The narrative spine of the film is an ancient fable about a wounded crane, saved by peasants, that attempts to express her gratitude with a gift. Scenes from the fable weave together real life stories of rescued animals and their human caregivers.
Located in a remote mountain valley in Colorado, there is a sanctuary that provides permanent habitats for wolf-dogs artificially created by breeders who sell them as expensive pets. But wolf-dogs are fundamentally wild and most of these creatures meet with tragic deaths. For the wolf-dogs who are cared for here, this sanctuary is literally, the only place for them on earth.
In the spring of 2012, seven hundred homeless dogs, all healthy, all temporarily pulled from kill shelters by rescue groups, were brought together for the annual Best Friends Super Adoption event. Volunteers introduced the rescued dogs to prospective adopters who cuddled and walked them amid the cacophony of barking dogs. The passionate dedication of the volunteers was matched only by the joy of those who fall in love with the perfect dog to take home.
Wild Animal Sanctuary
For the past 30 years, Pat Craig has dedicated his life to the Wild Animal Sanctuary, spread out over 700 acres in Colorado. Today, it provides permanent homes to 300 tigers, wolves and lions, once held captive and abused by humans. Most of these animals have never seen another animal before and must first adapt to their own species. Gradually learning to trust again, they become unique individuals who find a place in a community of peers.
The Blessing of the Animals
Every October, 4,000 animals and their human caretakers gather in the St. John the Divine cathedral in New York City to celebrate the Blessing of the Animals, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. Dogs and cats, monkeys and turtles sit on their humans’ laps as camels, lamas and bald eagles are led down the aisle of the largest cathedral in the world, in the procession of the animals. As we watch each creature receiving a blessing, we cannot help but wonder, who is blessing whom?
Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at James River Work Farm
On the expansive grounds of a prison farm in Virginia, non-violent offenders learn how to groom horses in a training program qualifying them for jobs after their release. The horses are all former racehorses, rescued from the slaughterhouse. As we watch a man grooming a horse, he tells us, "It's a blessing being with these animals." At a beautiful horse ranch nearby, a graduate of the prison program has a job grooming thoroughbred racehorses. As he brushes a magnificent horse, he tells us, "The horses I met in prison gave me an opportunity to start a whole new life."
Crane Village in Hokkaido, Japan
Through the freezing morning mist, we see a flock of red-crowned tancho cranes, stirring in a river. The cranes take flight and land on a snowy field, where a 93 year-old grandmother feeds them, as she has for over 40 years. As she walks among them tossing them corn, the cranes treat her as one of their own. She tells us that 80 years ago, when the cranes were nearly extinct, the villagers began feeding them their own food to help them survive. Today, there are more than 1,400 cranes, attracting tourists from around the world, helping the remote village to thrive.