Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless



That’s what today was at the sanctuary.

Though anyone who knows me knows that I detest winter and being cold, I don’t mind the bad weather that much at the sanctuary. Being comfortable when it is cold or wet or muddy or all of the above is mostly about wearing the right stuff. Like with biking – no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment, right? (Though if someone has a failproof way to keep feet warm at below-freezing temps on the bike, which don’t rely on chemical warmers or battery operated socks, please share your secret!)

Today, though, was a day to remind us just how beautiful it can be. Sunny, warm (for winter), and a sky so blue it was something of a shock after all the cloudy overcast weather we’ve had.

There were a lot of volunteers, and a mix of people – some I see only at events or on holidays, others I see every Saturday, and others had never been to the sanctuary before. I ended up spending the entire morning picking up the pig yard, as we’ve had a lot of rain to make the pig yard messy, and I was one of the few who had boots. That is, the others who were wearing boots were either doing certain chores that couldn’t be handed off to people unfamiliar with those chores (the new people were the ones not wearing boots, as you might expect), or they were supervising the new folks. So, I was the only one available to be sent straight to the pig yard.

Maybe it is just that I’m not much in the mood to complain about things when I am at the sanctuary. Maybe it is that perfect storm of elements for me – a peaceful place, surrounded by animals, and my camera close at hand. I’ve found that I notice discomfort less when I’m messing with the camera. Too much of my concentration is absorbed by catching moments to notice physical discomfort, perhaps. (This would explain why I spend hours outside at the sanctuary in the worst of weather and hardly notice how cold it is, yet run a heater under my desk at work year round!)

Regardless, I don’t tend to mind the pig yard, even at its worst, so spending the entire morning in the pig yard wasn’t a bad deal to me. Terry joined me for most of it, and we had some conversation, and some quiet time. I got some great quality time with some of the pigs, who seemed to agree that it was perfect weather. They were lounging in the sun, sleeping with their bellies exposed just in case we were of a mood to do a little belly rubbing as we made our way by.

I’ve had my Poplar Spring calendar on the desk near me, so the cover picture of Petey and Otis running through the snow are fresh in my mind. They were just babies then. As Petey wandered towards me today, I couldn’t help but to marvel at how big he’d gotten compared to the picture from last year. He and Otis both, but Petey seems taller to me.

They came from the same litter, rescued by the county after it was discovered that a momma pig and her piglets were living on a trash heap. The conditions were bad enough that the farmer was actually in violation of various laws that do little to nothing to protect the pigs, and so the county put their foot down. Get those pigs to slaughter or we’ll confiscate them.

Isn’t that an odd way to protect pigs? They’re being treated badly enough that the county steps in, but their orders are actually to go ahead and kill the pigs as soon as possible…or else! Or else. The farmer didn’t have the money to get the pigs to slaughter, so the “or else” happened. The pigs were confiscated, and two of the babies made their way to Poplar Spring once they’d had grown enough that they could leave their mom. Otis and Petey. Their “or else” was rescue. I can’t get over the irony.

That was a year ago, and they’re half grown now. Petey was won over to the wonders of belly rubs very quickly, Otis has never been as open to them. Petey wandered over to me, and threw himself on the ground in front of me for a belly rub. That’s no exaggeration, either! I was afraid he’d hurt himself, throwing himself down like that! He grunted his pleasure at the belly rub.

Otis wandered over eventually, grunting back to his brother, but wasn’t interested in a belly rub of his own. Peapod, two years old now, was sunbathing nearby and was grunting to the boys as well. I couldn’t neglect Peapod, so he got a belly rub too.

No wonder it took all morning to do the pig yard!

After all the chores were done, we fed all the animals some extra treats in celebration. “How do we know the pigs are Christian or Jewish, or what religion they are?” one of the other volunteers asked, being funny. “Their only religion is happiness,” was my reply. If you know pigs, you know what I mean!

And so we fed them apples, and the horses and mules carrots. The chickens and turkeys and guineas got corn, and the goats and sheep got animal crackers. And the humans got a ton of vegan holiday cookies that Dave’s mom makes every year.

Good times, gorgeous weather, happy animals, and a bellyfull of sugary goodness. There is no better way to celebrate a day off in the middle of the week, if you ask me.


6 responses to “celebration

  1. nothoney December 26, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Great post! Sorry I missed all the fun, but I didn’t know this was a Christmas tradition. We got two days off for Christmas this year, both of which I’m spending at home working. Cleaning the pig yard would’ve been more fun, that’s for sure.


  2. nothoney December 26, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Hand warmers: The ones I use at the sanctuary are made of “iron powder, water, salt, activated charcoal, and wood fiber.” They’re non-toxic and the little paper wrapper degrades. I dunno if they meet your standards, though.


  3. Mary Martin December 27, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Petey and Otis are so big! Though I’m of course goat-partial (and I think they’d be atheists, or at least agnostic), I do love the flying-through-the-air cover photo! The reactions of omnis (to the calendar) has been very interesting. There’s only been a handful so far, but they’re very, very uncomfortable once they think about the photos for a moment. Their mood goes from light to sort of sullen.

    I think that’s progress.

  4. Deb December 27, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    @Sheryl, I’m not sure what you mean by christmas tradition. It was just a regular sanctuary day that happened to be in the middle of the week because of the federal religious holiday that gives most everyone a day off work. Some of us who had the day off went to help out, same as we would think about doing at any other time of year. If I gave the impression that this was some big event, apologies. It was an easy sanctuary day (given the vast numbers of helpers – we were done by 11) with absolutely perfect weather, so it was nature’s event, not a sanctuary event. But maybe you were referring to the cookies Dave’s mom bakes. I guess for her that is a tradition, sure enough.

    As for the chemical warmers (“non-toxic” or no), yeah, that’s what I’m trying to avoid. Having them for emergencies is okay, but my bike commuting means I want to find a real solution, not a stop gap.

    @Mary, that’s really encouraging about the interesting reactions by the omni’s. I was talking to someone on thursday who had last year’s calendar on her office door (which is in a high traffic area) and she said that she had a lot of conversations with people who were curious about the animals in the pictures. Last year I’d given each of the pictures captions. I liked it in some ways, but not others. I’ll have to ask her if she gets different reactions or different conversations with this year’s calendar and the caption-less photos. It did make me feel good that the calendar was acting as some kind of passive activism, getting people to think at least to some degree. You’ll have to let me know if there is any longer term impact!

  5. nothoney December 28, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Well, the hand warmers would become an expensive solution, too, for daily use. I have them only for my work days at the sanctuary; I don’t use them any other time.

    Sorry I missed the cookies! I gave most of mine away. A neighbor brought up a Styrofoam plate of slice-and-bake cookies and other totally non-vegan things for me the day after Christmas. I thanked him and then promptly tossed it in the trash. It’s clear now that the conversations we’ve had (while standing in front of my car with plates that read “VEEGAN” and talking about the sanctuary) that he doesn’t understand what a vegan is all about. I’ll have to find a way to inform him.

    It’s the looseness of volunteering at the sanctuary that I’m not used to, yet. I came from the National Zoo where FONZ has a very scheduled and regimented volunteer program so I always knew what days I was on shift and what events were open for us to work at, etc. I need a schedule!


  6. Pingback: » Blog Archive » easyVegan Link Sanctuary, 2008-12-27

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