Origins of Karma Bob
In 2015, Joe Mikrut and Cheryl McCathran retired from their professional careers into careers of service at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in upstate New York. At the monastery, Cheryl and Joe met Lama Karma Drodhul, a young Tibetan Teacher with whom they bonded over their mutual love of animals. Among the many things they learned about from Lama Karma was a practice he was actively engaged in called Life Release - buying animals being raised or sold to be eaten, and returning them to their natural habitat or letting them live out their lives peacefully under human care. This practice and the values it embodies would eventually play an important role in reshaping Joe's and Cheryl's lives.
In 2018, Cheryl and Joe moved from the Monastery into what they thought was going to be full retirement in a home on 8 acres of land in New York's Helderberg mountains. They were excited about the possibility of having a lot of pets on their land, but had no thought , as yet, of establishing a refuge for a large and diverse group of animal kin in need.
The pets actually began to arrive while Joe and Cheryl were still in transition, dividing their time between the monastery and preparing for full retirement: a temporary foster cat from an animal agency Cheryl was connected to; then a "cloud" of 4 permanent cats whose human had died; then chickens, just because... Then, in the summer of 2018, as Cheryl and Joe were settling into their new home fulltime, Karma Bob, a baby yak arrived. He was something completely different.
Lama Karma, practicing Life Release, had bought a small herd of yak from an American farmer who was raising them for their meat, and Joe and Cheryl had found them a forever home on a farm near their property. Karma Bob was born into that herd, but rejected at birth by his mother. Unable to stay with his herd, Bob needed a new home; Joe and Cheryl invited him to be part of theirs.
As with all rejected herd animals, Bob's health was frail. He needed constant loving care (including bottle feeding!) no matter how big he grew, but his personality more than made up for all the work that went into caring for him. Bob bonded with Joe, and would follow him around the 8 acres as a loving dog would. As Joe watched Bob interact with the world during their rambles, it became clear that Bob never met a critter (two-legged, four-legged, winged, whatever...) he didn't love, never found himself in a situation he wasn't curious about, and never, ever stopped wanting to help.
Meanwhile, it seemed as though Bob's open, welcoming, loving presence was magnetically attracting more animal kin with difficult histories and /or special needs: a Great Pyrenees herding dog who had lost her farm and family; four goats, three of whom had medical conditions that made them unsuitable for milking herds; three female yak who were facing slaughter; and a cat in need hospice care.
At first, Bob thrived in this new community of kin (something much more than "a lot of pets"); but, in the early fall of 2019, Bob's always delicate health took a turn for the worse and declined steadily from there. Joe, Cheryl, and the vets whose help they enlisted took every possible measure to save him, but Bob passed away in late October. He has been sorely missed in the years since.
And yet... It's pretty clear that Bob's magnetic personality has never left, and continues to help to grow, the community of kin that began to form with his arrival at Cheryl's and Joe's home. In just the first year after Bob's death, horses; sheep; alpaca, more goats, more chickens, and rabbits joined the community, all in need of refuge for one reason or another. More kin have arrived since.
Bob's birth was only possible because Lama Kama Life-Released the herd to which his parents belonged, and his survival depended on the second chance that Cheryl and Joe gave him. His spirit drew and continues to draw other animal kin in need of second chances. His spirit has inspired Joe and Cheryl to give up on retirement and embrace second fulltime careers of service as hosts of a large and still growing refuge community. When it came time to name that community, which had begun when Bob literally moved into in the back yard of their home, the only thing to call it was Karma Bob's Back Yard.