Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Category Archives: animal rescue

Sheep Grins and The Turlock Hen Rescue

Adam's Grin

It was a sunny day at the sanctuary last Saturday, but very very windy. The wind made it cold for us humans, though most of the animals seemed to think it was just fine.

Adam is one of the friendlier sheep, bottle raised at the sanctuary from just a few days old, and thus more comfortable with humans than many of the sheep are. He’ll still move off with the herd, but he’s also one of the first to approach humans. Saturday was a good example.

Everyone loves to give Adam attention because if you pet him just right, he wags his tail. It’s a big disappointment when people don’t get the tail wag, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Adam holds out sometimes to make sure people keep trying, and thus keep petting him.

Adam

In the pig yard, I framed a shot to document how beautifully blue the sky was and how beautifully dry and smooth the pig yard was. That might sound odd to those who have not waded through thick clay mud or haven’t tried to spear frozen poo pellets out of frozen divots, so you’ll have to trust me – the pig yard was a beautiful thing last weekend! Of course as I took the picture little Patty came trotting over. I’m pretty sure she thought I might have a treat for her, but since I didn’t (and she sniffed the camera thoroughly to make sure), she trotted on past me.

Patty

The wind was so strong that we didn’t let any of the birds out into the chicken yard. Not that they would have wanted to be out there anyway with that wind! It gave me a chance to get an interesting pair of shots of Arthur, the younger peacock, inside the barn.

Most people think of brilliantly colored feathers when they think of peacocks. Fair enough, they do have brilliantly colored feathers…but only when the light is hitting them right. So this pair of pictures perfectly illustrates what a dramatic impact the light has on the appearance of their feathers.

Arthur, facing away from the sunlight

Same bird, same day, same camera settings, same sunlight, and I was in exactly the same place for each shot…the only difference is the direction Arthur was facing.

Arthur, facing into the sunlight

Kinda cool, isn’t it?

Up by the gift shop, Nobby came to see us with his two girls, followed by Nelson and his girl, Isa. Such odd couples, but who are we to argue with true love?

Isa in foreground; background (left to right): Nelson, Nobby, Nobby's two girls

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, an enormous rescue of over 4,000 hens took place after a farmer left “his” 50,000 egg-laying hens to starve to death when he could not afford to feed them. The Turlock Hen Rescue, as it has come to be known.

Animal Place took most of the hens, and Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary took a smaller number.

For perspective, at Poplar Spring the bird population hovers at around 60, if I recall correctly. That’s the number they’ve determined they can house based on the barn space that is available. As someone who helps clean the barns every Saturday, I can say that it’s a good amount of work.

4,000 is a number I can hardly comprehend.

Suffice to say that Animal Place especially (but the others who have taken some also) has their hands full. If you can help them out, now’s a good time to do so. Even if you can’t help out financially or in person, go read about the rescue, about the fifteen hens saved from the manure pit at the chicken farm, the hens going outside for the first time, and re-learning how to eat. And go vegan.

Their lives prior to rescue are beyond what any of us can truly imagine. But now that they are rescued we can start to imagine what the rest of their lives will look like, and it will be good. They are why we are vegan.

Dexter: Highlighting the Disconnect

Dexter at psas

Dexter is a young horse who came to Poplar Spring just a few short weeks ago. He was skinny, covered in bug bites, had evidence of old injuries to both his back and his eye, and he is only 18 months old. His head looks impossibly tiny to me – I haven’t been around a young horse in a very long time. He is barely taller than I am, and I’m nowhere near tall. Terry reminds me that he’s just a baby…

A coworker asked me today how “the animals” were doing. I was fairly certain he was asking about the sanctuary. We’d talked about it once before, which I only remembered later. When he asked if any new animals had arrived, I was certain we were on the same page, and I told him a little about Dexter.

And when I say “a little”, I mean I barely told him anything at all – that he came to PSAS a few weeks ago, that he had evidence of eye and back injuries, and that he was 18 months old – before my coworker got upset and started walking away saying “no, don’t tell me any more, I can’t stand to hear about people being cruel to animals.”

That’s when I remembered; he had the same reaction the last time we talked about the sanctuary, and considering the atmosphere at work, where we’re repeatedly told to discuss nothing that might upset someone else (translation: discuss nothing that isn’t widely accepted in the mainstream; in other words, hunting and bbq are acceptable topics, but veganism is not and the realities of animal exploitation is definitely not), I certainly was sharing almost none of the reality. And it upset him anyway, to the point he had to walk away.

dexter at psas 2

I can’t remember every detail of today’s conversation; mostly I remember that I had a lot of long silences filled with everything I didn’t feel I could say at work, and that my silences seemed to say more to him than my words did. And though reading my quasi transcript of our conversation looks like it was confrontational, it wasn’t actually. I suppose tone of voice isn’t easy to convey in written form, but I made it a point to be gentle in my spoken tone.

Here’s how it went:

When I pointed out that he was part of the process (of harming animals) that he said he hated, he immediately denied it.

“I don’t eat horsemeat.”

[silence]

“I’m very grateful for the people who work in the slaughterhouse. I could never do it myself.”

[very loud silence]

“I’m a meat eater and I am proud of it!”

[deafening silence]

Finally I found some actual words, “I just don’t understand the disconnect. You are practically in tears [he’d told me previously] hearing about a horse who survived, but when it comes to other animals…”

[brief silence]

“I’m a hypocrite,” was his response as he walked down the hall, headed towards a meeting we were both almost late for. “You win!”

“It’s not about winning…”

This particular coworker is not one I would have picked out of the crowd as someone remotely open to veganism, and of course at this point I doubt he is. But his compassion, his emotions, are real. He’s in his 50’s, at my best guess, not exactly of the generation raised to be “in touch” with his feelings, and yet with hardly any description at all, and certainly barely a hint of what any of the animals have gone through before arriving at the sanctuary, he is quite literally almost crying.

The first conversation, around a month ago, probably took him by surprise. It started with the standard question of “what did you do this weekend,” and I ended up talking about the sanctuary in more detail primarily because he was mis-understanding, thinking I was talking about one of the areas along the Potomic River that is a “wildlife refuge” (not that such designation ever stops the animal exploitation, but that’s a different topic altogether). He definitely didn’t approach me for that conversation.

But this one, this was one he instigated. He asked first if I had been to the sanctuary, and then asked how they were handling the weather (it’s been a hot summer!), and then he asked if any new animals had arrived. He knew in asking this that any new arrival would have a heart-wrenching story, but I can only conclude that the sanctuary and its residents have been on his mind.

I don’t know if I handled our conversation very well this afternoon. There are likely ways I could have talked about it with him that wouldn’t have ended with him accusing himself of being a hypocrite. Not that this isn’t an accurate assessment, and not that it isn’t something that can be quite powerful (it is what got me to go vegetarian way back when), but I have a feeling it simply put him more on the defensive than he was before.

At the same time, it’s sort of awesome to have seen how little I needed to say overall…the conversation was mostly him, and his reactions to my silence.

This is, as ever, one of the most frustrating aspects of advocacy. Our impact, if we had any, might not be visible for a while. Maybe not even until after our lives no longer connect. Even if we see a positive change, it is hard to know for certain what was our influence, or which of our conversations contributed in a positive way.

There just is no formula. Everyone is different, bringing their own life experiences and their own personalities to the table, and it makes advocacy something of an improv performance. Except harder – we can see the reaction of our audience, but we don’t really know how well we did for a long time, if ever.

dexter at psas 3

Two separate cats in the DC area need homes or fosters

A few months ago I adopted a sweet little deaf kitten from a great local rescue organization, Homeward Trails. One of the things I really like about them is that they make a lifelong commitment to the animals they adopt out…so if anything ever happens and you can’t take care of your adopted animal for whatever reason, they get him or her back so they can make sure he or she gets into another good home rather than ending up on the streets, in a shelter, or neglected.

They’ve also been great about helping me to help others when I’ve heard of people in the area who found stray puppies, or was emailed about a cat needing help. So when their cat foster coordinator emailed me asking if I knew of people who could foster or adopt two cats she doesn’t have room for, I was more than happy to do what I can to spread the word.

First up is Yoki. She’s deaf, and good with other cats.

Yoki

Yoki

And then there is Bungle. He is an orange tabby who is great with dogs.

Bungle

Bungle

Please spread the word about these two cats, and hopefully we can help them get into homes – either foster homes or forever homes.

A vet visit, a wonderful story, and carnism

Last week I had to take Tempest to the vet. She has a cough and it’s not going away easily or fast, but I have hope that it’s finally starting to show some improvement. But last Thursday I was at the vet to get her looked at. Worried, as we can’t help but to be, even when we think it’s probably a cold, and trying not to think of worst case scenarios.

I had a few minutes wait in the waiting room, and two dogs immediately came right up to me. Total sweethearts. “That’s Charlie and Max,” said the man holding their leash, and his love for them was practically visible in the air, it was that strong.

I sat there and just loved on them, and I would swear that they sensed my high emotions and were offering me their comfort. Their human seemed a little embarrassed at their behavior, but I didn’t see why he would be. They were very polite, and I certainly didn’t mind Charlie resting his head on my knees as I pet him! After a few minutes, their dad started talking to me. That typical joking “oh, you can tell they are horribly abused and neglected” that we seem to never tire of when faced with dogs who want nothing more than to meet and greet everyone. He had a third dog with him, who was sitting solidly between his feet. I asked about her, and he said that she actually had been abused, and so she was slow to warm up to people. I said that she didn’t seem scared, just wary, and who could really blame her? She was the smart one, really.

I asked how she came into his life, and he sort of lit up. He’d been at the dog park with Max(ine) and a woman who worked at a nearby shelter came in the park with this skin-and-bones dog who was shaking in fear. She’d been abused, found starving and wandering, and had gone to two homes where it just hadn’t worked out. And so this man, moved by her story and her need, took her in. He was apparently the right person for her, and I could hear what he wasn’t saying, that for him it was love at first sight. You could tell that Sarah took a lot of strength and comfort from the security he offered.

I felt so hopeful about people in this world after talking to Charlie, Max and Sarah’s human. It’s so nice to meet people who have that bond with the animals they care for, who love them so deeply and so clearly, and who help a starving and abused dog find stability and comfort for the rest of her life. But, I admit, there’s always that part of me that wants to know: why do people love their dogs and cats this deeply but still eat/kill/exploit other animals?

Melanie Joy would say that this is carnism. She has a book coming out soon, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism.

In her groundbreaking new book, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows, Melanie Joy explores the invisible system that shapes our perception of the meat we eat, so that we love some animals and eat others without knowing why. She calls this system carnism. Carnism is the belief system, or ideology, that allows us to selectively choose which animals become our meat, and it is sustained by complex psychological and social mechanisms.

Looks to be an interesting book. I have a lot of interesting books in my queue!

Miriam Jones of Eastern Shore Sanctuary on Animal Voices 11/10/09 at 11am!

When I was driving up to Vermont to deliver some rescued fighting roosters to Eastern Shore Sanctuary and Education Center last month, I listened to several podcasts from Animal Voices. One of them was from June, on Why Cockfighting Must End. I was surprised, and a bit frustrated, to hear these rooster advocates state during their interviews that they didn’t know of anyone who did rooster rehabilitation.

Eastern Shore has been doing rooster rehab since 2001. They’ve written articles on their process, they’re in at least one YouTube video, law enforcement is more and more aware of their rehabbing ability, and now instead of Eastern Shore having to try to convince law enforcement to release confiscated fighting roosters to the sanctuary, law enforcement calls them. This is pretty significant.

Yet, the oddity is there – more people outside of the movement seem to be aware of Eastern Shore’s rehabbing than people inside the movement! I mean, think about it: the rooster rehab is featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in 2005, yet, people advocating for the roosters don’t know about it in 2009? What’s wrong with that picture?!

I wrote to Animal Voices, asking them to consider doing a follow up on the Cockfighting show, by talking to Eastern Shore about the rehabbing. A few weeks later Miriam (of Eastern Shore) emailed me to say they’d asked her to be on the show!

And the date of that show is tomorrow, November 10, from 11am – 12pm EST, on cuit.fm. If you can’t hear it live, it will be posted to their website (animalvoices.ca) and to iTunes about a week after the show.

I’m really excited about the interview. It seems incredible to me that only one sanctuary in the entire country does any rooster rehabbing. And that so few people seem to know about it.

There are a lot of great links on Eastern Shore’s website. Definitely worth taking a look at what pattrice and Miriam (co-founders of the sanctuary) have written on the topic.

Rooster Taxi to Vermont…

On my way to bring some roosters up to Vermont. And two hens, I believe. They were rescued from an illegal rooster fighting ring in Virginia. Eastern Shore (now in Vermont) agreed to take them. There were more, of course, not all will have this chance, but I’m so glad to be able to take part in the rescue.

The arrival of Tristan

Neva posted some pictures on facebook on Saturday. She and her husband had rescued a young cat, and he needed a home. They are way beyond overloaded at her home, and anyone who has read her blog knows this.

My cat, Tempest, loves being an only child. Typical of cats, I’d guess. I’ve been thinking for months that I needed to rescue another cat. There’s a lot of guilt. Guilt knowing that Tempest is happy as an only-child, guilt thinking of all the animals needing rescue. I had come to the conclusion that if I took in another cat, I needed to make it a special needs cat, a cat who would have a hard time finding a home.

I had it in my head that I would rescue a blind cat. A special need that is given no chance at most shelters, but which is actually fairly easy to handle, from what I’ve read.

But Saturday Neva posted about Tristan. She told me that he loves other cats, and she also told me that his shyness would require a lot of work to get him to trust, and that shyness was the number one reason that cats get passed over or returned, in her experience with rescue.

So Tristan came to live with me yesterday. He’s a tiny bundle of cuteness. He loves to be held, he purrs constantly. He seems to be doing well in his new situation. For now he is living in my bathroom. I need to give him time before I let him loose in the rest of the condo, where he could find some impossibly small cranny to wiggle into, and I need to give Tempest time to get used to the idea. She’s afraid of him right now.

Tempest voices her opinion on Tristan from on top of the cat tree

Tempest voices her opinion on Tristan from on top of the cat tree

The thing is, I feel like I’ve cheated. Tristan is a feral kitten, somewhere around 3 or 4 months old, who had been living in the yard of a building across the street from where Sean works. Sean had to work hard to trap him, and it was clear from Tristan’s skinniness that he’d been on his own for a while. But when they brought him to my place, and we all trooped into my bathroom and they scooped out the little guy and put him in my lap, he started purring. He’s stopped a couple times since he arrived, but mostly he purrs non-stop.

He loves to be held. He doesn’t mind being held upside down, and will actually flip himself on his back when he’s in my lap. He loves to play. I’m not sure he knew how to play with toys when he first got here, but he’s all over it now. Neva and Sean brought a toy for him when they brought him to my place; a squeaky mouse on a string that hangs from the door. I can hear him playing with that constantly. He also plays with the other toys I’d brought in that I thought he might enjoy. One of them is a giant plush toy; my hope is to get him to associate the playful biting and scratching as something to do to the plush toy, not to me!

He wants to play not only near me, but on me. He wants to climb my legs and jump from my legs to the floor and back again. He is already learning how to weave through my feet. He wants to be touching me all the time.

In other words, I’ve somehow accidentally cheated. I got the feral kitten who was easy! (Plus I think Neva and Sean did the hard work before he came to me.)

And so despite my best intentions of taking in a difficult to place cat, I have ended up with the cutest fluffiest friendliest little kitten anyone can imagine.

It’s hard to complain.

morning bird rescue

Almost to work, flying down the hill, thinking about not much at all, I noticed a small greyish brownish lump in the road, in the opposite travel lane. I looked closely as I went by, unconsciously feathering my brakes. It was a bird, sitting up. I noted that there was no traffic but me at the moment, so I did a quick u-turn. Laying my bike down, I noticed a car come up behind me, but my focus was on the bird at this point, and the driver had clearly seen me. There was plenty of room for the car to get around me, but they didn’t. That they didn’t was perhaps due to their confusion (what IS that crazy girl doing laying her bike down in the middle of the road?) or perhaps to protect me from other traffic. Maybe they could see what I was doing and sympathized.

Regardless, they did not honk at me or roll down their window to yell at me. They just sat there, waiting.

I gently picked up the bird. Small enough that I could hold him or her in one hand, she was bigger than a starling and much bigger than a sparrow. I have no idea what kind of bird she was.

She didn’t try to move as I picked her up. She didn’t struggle as I held her in one hand, wrestling with my bike with the other.

She simply sat quietly in my hand as I dragged my bike to the side of the road. The few times wild animals have acted this way around me, they have been babies. I don’t know of any other explanation for her comfort and lack of panic or struggle while being handled by a human. From what I know of birds (not much, but a little), if she really was a baby, she was likely a fledgling. In the “out of nest and hopping on the ground but still reliant on the parents” stage, and she’d start calling to her parents at some point after she felt safe again, and they’d come take care of her.

Holding her in my hand, I checked her out. No blood, eyes open and alert. Breathing seemed normal. (What do I really know, anyway?) All legs and toes present. Essentially, she looked like nothing at all was wrong with her. Like maybe she decided to take a nap in the middle of the road, and was only just now starting to wake up. Or maybe she had been dazed by something, and was only partially conscious. In the woodsy area just to the side of the road, I decided to put her down where she had branches to perch on as well as leaves to hide under. She didn’t make any move to step out of my hand, so I set her down on a branch.

As soon as her feet touched the ground, she hopped under some protective branches, instinct perhaps finally taking over. She was mobile and she was safe. My job was done.

Riding my bike has given me a couple opportunities like this. Moving a turtle out of the road. Stopping traffic to herd geese to safety. This morning’s bird rescue.

It was with real satisfaction that I finished the last mile or so to work. I love my bike commutes, I love being on my bike. This is part of the reason, being part of the world, being in a situation where my travel style is flexible enough that I can help when needed.

Telling a coworker about my morning’s adventure, his face twisted up like he’d eaten something sour. “You picked up a bird?”

juniper, a picture of survival

Juniper tugs at my heart, always. She doesn’t like to be around people, and seems to put up with other goats more than enjoy their company. When she walks, it is with two front legs that don’t straighten, yet there is something peaceful and contented about her demeanor that fills me with awe. And of course I know her story, and it is a tale that is both impossibly sad and incredibly uplifting.

Juniper came to the sanctuary, a case of extreme neglect, and no one thought she would survive. Yet she had already survived a long harsh winter with no care, no food, and no water, and so it is perhaps no surprise that she survived her rescue as well. She is the definition of a survivor.

Her early life likely was pleasant. She was the family “pet”, had a yard to wander, (human) kids to play with, and food and water as needed. Yet when the family moved away, she was left behind, locked into the yard, left to fend for herself. No food, no water. A leaky shed for her only shelter. She survived on the grass and weeds growing in the yard. She grew weaker and weaker, eventually too weak to raise herself from her knees.

Moving around the barren yard on her knees throughout that winter, she was surviving on sheer will. The neighbors were not ignorant of her plight, but it took all winter and into the following summer before someone decided that they could not let her suffer any longer, and called the authorities. To be clear, it took them nine months of watching Juniper get weaker and weaker as she starved and got sick before they took action. Nine months!

When Juniper was rescued, her hooves were horribly infected and badly overgrown, she was severely malnourished and dehydrated, and too weak to stand. Terry and Dave cleaned her up, treated her hooves and parasites, got her into a nice dry stall with plenty of fresh hay, fresh water, and food.

Juniper lived, defeating expectations. Her emaciated body filled out. Her hooves healed.

The only sign now of her ordeal is that her front legs won’t completely straighten. The tendons and ligaments were permanently damaged through her months of starvation and walking only on her front knees.

She doesn’t seem to be in pain, and she seems to be happy. She loves laying in the sun. We have a bucket of water that we bring out to where she lays down, though she usually ignores it. She doesn’t travel near as far as the other goats, but she does go out into the grassy pasture on those nice sunny days. I’ll see her sitting on the hillside, and it catches at my heart. There is something about Juniper.

She amazes me. That she didn’t give up through that long winter. That she didn’t lay down and die as she slowly starved and grew weaker. That she just kept on going, kept on surviving, somehow had enough hope each day to maintain the will to keep going, until she was finally rescued…that is an awe-inspiring tale to me.

I’m not the only one who is moved by Juniper’s story. Ryan, a fellow Poplar Spring volunteer, is running in this year’s annual Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary Race for the Animals. It is a 5k, and he’s got a donation page, which he has dedicated to Juniper. If you read his post, you can follow the link to Terry’s beautifully written account of Juniper’s story, just after her rescue.

The race is this Sunday, on May 17th! Come out if you can, it is really neat to see such a crowd of people racing or supporting the Race for the Animals. And consider supporting Ryan’s fund-raising efforts. He’s going to sweat hard for those 3.1 miles! For Juniper.

heartbreak: 39-8=31

I volunteered to do one leg of a rooster transport that happened this weekend. The final destination was again Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary, just like last week’s little red hen, but the starting point was in the middle of rural Virginia, about 4 hours from the DC metro area. I volunteered to take that leg, and Gary volunteered to drive them out to eastern shore from here.

The people at the animal shelter were very nice. Sort of curious, perhaps, at someone doing 8 hours of driving for chickens, but very grateful at the same time. And it isn’t that they didn’t understand at all, either – it was something of a surprise to me to see that they seemed very compassionate towards these roosters, rescued from a cockfighting operation. They were perhaps even a bit attached to them. They certainly seemed invested in their rescue. I suppose I expected attitudes like I saw at the shelter last week, with regards to the little red hen. I have a feeling that this past month with these abused roosters has impacted the people who spent time with them.

The roosters had arrived at the shelter on December 22, and from what the shelter employees said, they’d gotten much easier to handle. In the beginning, it was near impossible. Now, just a month later, the employees were cautious, but it all looked easy, from a spectator standpoint.

No, it was something else that was difficult.

After I pulled around to the back, to the trailer where the roosters were being kept, they opened the door, and said “come on in. You just need to choose the 8 you’ll be taking.”

It was like a punch to the gut. I probably should have realized ahead of time that this could happen, but I hadn’t. I hadn’t thought about what it meant that Eastern Shore was able to take 8 but that there had been 39 rescued.

I had to choose 8.

At this point there are no homes for the other 31, and we know what that means. It means that in effect, I was choosing who would live, and who would likely die.

I felt a bit sick. How do you make that choice? I was in shock, hoping that they, the roosters, would somehow tell me, would talk to me.

And so when one of them did talk, quiet little “bok bok bok” sound, I said “okay, him.”

The others, they all made eye contact, they had that look in their eyes…you know the one, the one that says they want to live? That look.

I looked around for ones that looked maybe more sad or … something. But a rooster in a cage? They look sad, it is a given. Mostly they were quiet, watchful, waiting. They all were beautiful to me, they all needed saving. I was paralyzed by the decisions I had to make.

One of the workers, pointed to one of the roosters and said, “this is the meanest one.” So I took him. Of course I took him.

Somehow I chose 8. They put the ones I’d chosen in carriers, we loaded them in to my truck, I signed the paperwork, and off I went down the road.

It didn’t take long before I had tears streaming down my face for the 31 I’d left behind.

Forgetting for a moment all the careful logical arguments that we store up for those times when people question and/or attack our choices, and running on pure emotion and instinct, I can say only this: looking into the eyes of these brave birds, I simply can’t comprehend that anyone else could look into their eyes and act with anything less than compassion.

For those of us who have that compassion and live our lives careful to avoid harm wherever we can, the constant frustration is that no matter how many we rescue, it is always a drop in the bucket. It is always a small percentage of those needing to be rescued.

And for any who think I’m taking about just chickens or just non-human animals, I’m not. The same is true whether we’re talking about humans or non-humans. There is always more abuse than rescue.

Always.

And so I had to choose 31 to leave behind. And my heart breaks.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 619 other followers