Dealing with anger for animals’ sake

In animal communication sessions, an animal will often show me an angry person in a current or past household.

It could be an abuser. It could be a situation that led to a person or animal living in fear, getting hurt or neglected, or losing their home. Maybe all of these.

It could also be someone who would never harm an animal or person, but is struggling with human stuff. Animals are naturally wary of angry people, though many wish they could help with whatever the problem is. Animals don’t understand the specifics, but they get the threat. Their humans mean the world to them.

What if we could harness our anger to recognize and solve problems rather than create more problems?

An essay I read in seminary, “The Power of Anger in the Work of Love” (in Making the Connections: Essays in Feminist Social Ethics) made me think that might be possible. Theologian Beverly Wildung Harrison said anger is “better understood as a feeling-signal that all is not well in our relation to other persons or groups or to the world around us.” Though anger doesn’t automatically lead to wise or humane action, she added, it can help get us there.

That is, if we calm the heck down first and think it through (my addition).

Can we learn to deal with our anger without being jerks … or worse? Sometimes a pause of even a few seconds can buy life-changing time to respond rather than react. We may not be able to change the situation, but we can change the energy we send out. It matters, I promise.

Using anger constructively might seem too good to be true in an age of pointing fingers and putting up walls. However, this excellent Kiwanis Magazine story by my friend Julie Saetre is a deeper dive into not only why people are so angry these days. It walks us through coping with these disturbances in a way that might actually help. It’s well worth checking out … and trying out.

Also, please support those who work tirelessly (and often thanklessly) to help animals affected by abuse and neglect. Increasingly, domestic violence shelters are teaming up with humane societies so that people in abusive relationships can get themselves and their pets out of harm’s way.

We all owe it to the animals, one another, and ourselves to do better.

Speaking up for neglected horses

malnourished horse
This is one of sixteen malnourished, neglected horses taken from a northeast Indiana farm last winter. (Photo courtesy Friends of Ferdinand)

Sixteen horses — first 10, then another six — were rescued from a Wells County, Indiana property in January 2018. All were malnourished, and some had untreated infections and injuries.

A few, including two of the six horses I worked with, did not survive. Others returned to their previous owners or found new ones, but faced a long and difficult healing process.

The case was all the more disturbing because the person responsible was known and trusted by area horse owners and rescuers. Yet, according to the conversations that followed, there were previous signs that all was not well.

What can we pull from this to create a better outcome the next time something doesn’t seem quite right, but we don’t know what to ask or how to help? How can we get better at spotting signs of animal abuse and neglect, speaking up, listening, and following through?

As I write this, winter is coming. That’s when many of these heartbreaking situations come to light, and when it’s difficult to respond.

I’m not a veterinarian, horse handler, or law enforcement officer. My job with horses is to listen to them, and to the people who love and care for them, and offer a calm presence that allows healing. But as a journalist of many years, I also wanted to offer some quality information that might prove useful to those of us in northeast Indiana and beyond. Here’s what I found.

• These two articles were both sparked by the Wells County case: When to Speak Up: Red Flags & Warning Signs for Reporting Abuse in Horse Nation; and If you see something, say something by Carleigh Fedorka, a horse handler and postdoctoral researcher who was part of the same network as the neglected horses’ owner.

• Another, Neglected, abused and abandoned horses: How to help in Equus Magazine, was written earlier but includes helpful information on staying on the right side of the law in these situations.

• Also of note: Friends of Ferdinand, which played a key role in the rescue of the horses in the above case, received a Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding in 2018. This story talks about how other rescue organizations stepped in to help.

Creating a better world for horses (and everyone else) does, in fact, take all of us.