… is possible to take the position that seeing inherent cruelty and amorality can be seen as a human judgment and “anthropomorphizing” in another form. What I wondered about with Humble Bumble Bear and experiences with other species under our care, is, what if we (humans and other animals) weren’t driven by hardwiring – by fear, jealousy, territoriality, the need to kill to eat ... all survival factors….. what might lie underneath??? And at least in the animals I have lived with I have found that if the need to take care of one’s own survival is eased, the opportunity arises and sometimes happens: that an unutterable sweetness comes to the fore. Then you might see another look in the lions’ eyes. Some of those experiences may be only momentary as we go back to our hardwired ways but that doesn’t make them any less significant in terms of what they imply.

    That does not mean that you live with a lion in utter bliss and love…they are always wild animals and the hard wiring can kick in. But it does mean that the potential for moments of great beauty are there. There seems to be a switch that goes on or off – hunger- hunt, eat, see the screaming baby as food only, oblivious to the pain; fighting among each other for a portion of the meal. But with a full belly, sweetness can come to the fore. And that it what we have found.

    It is not a simple thing. I wanted to illustrate another aspect to wild animals that we usually do not consider. An additional reason for writing this article is just that people are so familiar with cows and pigs and horses and naturally go there in their experiences and in trying to alleviate suffering. But as most people are not familiar with wild animals I wanted to help us see that they too need to be heard and considered.

    And Saoirse…I love Elie Wiesel. To me he is a true hero, a stunningly remarkable man. I would give a lot to be able to have an hour’s discussion with him. He makes the human race look good. I keep a copy of his book “Night” out on a side table at all times to remind me of the complexity of humanity and our struggle to evolve.

    One comment in general is that the reactions to my article so far tend to be “top heavy” in human abstract reasoning, ( not surprising in the highly educated IONS audience) but is one reason we need animals, to keep us grounded in immediacy as well as our hearts.

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    Evelyn Jan 09, 2012

    Beautiful! And thank you for the wonderful work you do. We need more such sanctuaries. I hope to be able to visit one day.

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    EDinWAState Jan 13, 2012

    Thank you Susan for reminding me that I, too, am but an animal on this Earth and share in the experiences of all, wild and domesticated.

    While reading your moving article, the image of an elderly elephant, who was housed and loved a few years ago at the Seattle Zoo. bloomed into my mind's eye. I live about sixty miles from that zoo and one day I felt the strongest urge to drive down to Seattle and visit. I was immediately drawn to the elephant enclosure where this magnificent beast was living day by day just barely holding on to life. Suddenly I was stricken with a profound grief, a sadness that completely consumed me. Somehow, I felt as though a long lost friend was passing and asking where I had been all these years. I sat in the shade of a great tree and meditated for a long while in an attempt to communicate with this old matriarch and friend. I do not know if contact was ever achieved but, for me the experience changed something within me.

    Later, after returning home with the passion still fresh about me, I suddenly remembered a childhood friend who befriended me at the age of two or three. It was a young elephant being displayed in the Chicago Zoo For Children for whom I felt much affection and rejoiced within whenever she would stand near to where I was standing and I could touch and pet her. My parents bought me a stuffed souvenir of an elephant which became my most prized possession. Could the aged elephant in Seattle and the younger one in Chicago have been the same animal? I do not know; although it gives me much thought.

    Your article brought back a wonderful period in my life and I'm very much saddened that I did not carry on with associating with wild things... or should I call them my friends?
    Perhaps now, at age seventy, I will.

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    createdbylaura Jan 21, 2012

    Dr. Eirich, thank you for what you do for the animals, and in turn, for us all.

  • Susan B. Eirich, PhD Jan 24, 2012

    Susan B. EIrich, Ph.D.
    Dear EDinWAState,
    This is a beautiful and moving story. I wonder if you can trace the elephant through zoo records - it might be well worth it. If it is the same elephant, it would teach us even more, and help motivate you further to carry on associating with wild things (70 is a fine age to re-begin!

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    cottonwood Jan 28, 2012

    THANK YOU so very, very much for this article of wisdom, and for all you are doing to help the animals and to increase awareness. Blessings.

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    littlefriend Feb 17, 2012

    I attended a retreat at the Earthfire Institute last summer and highly recommend it to others interested in exploring how to connect with and learn from the inspiring wisdom of animals and wildlife. They have something special to share with us and a spirit that seeks the highest good for all the earth.

    Certainly one can look into the eyes of a lion and see alienness, especially if the lion is a stranger, with whom you have no connection. A very different emotion and feeling comes from the photo and video of Windwalker included by Dr. Eirich. It may seem like a horror for a baby elephant to be eaten by a lion, but that is their fate as prey and predator. On the other hand, not all but many humans have a choice of what to eat. What we eat does have an impact on wildlife, such as livestock grazing which squeezes out buffalo to bighorns, and ranchers who want removal of wolves and cougars.

    400 million people in India are vegetarians, though without much soy compared to the Chinese who have been eating it for a couple millenium. Most soy goes to feed chickens and pigs though. It will be a scary world for wildlife and everyone if India and China change their diets to eat as much meat as Americans.

    We are all connected on this earth. Connecting with animals and wildlife brings clarity to this message. Thank you Earthfire Institute for sharing and inviting others to learn about this important work.

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