She was my quiet one who simply adored animals. Furry, feathered, winged, scaled - it didn’t matter, they were equally beautiful in her eyes and she loved them all. My daughter’s passion for the creatures of this earth was so intense that she promised to someday care for them all, even creating business cards with the self-appointed title, “Care Taker.” Catherine could often be overheard whispering to her animal and insect friends, “Tell your friends that I am kind.” She believed if they knew she was kind, their friends would come back with them. It was her marching hymn, just who she was and what her soul stood for…she was kind.
I often linger over the short time Catherine graced this earth and ponder what her “someday” dream of becoming “Care Taker” would have looked like. I am beginning to understand, in so many ways, her someday lived in her everyday moments. She would spend hours in her world of imagination, catering and coddling the animals in her care. Somedays the family room became a sprawling farm for the plastic animal mamas and babies she would shepherd into the back of a toy truck she borrowed from her brother. On hands and knees, head tilted as she chatted away, she shuttled her hodge-podge herd from the plastic paddocks to the stacked wooden blocks built into stalls for night shelter. Somedays she would lie on her belly, arms extended into the scaled model of a vet clinic. Her small fingers would move tiny figures from reception to examine room, her voice providing consult to the people and the bark or meow for the animal miraculously healed. When the day’s work at the clinic was done, she’d wrap her fingers around the little plastic animal and run it to the safe place on her nightstand, ensuring it would not be lost.
Catherine’s someday was everyday with “Sammy Girl.” Sammy, our yellow lab whose muzzle had long greyed and whose days were spent splayed on the floor warming weary bones in the sun streaming across the floor. Here, Catherine would curl in close, nose-to-nose, whispering sweet secrets and encouraging Sammy to come play. They marched forward together in time. Catherine grew into a little girl and long lazy days of play were shrunk into afternoons because mornings were now spent at school. Sammy Girl grew more frail and weak and yet, somehow, at the sound of the school bus, she would stir, knowing her girl was coming home and a new adventure would soon ensue. The moment the door would open there was never the slightest indication of aches or age - it was simply best friends reunited.
In the stillness that has settled over my life since my daughter died, I have realized her original marching hymn was the wisdom and gift Catherine left behind. Her life quietly embodied the grace and beauty that flourishes in the innate bond between people and animals. There is an unspoken love language in a hand that cradles the neck of a horse, sheep or goat; a mutual respect between a boy and his dog, or a girl and her cat; and, a gentleness that conquers as a human looks lovingly into the eyes of a beloved pet. It is in this sacred relationship that love, kindness and compassion takes root and blossoms.
Catherine died on December 14, 2012. She was among the 1st graders lost in the tragedy at Sandy Hook. While Catherine can no longer carry forth her marching hymn, we do. It is now our battle cry as we create the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary® in her honor and memory. Situated in the heart of Newtown, Connecticut on 34 acres of pristine farmland, the sanctuary is where heaven and earth unite and Catherine’s vision comes to life. The sanctuary is a safe haven where compassion, acceptance and determination serve as living witnesses to the power and miracles that emerge when the human-animal bond is cherished and honored. The sanctuary stands as a beacon of hope and healing, where Catherine’s “someday” is realized everyday.
Over the past six years, we have seen the miracles that can occur when a mission is based in purity and love. From the beginning, the support that has flooded this sanctuary has been staggering. From children to adults, organizations, corporations, volunteers and so many more, we are reminded of the strength and wisdom in Catherine’s gentle spirit. Among some has been the State of Connecticut granting the sanctuary 34 acres that we now call home. P|H Architects and Tracy Locke providing creative and professional insight into how to realize all that we could possibly imagine. And, most recently, the Blue Buffalo Foundation committing financial support to build the reception area in what will be the Veterinary Intake Facility. As we continue to raise funds for the main building and vet in-take center, we follow the stories of Catherine’s imagination and build programs and support with the tools and resources we have in hand.
Thanks to the support of so many, we’ve been able to magnify Catherine’s whisper by bringing compassionate and nature-based education programming into schools and straight to the community through free monthly workshops. Children sit in rapt attention as they learn about the animals they share this world with and why each is beautiful and amazingly unique. When I watch these little ones, their eyes big as saucers, I can hear Catherine’s exhale and feel her peace in knowing humans will be kind and the world will indeed be a better place. I breathe deep as I watch these children pulling friends and family by the hand, excited beyond words to share these moments of compassion and learning – a vivid confirmation that when you are kind, people do tell their friends and come back in droves.
Through the sanctuary’s animal programs, Catherine has finally fulfilled the role of “care taker.” By providing foster support, food and veterinary care to those in need. We hear a collective human-animal sigh when we assure a pet owner that their animal will not need to be surrendered because of circumstances beyond their control. Often, what seems like simple kindness can be enough to calm the soul when the world’s problems feel unbearably heavy.
Catherine’s marching hymn, her innocent words of kindness have not only been heard, but answered. Last year alone, the sanctuary welcomed 6,ooo humans and 100 animals to our annual Catherine’s Butterfly Party, a free family festival and super pet adoption event held in honor of Catherine’s birthday. Every year, Catherine always asked for an “all the animals animal party” and now, every year in June, she gets her wish. Little ones delight, adults meander, animals find their forever families and for a moment, time stops and I’m reminded that “someday” is today and her battle hymn has prevailed: kindness brings dreams to life and when shared with friends, can transform the world.
To learn more about our efforts and the Catherine Violet Animal Sanctuary, visit us at cvhfoundation.org or follow us Facebook and Instagram. And last but not least, don’t forget to tell all your friends that we are kind.