Huckleberry Bear Bear's SaladPhoto by Dawn Harrison

— by Dawn Harrison —

We received a donation of 30 pounds of organic meat and salmon, much to the delight of the animals. I felt bad for the couple whose freezer decided to stop working, but I was hard-pressed to stay sad after seeing the joy that it brought to certain individuals on property. The cats (Tahi the Cougar and Better the Bobcat) got some of the most beautiful steaks I’ve seen in a long time as well as a slice of salmon—and showed their appreciation in their own feline way. They quickly nabbed their bounty and stole off to the corner to savor it. The wolves, coyotes, and foxes also enjoyed their meaty treats, devouring their choice bits with zeal. But the bears, as usual, were able to convey just how much they enjoyed their delicacies, gently yet enthusiastically accepting their first choices while making it abundantly clear that their second choices were also well appreciated.

A bucket full of salmon steaks

A bowl of salmon | Dawn Harrison

Susan tells me who is going to prefer which treats. That is all well and good, but there’s no comparison to actually seeing the choice when it’s made in the moment. We put together a beautiful bowl of salmon (because style and beauty matter in fine dining) and a rather large bucket of roasts and steaks and headed to the bears. I tried to make choices for each bear based on what I thought they would most like. Teton Totem got a rib eye steak the size of a platter; Ramble was the recipient of a massive roast; Bramble salivated over his loin roast, and even Humble Bumble (who generally doesn’t approve of red meat) liked his rump roast. Although I had these delectable portions to give out, the person they really wanted to see was Susan, the bearer of the salmon steaks! They completely ignored the meat until the salmon was fully consumed and licked off of any surface that may have been touched. It went down so fast there was no time to get a photo!

Black bear eating a salad

Huckleberry enjoying his salad | Dawn Harrison

You may be thinking, what about Huckleberry Bear Bear? The thing about having only one black bear is that when all the grizzlies get their meat and salmon, poor Huckleberry is left out. He may not want either of the treats on offer, but he knows very well that everyone else is getting something special. And jealousy among bears is real! So instead, I made him a salad fit for… well, a bear! And this one in particular would make any bear drool. It had ranch dressing, almonds, strawberries, carrots, blueberries, and grapes atop a full head of romaine lettuce, all served with the Tetons in the background. We even joked about having Jean play waiter and carry a white napkin over his arm! Although it would have been amusing, I don’t think it would have impressed Huckleberry very much. He was much more interested in licking every last bit of dressing from the lettuce before said lettuce was consumed, just like most kids.

All in all, it was a very good day.

Dawn Harrison is the Office and Ranch Manager at Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. With a diverse background ranging from accounting and customer service to animal caretaking, her true passion is to help enrich the lives of animals, one being at a time.

What Does Sally the Chicken Do? Anything She Wants…

— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —

Sally the chicken was named after Sally our office manager, our hard-drinking, pistol-toting, animal-loving Texan office manager who took no guff from anyone. With Sally the chicken having the same essential qualities (maybe not the animal-loving part), Sally the office manager was proud to have such a hen named after her. Sally the human had a stroke and is now in rehabilitation, but her namesake legacy reminds us of her frequently, with fondness. The office is a little more dull without her colorful personality.

In any case, Sally the chicken struts the property with a sense of entitlement that emanates from her unmistakably, which includes her considering the office part of her personal domain. The other day, seeing her in the office, a visitor asked, “What does she do in here?” Dawn, our new office manager (who also doesn’t take guff from anyone), replied with admiration, “Whatever she wants.”

White chicken

Sally the Chicken | Koby Kasten

It is true. It struck me then, what if we had that same personality in a human? That would be scary! Would anyone want to work here if a Sally were in charge? (When I read this to her, Dawn responded, “But I have known people like that: a former boss.” )

Mind you, we have also had really gentle, caring roosters. Exploratory hens. Ditsy hens and competent hens. These personality traits seem to go across all species. How interesting!

“I Want a Mind Like That”

I was attending a mediation retreat led by an advanced and esteemed teacher. He taught by wonderful anecdotes. The one that stayed in my mind was one he shared about walking on a beach with his dog. He was reviewing over and over in his mind details of a medium-pleasant conversation he had just had, not a very important one. But that was where his mind was, missing everything on the beach except as a background setting. Meanwhile his dog was rushing back and forth, grabbing sticks, racing through the surf, delighting in everything, grabbing the same stick on the way back because it became new. He said to himself, “I want a mind like that…”

So hard for us humans, not to think think think! Even a monk who has meditated for years, immersed in it, has trouble controlling his all too human mind. What a gift to be with animals who help us remember to delight in the gift of Life!

Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.

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