The Beauty Within by Katie Costello
Katie Costello was born and raised in Hubbard, Ohio, USA. Her greatest passion in life has always been to help animals. She is lucky enough to be a licensed veterinary technician and owner of The Canine Campus Training and Wellness Center where she helps animals through behavior work. A vegetarian since she was 6 years old and a vegan for the last 11 years, she currently has 7 dogs, 7 cats, 7 chickens and 2 roosters and 3 farm pigs that are amongst her dearest friends. She is founder of 2 non-profit organizations, K-9’s for Compassion (Co-founded with her father), a therapy animal group and The Together Journey, a service dog organization. She has been on the board of many animal organizations throughout her life, including Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary and C.H.A.I.N. (Community Helping Animals In Need). After losing her Father to Agent Orange in july 8, 2015, she also acquired another great mission…to help people who are living from the effects of Agent Orange. In April of 2017 Katie and her husband, Sam, a veterinarian, went to Pleiku, Vietnam to kick off their understanding of the mission. Fundraising is underway to assist VAVA in Pleiku on several projects.
I think all too often we over complicate life. At its very core, it truly is about love. Love breeds kindness. Kindness gives way to wanting to help other beings. Soon, the energy we put out into the universe comes back to us ten-fold. It is yet another concentric circle that proves how much we all need each other. How we are all interconnected in an amazing web called life.
At age six I learned that certain foods my parents had been feeding me were animals. I ran out of my first-grade classroom crying hysterically when we were learning about the 4 food groups. I still remember the moment. I asked Mrs. Sox “What do you mean meat comes from animals? Like they give us something?” I can still see her face trying to think of how to answer this when she replied “No, it IS the animal.” I asked a few more questions because I truly couldn’t comprehend this answer or that this was happening. I went to the nurse’s office and demanded to go home. To me nothing could be further from okay. At six I became vegetarian and I never touched meat again, and thirty-four years later I vowed to take that one step further to become vegan.
On my grandparents farm I would spend endless hours playing with the cows, the chickens, gathering eggs with my grandmother, playing with piglets, all had names. All were my friends.
Animals provided a knowledge and experience that meant more to me than anything. I trusted them impeccably. It is so simple. Love with a whole heart. Harm no one or anything intentionally. That foundation that I had led me into a career with animals. It started with working at a shelter, and then going to college to become a veterinary technician, and finally owning my own business, The Canine Campus Training and Wellness Center which provides animal training and behavior work. My husband, Sam, is a veterinarian and also a vegan. Our entire lives are devoted to animals.
As I grew, I found a deeper understanding of the world and my commitment to thinking in a larger way with broader strokes and understanding that the labels we place on everything only create divisions, and divisions create more divisions, unrest and wars.
One day my husband wanted to go to a farm animal sanctuary about an hour away from our home and the course of my life was changed forever because of that trip. I stopped at each barn to learn each inspirational story of the animals that survived against all of the odds. Some came from neglect situations, others had fallen off of meat trucks, others victims of cockfighting. Each story fed my soul.
I walked over to a volunteer to hear the story of the animals at one barn, when all of a sudden a pig came squawking down over a hill. The volunteer, said “Oh, that is Jebbe Boye. He is partially deaf, so he is louder than the other pigs.” And the story continued. He had been used in hog-dog fighting in Kentucky and was picked up by an anonymous person and taken to a veterinary clinic. A contact at the veterinary clinic arranged the transportation and Jebbe rode in a cab from Kentucky to Columbus with an Ethiopian cab driver who called him Jebbe Boye, meaning Little pig. The name stuck!
Jebbe came over to me by the fence where I started to pet him and hear the rest of his story.… “he lost an ear in the fight, partial hearing, and has injuries to his rear legs.” In his eyes I saw his soul. The inhumanities that people had done to him, and yet, he was pure love. I stood by him for a long time. His energy was healing.
Our trip home from the sanctuary that evening revolved around conversation of pigs. While Sam was in veterinary college, he lived on a pig farm. He loved the pigs and being in their presence, but like me, the reality of what happens to them was so much to handle.
The next morning, I talked to Sam about how I couldn’t stop thinking about Jebbe. WE decided we had to adopt him and his barn mates; Anselmo and Tadita. I would go to the sanctuary weekly to take Jebbe and Company fruits and vegetables and to sit by this huge and lovely creature. I would read to him, and he would sit, looking out of the barn with his awesome energy so full of wisdom. To think we knew much else about being a pig farmers was laughable. Jebbe would teach us a few things quickly though!
Moving day was so exciting! I had my camera in hand and went to help load them into the trailer. Tadita and Anselmo created no problems whatsoever. Within minutes they were in the trailer. Jebbe, however, had other ideas. He decided first that there was a green pasture to stop in, and all of the coaxing in the world wasn’t going to change things. Volunteers who had come to help were getting annoyed, and it was at least 2 hours later before Jebbe was standing in front of the truck, determined to NEVER step foot on. It was a waiting game. Meanwhile, Tadita and Anselmo were happy as could be in the trailer eating. The term “Pig headed” was meaning more and more to me.
Once home they fell into their routine and learned to love Happy Hog Haven as we named our farm. I would frequently read to Jebbe, we would do color differentiation games, we made big “Kong’s” for them out of blue barrels and would fill with food, we tried all sorts of environmental enrichment ideas. Pigs are the 4th smartest mammals on the planet. These guys need things to do!
Pigs love to decorate. If you hand them branches, they will take them from one place to another decorating. They will take items you put in their pasture to do the same. They will keep moving them until they find the perfect location.
Sadly, there really aren’t statistics of how long pigs live. Most are slaughtered by the time they are one. I had known two that were thirteen years old that lived at the farm animal sanctuary. More than one billion pigs are slaughtered a year for food consumption worldwide. Just let that number settle in.
So, what do you do when you feel something so passionately, and need to counteract some of that negative-yet don’t have the ability to stop it entirely? You do what you can. You educate. So, word started to get around about our pigs. Because most don’t make it to a year, people aren’t used to seeing pigs as big as pigs are! We threw them a party, where we raised money for the farm animal sanctuary. We invited EVERYONE. People came from afar! And we let people pet them, feed them, and take pictures with them. And things started to happen! I started to get questions about more visits, so we adopted an open barn policy. People would make weekly journeys to our house to feed them and hang out with the pigs. And stories started to be told about how they couldn’t eat pork anymore, and that oftentimes spread to other meat as well! As someone who has been vegetarian/vegan and trying to convince people for 41 years to take the leap, I was amazed at how effortless it was for Jebbe.
Jebbe found himself stuck in the mud in Spring of 2016. His rear legs were weak from his injuries when he was a baby. We formed a save Jebbe party and dug and dug and used ropes until we freed him. From that day forward, he never walked again. He enjoyed one more Summer before passing away at the age of nine. Half of my heart left with that pig. He taught me about loving with your entire heart, and not holding grudges. Listening is everything. And mostly, always eat what is on your plate. I have had 2 artists draw Jebbe pictures. He touched so many.
The day he died was devastating, and as life does you start to figure out how you are going to go on. One of my dearest friends sent me a picture of a cloud from when she was driving that day. She too loved Jebbe, and this was proof to us that he was okay.
One morning about 4 months later I was heading to work when I heard that a livestock truck carrying pigs had overturned on the freeway by my house and pigs were loose. I turned my car around and went straight to the scene of the accident. This was on route 80, a very busy interstate. After a short while I saw 2 pigs that I assumed had been killed as they were lying lifeless in the median strip. I walked over to them and one picked up her head. Because they could easily cause another serious accident I stayed on the side of the road and I started calling Sam, friends and a neighbor with a livestock trailer. One of those friends was my dear friend Annette, founder of that awesome farm animal sanctuary. Once everyone arrived, we came up with our plan to save these two.
After about 1.5 hours the 2 pigs that had been thrown from the truck were on the trailer headed to safety. The news had footage of us trying to get the pigs on the truck, and a community rallied around again for the news that those pigs had made it to safety and would never be slaughtered. While this should have felt like a huge victory, my heart was so heavy from the ones we couldn’t help.
And so, Thelma and Louise are now in our barn, and the stories they can tell! It took them about a week to come near us, they were very afraid. Their only support system at that point was each other. We would sit in the pasture watching them, they were always laying touching each other. Once, Thelma stood up and walked 5 feet away and Louise realized she wasn’t next to her she stood up and went into full flight. Day by day they started trusting us, and now the fear is gone. The girls have a FB page, just as Jebbe does. They will be 3 years old this November. Those girls have no idea how an accident that threw them out of a moving truck was the single best thing that could have happened to them.
So, the take away. All beings have worth and value. All beings are sentient and will attempt, in a way that makes sense to them, to save their lives. All animals feel pain. We need to extend concern and care to all humans and all beings. I am a huge believer in meeting people where they are. There are always things you can do. If giving up meat isn’t an option, give up meat on Monday. Then try giving it up on Monday and Tuesday…. take 1 step in the direction of kindness. One step has a way of turning into two steps, into three and into a journey. Take a moment to learn something about another being. Study them and appreciate them. We are all connected. Support local farm animal sanctuaries. Volunteer. Adopt a pig…. open your heart and what is given back will amaze you!
You can go to Jebbe’s FB page search Jebbe Boye Costello
You can go to Thelma and Louise FB page search Thelma and Louise saving the world 1 pig at a time
© Katie Costello