jon katz

Tribute to Simon the Donkey

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I fell in love with donkey’s because of author Jon Katz and reading about them through his blog. I especially had a soft and big heart for Simon, the donkey he rescued from an abusive situation, and who was paralyzed for a time being. But that all changed when Jon and his wife, Maria took Simon in five years ago. He not only survived, but thrived.

The photo above was taken just a few days ago of Simon when he was protecting himself from the cold wind, standing in the skid barn. It cracked me up when I saw it and I laughed out loud reading what Jon said,  “I was grateful he didn’t drop a ton of manure in there, he looked peaceful, even cozy, for a donkey.”

He has thousands of adoring fans. Most recently a classroom of children heard about his story because of the book Jon wrote about him, Saving Simon: How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion. The children had sent Simon Christmas cards and New Years wishes.

He died today, unexpectedly. They think he had a stroke. My heart broke reading the news. I cried and have shed a few more tears as Jon continues to share the experience on his blog today.

But if you’ve read the book about Simon, you will understand when I say that all of a sudden through my tears, it occurred to me that Simon had a purpose and how he found his way to Jon — and that purpose was now fulfilled.

Not only did he change the way Jon understood compassion, but his story is helping others see compassion in a new way, too. I smiled for this profound and powerful message from Simon that will live on.

I recall reading the book and seeing myself in the story and the lessons of compassion I’ve learned also because of my dachshund Frankie who had IVDD, was paralyzed and in a wheelchair.  Because of her and then adopting another paralyzed, wheelchair doxie Joie,I came to understand the meaning of compassion in a whole new way too.

This is what animals are all about – they have such amazing lessons to teach us if we can get out of our own way and be open to their life altering teachings. Simon did that for me, just like my dogs have done, and continue to do too.

While I am so sad for the loss of Simon and will miss seeing photos of him and hearing his bray and his stories, I am so grateful to have known him through Jon’s sharing in his writing and photos.

Simon will live on in the hearts of so many and I actually consider him a hero because of the wisdom he brought to so many.

Rest in peace, sweet, dear, donkey, Simon. You will never be forgotten.

Book Review & Giveaway! Saving Simon: How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion.

simon bookAs many of you likely know, Jon Katz is my all-time favorite author. Whenever he announces he is working on a new book, I find myself on the edge of my sofa, eagerly waiting to curl up with a new book of his.

I have to say that I felt an extra bit of eager anticipation waiting for Saving Simon, as I’ve come to love and understand donkeys more because of Jon writing about them on his blog for many years.

I want to begin with my favorite passage from Saving Simon:

“When an animal guides you, emotionally and spiritually, it is not an obvious thing. Rather, they open doors indirectly, and then a domino effect sets in. They open up one part, and then that experience opens up another.”

As someone whose life has been positively changed for the better and enriched in ways I never saw coming because of caring for a dachshund that was paralyzed, I can closely relate to how the experience opens many facets of deepening in our understanding of love and compassion.

It was difficult to begin the story and read of the conditions in which Simon lived, so close to death when he was found and Jon, and his wife, Maria brought him to their farm. It brought me to tears and I had to set the book down for a moment.

But Simon was now in a place where he could heal and begin to live again. And in the process, as animals often do, they heal the humans around them, oftentimes without us even suspecting what is happening to us.

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Another passage from the book that touched me was this one:

And again, there was Simon’s spirit in my head. I can’t speak for what’s inside of his genial consciousness, but I can speak to what was inside of mine. From the first, I was struck by what I saw as the great trait of acceptance in Simon. People always spoke of him as being abused, rescued or neglected, but I saw no sign that Simon thought of himself in that way. Simon immediately got down to the basics of life—eating, walking, pursuing the girls, getting his ration of carrots and apples, getting brushed and fussed over.

This is what I’ve come to love deeply about animals. Their adversity to getting on with life despite what they’ve been through. Their ability to love again also speaks volumes.

Jon beautifully shares how Simon opened up a new world for him of understanding compassion in a way I’ve thought the same way in caring for special needs dogs.

He describes Simon as a magical helper, a spirit guide to help him on his hero journey. His helper appeared in the form of a donkey. Who’d of thunk, right?

But I believe our animal friends are calling out to us to be open to these important lessons to help heal our planet. Simon was just what Jon’s heart needed in opening to a new way of understanding. And when we open our hearts, we also open ourselves more deeply to understanding our fellow humankind.

Jon’s honesty in sharing how he wished to understand the farmer that had Simon before him, I found, to be extraordinary. In one aspect he wanted the farmer, who was so far down into despair after all he endured the past years of hardship, to snap out of it, he realized the farmer was beyond reach.

If we don’t feel for the human being who is so far into this dark place, how can we care for, and be open to the animals and planet around us?

To feel compassion for all living beings is what helps each of us to heal, just as Jon so beautifully shares through his story of Simon.

Simon, as I believe all animals are, are the definition of compassion. To now know Simon through the written word of Jon has opened another part in me that I welcome and am forever changed for the experience. Thank you, Simon….and Jon.

GIVEAWAY!  Leave a comment below by midnight cst, Oct. 22nd to be eligible for a copy of Saving Simon that I will be giving away. I will be using random.org to pick the winner and will announce on my blog on Thursday, Oct. 23rd (US residents only).

On Being a Mush Bucket and Why Mine is Overflowing.

Me-And-Simon-Come-Out-With-A-Kiss-944x629One of my favorite photos of Jon and his donkey, Simon

Hello. My name is Barbara Techel and I am a mush bucket.

Years ago when I heard a friend of mine describe herself in this way, I knew this was me too.

What is a mush bucket you ask?

Someone who gets teary-eyed whether they are happy or sad. It comes at times most unexpectedly or in situations you wish perhaps it didn’t. Like a mid-life hot flash, it just shows up. No call. No warning. There you are in the middle of it with nowhere to hide.

We find it difficult to hide our emotions. We wear them most clearly on our sleeve, and there is quite a bit that can move us to tears.

This week my mush bucket has been overflowing.

My all time favorite author, Jon Katz, underwent bypass surgery yesterday. When the news hit last week that he would be having this surgery, I was quite emotional. Today, learning that he made it through with flying colors, had the tears welling up in my eyes again.

So some may consider this silly. All emotional over a man I’ve never really hung out with. I’ve been to a few of his book signings, enjoying his talks, and have read every one of this books.

But it is his words that have taken up residence in my heart that make me look at life often times in a different way and appreciate it in a way I may not have considered.

I’m grateful for his authenticity and honesty of living the life of a writer, alongside his artist wife, Maria. Among the chickens, donkeys, barn cats, sheep and dogs he shares a life of meaning and simplicity.

His blog has become daily food for my soul. Almost without fail I read it Every. Single. Day.

With this scare of Jon perhaps not having made it through the surgery, I thought about how hard it would be to never see a blog post from him again.

Though that had my eyes welling up for a moment, I realized that his words will always be a part of me, and the sad emotion turned to grateful.

I’ve evolved and grown because of many thoughts he has so openly shared. I feel more secure in who I am through the wisdom of his own struggles he has so bravely shared on the page and in his posts.

So, yes, I am a mush bucket. I’m glad that I am. It means my heart takes things in in a big way. It grows each time this happens. I expand to appreciate more, to love more, and to be more compassionate.

To own that with all that it is I stand in the truth of who I am. I am a mush bucket and I am proud.

Anyone else out there a mush bucket too? You are safe to say so right here on my blog. I welcome all mush buckets with open arms… and lots of Kleenex.  🙂