Every animal has a unique personality
I have always had an innate connection with animals, when I was at school I was different from the other kids in that I'd have a little ant family or be feeding the snails whilst others played ball games. To me, animals are here with us not for us, they are part of our existence, they are intelligent beings, they are family.
Animals speak to those who know how to listen and if we listen closely enough they can teach us so many things.
Along with spending time at other sanctuaries, part of my weekly routine is volunteering at Whitegate Animal Sanctuary. There are an array of animals such as pigs, chickens, cows and goats; each animal has their own unique personality. They tell you when they are hungry, they tell you when they are in pain, they tell you when they need something.
When I was younger, I would walk past a field of cows chewing the cud, and back then thought they were pretty unintelligent beings, it’s only since I have become more involved with animals that I realised just how intelligent they are and how deeply they feel things.
At Whitegate Animal Sanctuary there is a cow named Emily, when she first arrived she was put in an enclosure on her own to settle for the night. The norm is to introduce cows/bulls to each other slowly. In the early hours of the morning the sanctuary were alerted to the fact that not one but three fences had been taken down and Emily was nowhere to be seen, becoming pretty worried as Emily had not come from the best conditions and was very frightened when she arrived, the sanctuary began to look for her. To their disbelief she had taken down three fences, crossed a path to the other side of the lane and made her way into the field where two-year-old Ember and Elliot the little bulls were, she was found running and playing with Ember.
She had made her way over there on her own and was clearly comforted by the other two. Animals definitely communicate with each other. Elliot, Ember and Emily get on so well and Elliot loves to play ball or chase a tyre as a game with you. Cattle love to play games, they are so interactive and intelligent. Chickens purr and can recognise people, research shows chickens can recognise up to 100 faces. Connecting with animals is a real eye-opener in realising how intelligent they are and how each of them has their own individual animal personality.
There is a bull called Nero pictured above, who now resides at the Retreat Animal Sanctuary in Kent. When he was small I would play the recorder to him to soothe him and now when he hears it he comes running, in the winter time when he was in the barn at the retreat I went in to visit him, he walked over to a silver trough and looked in it, then looked at me, then looked in the trough again and I knew he was trying to tell me he needed more water. I walked over to the trough and although there was water in there he wanted more so he didn't have to put his head so far down to get it. I turned on the hose and filled up the trough, he drank and afterwards gave me what people often think is cattle trying to charge or headbutt them - a head rub, which is a sign of affection. Nero has been seen moving from one field to another and turning back to help the younger calves who couldn't find their way, they feel, they care, they love, they feel pain, they grieve just like we do.
A great way to get to learn to have a connection with animals and to dig deeper into finding their idiosyncratic personality is to visit a sanctuary or volunteer on a regular basis. Connecting with animals can also really benefit our own wellbeing, providing peace and comfort.
Animals really do speak to those who know how to listen.