Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

a full day at the sanctuary

We were very slow at the sanctuary today. It was hot and humid, which doesn’t help, but we also kept getting distracted by various conversations. I told Terry about my coworker, and that I was starting to see that I was underestimating the power of the sanctuary. She said that she’s seen people go vegan overnight just because they had a chance to touch an animal and it made them think. I have always understood that the purpose of the sanctuary is outreach as much as it is saving the animals themselves, but I didn’t realize how effective it is.

We also had the meet the new goat, Hannah, who is in quarantine for a couple weeks until she is free of parasites and has gained enough weight to be strong enough to manage the crowd of rowdy goats. She was found in SE DC wandering around, so we don’t know her full story. What we do know is that she is between 6 and 15 years old (the vet couldn’t give a better estimate), she came from a small farm in Virginia, and she has had babies. The likely story is that she was a nanny goat, producing babies after babies who were then killed for whatever reason people have to kill goats, and when she was “spent”, she was probably then sold…perhaps she was sold to Santeria practitioners, who commonly use animals in their rituals. She’s so skinny it is hard to imagine that anyone would have bought her for another purpose.

So she was wandering the streets, picked up by animal control, and now she is safe and sound at the sanctuary. She is skinny and has two kinds of parasites, she has pink eye and a secondary eye infection caused by the pink eye.

She’s a mess, in other words. Terry said that she seemed to have given up at first. Weak and tired, she let them do whatever they needed to medicate her, and hardly reacted. She just sat there with her head down, barely breathing.

Today when we went up to the quarantine barn to clean out her stall and give her fresh water and some attention, she was perky. When she heard us, her head came up and she looked alert and curious. She has been eating a lot of hay, but not the grain feed. She doesn’t seem to know what it is or what to do with it. I tried to feed it to her from my hand, but she wasn’t even interested in sniffing it. She likely has never been giving anything but hay; she certainly doesn’t know anything about treats.

She wasn’t too certain about us at first – the last time a bunch of people were in her stall, she got poked a few times with needles, but we scratched her neck, where her horns can’t reach, and her eyes drifted closed in happiness.

She’s going to be fine.

Wilbur not only stood up while he ate, shifting his weight for a while until he seemed to find a stable position (Dave says he’s had to relearn how to balance, and that’s what all the shifting around is about), he walked outside to the little mudhole he’s been working on. Watching him walk…amazing, and uplifting.

Jolene, a pig who hadn’t been feeling well recently and who thus has been living in the part of the barn where the quarantine stall is, apparently is feeling much better. She hung out with the cows for a while, and then walked all the way down to the creek, which would be a good 5 minute brisk walk for us, longer for her. It made me laugh! And wonder – how did she even know the creek was down there?

She came back up with Jake, who had been hanging out in the woods near the creek.

In the chicken barn there was some excitement when there was a black snake in one of the egg laying boxes. This is not an uncommon occurrence, and usually we call Dave over to take care of it. But I picked up a snake once before at the sanctuary, and I figured that I was being silly by calling Dave away from what he was doing to take care of this.

So I picked up the snake, who was at least 5 feet long, and carried him down across to the other side of the creek. When I went through the gate, which required some wrestling to get open, the snake wrapped his tail around one of the rungs of the gate. It was pretty funny, to me.

These snakes are constrictors, but generally speaking they only go after the hen’s eggs. Still, to be on the safe side, they are relocated. He wasn’t too happy about it, but I do hope he appreciated the nice place I picked out for him!

By the way, if anyone has advice on handling snakes, I’d welcome it. The picture looks like I’m choking him, but I promise I was holding him only tight enough to keep ahold of him. I don’t know much about them, however, and for all I know it isn’t healthy for them to be held with their head straight up like that.

When we were finally done with the chores, we got to feast on some peach cobbler and soy ice cream that nothoney had brought for us. It was so good! And we got to meet her Mina, which was great, as we’d all heard so much about her. She is a super sweet dog, didn’t even think about chasing after the accidentally-tamed adolescent geese who had no fear of her at all. (This lack of fear of people and other natural predators is why the wildlife rehabbers asked Poplar Spring to take them.)

Earlier when Mina was walking around, the cows lined up to check her out. Their typical curiosity!

By the time the cobbler was eaten, Mina was completely tuckered out.

Dogs aren’t generally brought to the sanctuary, as they can disrupt the rescued wildlife as well as freak out some of the sanctuary residents, but Mina has been quite sick, and there are always exceptions to the rules. Mina is one of them.

One of the other volunteers had brought grapes, so after stuffing ourselves with peach cobbler we fed grapes to the chickens and to the goats and sheep. Juniper spends more of these hot days in her own stall with the fan keeping her cool, until later in the afternoon when there is more shade and the wind tends to pick up a little, cooling things down. It was nice to be able to give her treats when she didn’t have to deal with any of the other goats around, and it was nice for me, because it was one of the rare times I was able to interact with her. Usually she just doesn’t want to be around people, but clearly she makes exceptions if you’re a person-with-grapes. I fed them to her, and my heart melted. I’ve always been a bit in awe of her, and her story, and admired her from afar, so it was special to have her welcome me into her space…even if it was temporary, and only because I had grapes.


14 responses to “a full day at the sanctuary

  1. Nicole aka veganwrites August 1, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    I often wish I could have my own sanctuary to care for rescued animals. Thank you soooo much for what you’re doing. Also, even though dogs are not usually allowed, Mina is just too cute :). I’ll read your blogs thinking of having my sanctuary from my suburban apartment window.

  2. Deb August 1, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    @Nicole, it is pretty awesome to be able to volunteer at the sanctuary every weekend. I can’t imagine running one myself (the paperwork! the fund raising! the immense responsibility! the event planning! etc!) but at the same time, it would be so rewarding, and ideal in many ways. And there are always more sanctuaries needed! Maybe someday you’ll turn that dream into a reality! 🙂

  3. trktos August 1, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    As far as the snake, I’ve noticed people holding them by the head/closer to the head – like you may’ve seen people holding them to milk them for venom? I imagine this one was fine, though, and it just *looked* like you were choking him! =) and they climb up stuff, right? they have to, to get to some of the places you find them, so I’d guess holding him upright was fine, too.

    Always cool, to wonder what animals like that think when you let them go? You know that was a “sure death” situation for the snake … and then … I always wonder if they think “whew, I outsmarted ’em” or otherwise, actively caused their escape when, really, we mean them no harm all along.


  4. Kristen August 1, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Wow a new goat! Can’t wait to meet her tomorrow!

    Nicole I have been thinking about opening up a sanctuary myself as well probably about 45 outside of DC in VA. Of course the problem is finding the money to buy the land,etc to start one…so if you ever have any ideas maybe we can start one together!

    But until then I’ll be volunteering at PS…it is the one day of the week I look forward to because after a week’s worth of depressing news in my regular vegan blog round-up, it’s nice to be around the animals that are saved – and it reminds me what we are fighting for!

  5. nothoney August 1, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Holy moly, you picked up a snake! I stand in awe. My plan is always to run away when I see them. I try not to shriek as I run.

    Great news about the new goatie girl. I’m glad she has a good home after what must’ve been a horrible life. We saw Wilbur sitting in the barn but I haven’t actually seen him walking yet. Maybe next weekend …

    Thanks for all the nice pics of Mina! She does cause a bit of a ruckus with the geese but she’s mostly intimidated by all the farm animals! It seems our outing was good for her because she’s eaten seven jars of baby food and some chicken since we got home. Just gotta get her over the peak for the chemo and then she’ll be fine.


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  7. nothoney August 2, 2009 at 7:57 am

    I forgot to mention: WHAT IS UP WITH THE BEES AND WASPS OUT THERE? Again, my car was swarmed with them. I managed to leap out and get the gate open, but it took several minutes before I could get back inside my car! There were at least a dozen of them flying around my car and hitting the windows. I couldn’t risk one getting inside and hurting Mina. After I got in and drove past the gate, they swarmed my car again so I couldn’t get out without letting them in. I called the office and Dave answered and said he was on his way to see what’s going on and to leave the gate open. They disappeared after I drove off (at double the speed limit).

    Really creepy.


  8. kelly g. August 2, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I’m impressed not just that you picked up a snake, but that you stopped to take a photo of him with your free hand! We’ve had a few big ones hanging ’round the back yard, and we either chase them out with the garden hose, or trap them in a bucket (with lid!) and relocate them. We’ve never considered (*shudder*) picking them up!

    I hope you’ll be saying the same about Hannah and Jolene in a few weeks that you did of Wilbur – that they’re doing much better, exceeding expectations, even. Mina, too 🙂

  9. Deb August 2, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    @trktos – I think that people hold really close to the head to prevent being bitten when the snake is venomous. He wasn’t venomous, so I didn’t try to hold him super close to his head. It is weird to hold them, because you don’t get a feel for different body parts, and they are so muscular! This guy was writhing pretty strongly when I’d hold him with two hands, and start wrapping his tail around my wrist/arm. Freaky!

    @Kristen – hope Hannah was doing well today!

    @nothoney – great to hear that Mina ate so much yesterday! especially after you’d been so worried.

    I’m not sure about the bees and wasps. I haven’t seen them, just some really large horseflies. I got to the gate after Dave had turned around, and he said he hadn’t seen any either. We both had our windows open. I’m not sure why your car keeps getting swarmed!

    @kelly – my secret is out! As long as I’m taking pictures, I’m not thinking about how weird it is to (for instance) be holding a snake! lol. But keep in mind I’ve been going to the sanctuary (and thus occasionally seeing snakes, and watching Dave relocate them) for almost 3 years now, and it is only in the past few weeks I’ve had it in me to try picking them up! lol.

    I’m sure that I’ll have lots of good news to report about Jolene and Hannah soon! 🙂

  10. rich August 3, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Good job on the snake holding, a few pieces of advice. If it turned I am pretty certain it could have bitten you, but hard to tell from the photo if you were too far down the neck. The one thing is you should support the body with your other hand. If you allow them a place to wrap and support there is no chance of a cervical injury, if their whole weight is supported by the neck there is a chance they can hurt their necks.
    If he bit you it would have been no big deal, just a few needle pricks, but often people get startled and yank back, tearing their skin or hurting the snake. Also be prepared for them to go to the bathroom on you, it is also a last ditch defense mechanism.

  11. Kristen August 3, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Terry said Hannah seemed to be doing much better and the amount of poop left for clean-up meant she was definitely eating a lot – so that’s good! She was soooo sweet, I felt bad holding her horns so Terry could put the eyedrops in…

  12. Deb August 3, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    @rich – thanks! I had forgotten that you’d had some experience in your previous life with snakes. I think I was far enough up on his neck that he couldn’t bite me, but I’ll keep a closer eye on that next time. I’d started out holding his lower body too, but it freaked me out when he started wrapping his body around my arm. I was imagining that he’d squeeze it to a pulp, but maybe he just wanted the support… thanks for your advice! I’d hate to hurt him in my ignorance.

    @Kristen – thanks for the hannah update! I had to hold her horns too, but I think she forgave us when we gave her a good neck scratching afterward!

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