But reading Happily Ever Esther quickly dispelled that notion — and replaced it with a deep appreciation of all who invest their lives in creating and running sanctuary farms!
Co-authors Steve Jenkins and Derek Walters are refreshingly transparent about the difficulties and emotional toll involved in caring for previously abused and neglected animals.
Before founding the farm, Steve acknowledges, he envisioned something out of a fairy tale: “In my hokey vision of life on a farm, I pictured being best friends with all my animals. I imagined walking around with my goat and my pig and my cows all following me.”
But as he soon discovered, the realities were often much harsher.
He poignantly shares the story of William the arthritic goat, of whom he writes,” He was like a dog-goat to me.” But with every animal, there comes an inevitable day of farewell:
“He’d been on our farm for only about six months, so we hadn’t even considered death as a part of the process. It just wasn’t on my radar–but this was a stark reminder that the more animals we had, the more often we’d have to say goodbye to them.”
Shining through Happily Ever Esther’s pages, however, is the clear message that the hardships have only deepened their bonds with the animals — and magnified the sanctuary’s impact on the world!
What about Esther? She’s graduated from being the subject of Derek and Steve’s first book, Esther The Wonder Pig, to being the star of the sanctuary-farm show!
Research findings, they write, show that “Pigs learn to play video games as fast as chimpanzees… The pigs use their snouts to move the joystick and play the games with more focus and success than chimps do.”
But Esther has a more practical way of putting her snout to use:
At our old house, she figured out how to operate a lever-style door handle with just her snout. She did the same when we moved, A few days after we arrived, she could fling open the sliding patio doors to go outside… she mastered this almost immediately.”
And when it comes to relieving treat balls of their contents, Steve and Derek’s dogs are no match for Esther.
The dogs roll the balls around on the floor hoping the treats fall out (until the balls get stuck, that is.!) But “Esther would take a treat ball and walk in a straight line back and forth across the room… until it was empty of treats.”
I’m not a Facebook regular, but yesterday I paid my first visit to the Esther the Wonder Pig FB page. It’s the go-to place for the latest photos and news of Esther and the sanctuary.
Esther simply radiates pig happiness. And I am so comforted by knowing that she and all her farm-animal friends have their heroes Derek and Steve to count on!
Review of Happily Ever Esther: Two Men, A Wonder Pig, And Their Life-Changing Mission to Give Animals a Home by Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter, and Caprice Crane