Review of Animal Camp: Reflections on a Decade of Love, Hope, and Veganism at Catskill Animal Sanctuary

I flew through the book Animal Camp yesterday, essays about Catskill Animal Sanctuary by its founder Kathy Stevens.

Its effects lingered on all day.

I couldn’t really tell what the feeling it left me with was.

It was a mix of confusion, wonder, disbelief and thinking about my two dogs I once lived with.

I felt confused all day.

It was like I had just read Charlotte’s Web. All the animals at The Catskill Animal Farm Sanctuary, like Old Rambo the sheep, who protected the farm and all the animals, and Franklin the pig, who laughed with the volunteers and liked to sit on a hill and watch the sunrise every morning, had such storybook personalities. They even communicated with Kathy all the time, telling her what they wanted, thanking her, and sharing their joys and sorrows with her.

It was like the animals at her farm could talk.

But animals can’t talk though… right?

I thought about my dogs all day yesterday. I had two dogs growing up.

I thought about their personalities.

How unlike humans they were in their understanding of nature, how they could smell the tracks of an animal in the grass, how they could sniff the wind out of a car window and understand so much about what was passing, how they could run so fast and jump and turn on a dime, also how pure and affectionate they were, loving and befriending me for some reason, like they could just sense who loved them the most.

Also I was thinking about how like humans they were. My dog Rolfy especially had a very human personality. He was very proud and haughty. He had a lot of self respect. He demanded to be treated like an equal. Sometimes I had the uncanny feeling of forgetting he was a dog and seeing him, like how in a dream a person can be two things, as a human.

What was that? That relationship I had with two DOGS.

That was love. Real love. And real friendship.

All day it brought tears to me eyes thinking about my two dogs. Though I intensely loved my dogs and never considered them “just” dogs, I think I did later discount their love in my life. Even though I truly loved them with all my heart, they weren’t human.

It doesn’t matter.

Humans and non humans can communicate and can share real love and friendship together.

One thing Kathy Stevens says often in her book is we are all more alike than different.

Just like we do, animals befriend each other more by personality than what they look like. Those interspecies friendships that are so adorable? Quite commonplace. Animals befriend who they get along the best with, no matter the species.

We are all more alike than different.

Honestly this is a hard thing to think about.

I never really understood this till now, that once you get to know animals, whether they are chickens, sheep, goats, pigs, horses…they are all just as human and amazing as your dog or cat… they each have a distinct incredible personality.

I don’t want to think about this.

There is one part of the book where Kathy passes a pig transport truck after she has had her sanctuary for a while and knows all her animals as friends. A pig looks at her through the holes in the truck and she starts a wail…and can’t stop.

I imagined seeing the eye of my beloved dog in there.

All animals  have personalities that are more like us than not like us.

I need to go to an animal sanctuary.

Animal Camp is a beautiful peaceful storybook book, and one that will grow on you and keep you thinking about it…

It is almost like a fairy tale, but a vey dark fairytale with a happy ending.

You know how the story goes only a virgin pure of heart could summon a unicorn. They would send out this beautiful girl into a meadow and a unicorn would come out attracted by her kindness and gentleness. Then the hunters would leap out of hiding and kill the unicorn.

There are still the maidens out there and there are still the hunters out there.

Highly recommend this book.

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6 thoughts on “Review of Animal Camp: Reflections on a Decade of Love, Hope, and Veganism at Catskill Animal Sanctuary

  1. Oof. This post hit me hard. I don’t want to think about SO many things regarding farm animals because I feel helpless to change their circumstance. I know all of the points mentioned in this post to be true. How people can participate in animal agriculture is incomprehensible and overwhelming to me.

    • So GLAD you like the post. And thanks for reaching out and commenting!!
      I know…I think that is exactly why this book was just haunting and leaving me with a weird feeling all day. Knowing that, and then knowing what is happening to farm animals…it is just very hard to think about and deal with. I hear you.

  2. How amazing, I’ve just received my copy and can’t wait to start reading it. Thanks for your post.

  3. I have a copy of this but still haven’t read it!

    I think the empathy is very easy to have. What’s most difficult is living with it daily and protecting yourself so it doesn’t take you down. It’s hard to feel that much, be surrounded by so many people who don’t, and still feel sane.

    • Agreed Jesse Anne. It had been getting me down lately as well. Especially meeting other people who comment negatively about veganism without understanding anything about the situation. I met a guy the other day who was like “so many girls these days are vegans and vegetarians!! but i need a hamburger every now and then”–completely ignorant and yet he thinks he is the reasonable one.

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