A lesson from a friend

/ Staff Blog

Hello, everyone! My name is Paloma and I am part of the team here at Return to Freedom. I want to take a moment to tell you a little bit about my good friend Buckwheat, who sadly passed away on Feb. 8.

Buckwheat was an incredibly special burro. He was captured from a high desert area in Nevada and lived for a short time with a family in Los Angeles. He made his way to Return to Freedom’s sanctuary in 2000.

He lived a wonderful life here, roaming freely in our sanctuary’s oak forest with 23 other burros.

Upon entering the forest, I would always call out Buckwheat’s name. Within minutes, he would be by my side. Sometimes, it took him longer than others, but I know it’s because he was exploring some far corner of those magical woods.

Together, we would walk the trails, often taking breaks which were filled with cuddles and head scratches. When I would sit down on a log, he would rest his entire head on my shoulder.

I could feel his total trust in me and our friendship.

However dreamlike that environment was, modern-day distractions would sometimes get the best of me. I would periodically pull out my phone to check social media, emails, texts.

Buckwheat would gently slide his fuzzy nose between my gaze and the screen, causing me to redirect my attention to the beauty all around me. It’s as if he wanted to help me live in the moment and appreciate this wonderful place.

Or maybe he just wanted more scratches.

Unfortunately, I was not at the sanctuary when I received a text from a colleague that Buckwheat had passed. My eyes immediately filled with tears.

He was a senior, and I knew that this day would eventually come, but it was still incredibly sad news. It is a great comfort knowing that he died peacefully.

Since his arrival at Return to Freedom, Buckwheat never spent a day tied, trapped, or used for any manmade purpose. During his years at the sanctuary, he only knew kindness and perhaps that is why he was able to love and trust so freely.

I will never forget my burro friend and the precious time we spent together. Our experience was a reminder that there is nothing more valuable in this world than an honest connection between two beings.

As a tribute to Buckwheat, my trips to the oak forest will now be a time to live totally immersed in the moment, letting the gratitude flow.

This is a little video I took during one of our walks through the forest. Sometimes, Buckwheat was slower than the other burros, but he always caught up to me.

–Paloma Ianes

buckwheat from Return to Freedom on Vimeo.

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