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Animals as Teachers and Healers

Story by Joy Dunning Picture of MA
Koko (monkey) taken by Toni Maxx Teddy photos courtesy of Marianne Willemse

If you have ever loved and been loved by an animal, then you may already know that animals can be wise teachers and practiced healers. As teachers, animals show us how to love unconditionally, regardless of such things as race, shape, size, age and sex. Animals allow us to let our guard down and have fun. They remind us to focus on the small things like a meal, a play toy, or a good petting. As healers, animals comfort us when we are depressed and otherwise alone. They encourage us with their unconditional affection and belief in us. They are proud of our accomplishments.

Love Animal House is an animal sanctuary and education center, which believes that animals are important teachers and healers for our world. Marianne Willemse, the founder of the sanctuary has worked with animals for over 25 years. She conducts workshops for children and adults on inter-species communication, proper care for domestic animals, and the importance of conserving the natural environment for wild animals.

Although Love Animal House is home to over 100 domestic and wild animals, Marianne does not believe that wild animals should be raised in captivity and she does want to promote the idea that the sanctuary is a place for unwanted animals to be dumped. Instead, the center wants to reverse the problem through education so that people stop buying wild animals as pets, which ultimately encourages illegal poaching. She also hopes to relay a message of responsibility to pet owners, stopping the common practice of abandoning animals at wats (temples), zoos, markets, and sanctuaries like Love Animal House.

Marianne has had a lifetime of animals being her teachers and healers. When her beloved 400 kilo Himalayan black bear, Teddy, died unexpectedly on July 4th, she reflected deeply on this concept. Teddy was well known for his gentle hugs that he willingly gave to anyone. He was the backbone of the sanctuary during his lifetime and the namesake of the Love Animal House's "Bearhugs Club." He was only 8 years old when he died, which is unusual since the average lifespan of this species is 30 years or more.

As Marianne puts it "His presence brought to all of us a certain unexplainable thrill, just knowing him, such a huge and powerful creature and that it was possible to be so close to him. He was such a clever, funny, and friendly guy who used his heart and mind instead of his size to get what he wanted." Marianne's other animals helped to heal her of the intense sadness she suffered after Teddy's death. They continually remind her that she has a lot of wonderful reasons to be here, doing what she does.

Love Animal House has an office in Chiang Mai near the Anusarn Market in the Night Bazaar area, located at the Souvenir Guest House at 118 Charoen Prathet Road. Here, you can donate, become a Love Animal House "Bearhugs Club" member, and buy books and T-shirts. In addition, more information is available about animal tours in the area and you can arrange a visit to the sanctuary. The office telephone number is (053) 818-786. For more information about Love Animal House sanctuary, to see pictures of the animals, and to read interesting articles, please visit the website at http://animal-sanctuary.chiangmai-chiangrai.com

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