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The Nature of the Beast

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Requieset in pace: Turpentine Creek's memorial space

Turpentine Creek is a place teeming with life. Early each morning, a score of enthusiastic and energetic 20-something interns converge on the facility, scouring cages, observing the animals for signs of illness or injury, and providing maintenance to the miles of fencing and acres of land.

As the day wears on, the staff and interns lead tours and build new habitats. Then, at feeding time, the place comes alive with a restless energy as the big cats growl, chuff, and roar, demanding their dinners.

There is another area on the grounds, however -- one the public does not see. It is a private area, quiet and solemn. This is the "memorial wall of remembrance" and other animals who have transitioned from this life.

The memorial consists of a line of silver-toned plaques extending from one huge tree to another. During an animal's time at the refuge, the plaque serves to provide the public with a name and a history. As an animal leaves its life at the refuge behind, the plaque is moved from the enclosure to this row of silver memories.

The tradition was begun by Hilda Jackson, the founder of the refuge and mother of the current president, Tanya Smith. "The memorial was my mom's idea," Tanya said. "She wanted it as a reminder of the animals we have saved. We are honored to provide a lifelong refuge for every animal, and glad they could spend their last days free from abuse."

The memorial has become a way to recognize the worth of every beautiful creature which has been a part of the refuge and its mission. Thus these proud beasts, many of whom have been rescued from deplorable conditions, not only find a home for the rest of their days at Turpentine Creek, but a final resting place and an acknowledgement of the precious value of their lives.

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Darlene Simmons is a transplant from California, landing in Eureka Springs in 2008. She comes to journalism after a long career as a R.N., public health nurse, and nursing professor. She holds a Master's Degree in Nursing and has been published twice in professional journals.

She regularly contributes to Currents Magazine. A life-long animal lover, she is an active supporter of both Turpentine Creek and The Good Shepherd Humane Society. Please send comments and/or ideas to: darlene@modestojim.net