Day was last week, but I want to tell you about a wonderful love
story that I recently was privileged to share. It takes place in
the hills of Cornville, Arizona and involves an amazing woman, her
parents, and a most unusual collection of dogs, cats, horses and
Saara is a 30 year old veterinarian technician who has been sharing
her home with abandoned and abused animals since she was young.
Her family has a small spread in Yavapai County where they shelter
rescued animals ranging from Amazon parrots and boxers, to a draft
horse and a miniature donkey.
We met Saara through a mutual friend when we were asking around
for a good place to ride horses. We were told that she has a very
special gift for working with animals, but werent prepared
for the greeting we received when we climbed a fence and entered
an empty-looking field. Suddenly, in the distance, we saw a group
of horses moving quickly towards us. One of them was very big,
and they werent slowing down. Roy and I stopped walking,
but Saara continued forward and greeted them with baby talk and
enthusiastic pats and butt rubs.
and I just looked at each other. I felt a nudge at my knee and
glanced down to see a very small donkey looking up at me. Now
this was more my size! We were surrounded now, but there were
more to come as three boisterous boxers rounded the corner and
began to jump on everyone, including the horses.
It was a busy scene, but apparently only the beginning. Saara
turned to us and casually mentioned that there was also a house
full of birds.
As we became better acquainted with all of Saaras babies,
she told us their histories, which involved a tremendous amount
of cruelty. It was really hard to believe that these incredibly
gentle, affectionate animals had been on the receiving end of
such abuse. She described the conditions they were in when they
came to her, and we asked her if there had ever been one who had
not been able to recover. She thought about it, and quietly said
Saara plays down the strength and tenacity that surely must be
required to persevere in such situations. But the love and devotion
she feels are absolutely tangible. Theres a sense of calm
and sureness that flows from her and permeates the air.
It was a little less calm, though, inside with the thirty birds.
Surprisingly, there was no mess or even odor from the many cages,
just ear-piercing squawks from everyone who was glad to see her.
They came in every size and color, but I was taken aback at the
number whose bodies were mostly bald. Apparently birds who have
been mistreated often continue to pluck out their feathers, even
when their circumstances change for the better.
and I hosted birds on our shoulders and on our arms as Saara told
us further stories. Some were tinged with humor, like the one
about the cockatoo who had learned to scream curses at people
who stayed on the phone too long. Most, however, were heart-breaking.
Of course we asked her - how do you do it? She responded simply
that her family had always taken in strays and animals that need
help. Its just what we do.
Such a powerful statement.
Valentines Day is about romantic love, but there are also
different kinds of love to be celebrated. Caring for sick, featherless
birds and skittish, emaciated horses is certainly not something
were all capable of doing, but how wonderful that there
are families like Saaras who can. And how fortunate that
she wants others to benefit from her experience. She owns one
buckskin thats getting ready to move down the road to a
shelter for abused children, where hell be a therapy horse
for those who have been sexually or physically abused themselves.
Roy and I did get to ride on our second visit there, as the sun
was beginning to set behind the surrounding hills. It was beautiful
and a lot of fun, made even more special by the fact that we were
on horses that had been cherished enough to bring them back to
health and wholeness.
Now thats real love.
Real love is a permanently self-enlarging experience.
-- M. Scott Peck