Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

An extra-ordinary fall day at Poplar Spring

chelsea being goofy at ps

Today was one of those beautifully perfect days at the sanctuary. The weather was gorgeous – sunny with that somehow-more-interesting fall light. It was warm enough in the sun for short-sleeves, but almost chilly in the shade. Perfect, in other words.

The animals seemed to think so as well. The horses were frolicking, and there is something absolutely beautiful about watching a former racehorse run, just because she wants to run. It’s not something we see often.

We watched Dave feed the pigs. At Poplar Spring they do controlled feeding; arthritis gets to them all, but at least they are not carrying extra crushing weight on top of the arthritis. So feeding time is exciting for the pigs. When Dave called them for their breakfast, they all went running. Another something you don’t see very often when they are not babies.

feeding time for the pigs at ps

A new bunny arrived a few weeks ago, and last weekend Elton was introduced to the other bunnies for the first time. He is already integrated quite comfortably with the others, which is great news. Bunnies don’t always get along with each other.

elton at ps

And as wonderful as all of that had been, the most exciting was yet to come.

Terry had asked us if one of us could make a trip to Second Chance to drop off a baby squirrel. A snake had been attacking a squirrel nest the day before, and the momma squirrel was literally tearing chunks out of the snake. Dave had to actually rescue the snake from the squirrel because he was pretty sure she was going to kill the snake. The snake was more than 6′ long. A huge snake.

A few hours later Terry was working at her computer and she could hear a baby crying. She investigated, and found the baby squirrel lying on the ground near their house – he had apparently fallen from the nest at some point in the fracas with the snake attacking the nest. The momma squirrel knew he was there, and could have carried him back up to the nest, but chose not to. Terry says she must have thought something was wrong with him, and there did seem to be something not quite right. She tried to feed him, and he threw up. She thought maybe he had a concussion. Since she didn’t know what to do for him, she wanted to get him to the experts.

baby squirrel who fell from a nest at ps

And so we got to meet a little baby squirrel.

But he didn’t end up going to Second Chance. Lynn, a wildlife rehabber in Southern Maryland (Feathers and Friends, in Brandywine, which is in the general Annapolis area, she told me) had arrived to release a Canadian Goose who had a droopy wing and was blind in one eye.

feathers and friends goose

She agreed to take the baby squirrel with her, which was great. She has some other squirrels around his same age (she thought around 6 weeks), so he will have siblings he can be raised with and released with.

She also had some other babies in the car with her, who couldn’t be left alone for as long as she knew she’d be gone to bring the goose up to Poplar Spring. One was a baby opossum. The woman who had actually rescued the opossum was with her. The momma had been on their porch, and when her husband had gone to let their dogs out (not knowing about the opossum), she startled and took off. The baby dropped off at that time, and the woman left the baby there for a long time hoping the momma would come back, but she never did. And so the baby was rescued and brought to the rehabber.

baby opossum being rehabbed by feathers and friends

A bounty of absolute richness, was today.

And there is still more. When we had still been working in the chicken barn, Terry had gotten a call from a woman in Virginia. She had been at a produce market that rents animals from farmers every year. I suppose this produce market thus becomes more of an attraction? Regardless, the rented pregnant pig had her babies this morning. 14 piglets. One was crushed, and one was a tiny runt who was one-fifth the size of some of her littermates, and couldn’t get to a nipple, and was being stepped on by her siblings. The people running the market pulled her from the pen and assigned a new employee (who reportedly was vegan) the job of holding her and keeping her warm.

A woman and her daughter, visiting this produce market, took it upon themselves to save this newborn piglet, and so hours after the piglet was born, she was driven to Poplar Spring.

newborn piglet at ps

Is there anything cuter than a newborn piglet?

Now, there is no guarantee she will survive. They don’t know if she had any colostrum, the people at the market didn’t know where among the 14 piglets she had been born. If she was an early piglet, she most likely got some of that incredibly important colostrum. If not, maybe not.

newborn piglet hand fed at ps

She can live without it, but as most of us probably know, the colostrum is very important for a newborn’s immunity. Other newborns who have come to Poplar Spring in the past (a couple lambs, for instance; Hickory and Clover) were very sickly when they were young, very prone to infections, because they hadn’t gotten colostrum when they were first born.

Time will tell if this tiny baby survives, but one thing is for certain: without Poplar Spring, and without the quick action of the woman and her daughter who drove the piglet to the sanctuary, this little baby would have had no chance at all.

newborn piglet being hand fed at ps

Of course, if she hadn’t been a tiny runt of a large litter and thus in need of immediate extra help, her life would have been that of every animal doomed in the hands of a human profiting from them, and from their death.


15 responses to “An extra-ordinary fall day at Poplar Spring

  1. maryam September 19, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Absolutely beautiful post, Deb. I wish I could be there.

  2. Ron Kearns September 19, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Ah, the diversity of life is grand.

    A ‘real’ Green Acres.

    Neat post Deb, especially so when viewed from the summertime desert.

  3. sheryl, washington dc September 20, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I got there around 8 a.m. today and didn’t see a soul, so headed over to the pig barn to find Dave. He was in the horse/mule barn and the first thing he asked me was if I’d seen the piglets. “Piglets?” “Yeah, there are two now. They brought another one over last night.”

    Of course I dashed over to the gift shop to find the heater on and two tiny piglets in a dog crate all covered with towels and blankets. The black one is a wee bit larger than the pink-and-black one and the black one still has some umbilical cord attached.

    After Terry and I finished the goats and sheep (it takes TWO HOURS with only two people!) there was another volunteer there and we went to feed the piglets. The other girl, a teenager who comes from time to time, and I held the piglets while Terry fed them their bottle. I held the little black one and he wriggled and squealed until he got his bottle, then wriggled and squealed some more. They are beyond cute! Human babies are not even this cute.

    We were joined in the pig yard by a woman and her son – both first-time volunteers. We had the horse barn done around 11 a.m. and we were done! I came home to Mina, but I think everyone else went back to the gift shop.

    I hope ya’ll had a good time at Great Sage and I hope it was crowded.


  4. Mary Martin September 20, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    You are so lucky! I’m green with envy! Of course, all of these creatures are the luckiest of all. How fortunate that there happen to be a kind human animal around when they were in need.

  5. Deb September 20, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    @maryam – you could always move back! πŸ˜‰

    @Ron – I was thinking about that, the fact that the beginning of our fall is going to be an odd thought to those in the parts of the countries that are still showing unrelenting heat!

    @sheryl – not sure how crowded it was compared to normal at great sage, but the food was fantastic, and our table of volunteers was lively, if not especially large. Last time there were about 15 of us. This time just five including Terry and Dave! But that was okay too, we had fun.

    @Mary – weren’t you coming out this fall? πŸ™‚

  6. Kristen September 22, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Oh man!! Wish I could have been there! While I loved my experience in South Africa I really missed the sanctuary. Can’t wait to see everyone on the 4th!

  7. mindy September 22, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    What fantastic pictures. That baby piglet is so adorable. I hope she is able to pull through and grow up to live a wonderful long life at the sanctuary!

  8. Deb September 22, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    @Kristen, honestly I think they’ll be even cuter in a couple weeks. It was amazing to see a newborn, but they’ll be even more precious in a few weeks! South Africa sounds exciting!

    @mindy – I hope so too! They at least have a chance. There’s 2 now! And boys, it turns out. I should do an update.

  9. Veganacious September 23, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    The tiny babies remind me of how similar our DNA is – all babies need TLC. Thanks for seeing these get some. Now to save the rest!

  10. The voracious Vegan September 24, 2009 at 1:27 am

    This post made me SO happy! Look at all those happy, beautiful creatures. YAY!

  11. Miss Kathy September 28, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I just love these pictures and this post!! So happy this makes me! I wish I could be there to hold that baby piglet! So adorable! Thank God there is a place like this for animals.

  12. Jennie September 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Out of curiosity, what do you feed the mammalian babies? I know it’s traditional to feed bottle fed baby horses a compound that contains either cow or goat milk among other things, but I also know how far out of their way Terry and Dave go to make Poplar Springs truly vegan.

  13. Deb September 28, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    @Veganacious – so true! it is always amazing to see the difference it can make when we give them some TLC!

    @TVV – πŸ™‚

    @Miss Kathy – It didn’t take long before they didn’t want to be held at all! They just want to run around. πŸ™‚

    @Jennie – Unfortunately I don’t know if it is possible to bottle feed baby animals in a vegan way. As far as I know, Terry and Dave feed milk replacer specific to the species (though I don’t know exactly what species milks go into the formulas), and they’re actually giving the first baby piglet (there are two now) who didn’t get colostrum from the mom some cow colostrum that the vet gave them. There is some irony there, but to do anything else doesn’t seem like a good answer either. Luckily they get weaned eventually, and so the issue is short-lived.

    Keeping in mind that I know little about the physiology of pigs, since they can be omnivorous I would think that piglets might actually do okay on a soy formula…but the human soy formulas are based on what humans need, so I don’t think that would work for the piglets. With other babies that have come – lambs and goats – that needed to be bottle fed, it is touchier, as they can die of bloat if they are given the wrong things. Corn, or too much grain of any kind, for example, is deadly, because it ferments in their digestion process. I don’t know if soy would be dangerous as well, but even if not, there is still the problem of having the right formulation of fats, etc.

    It is an interesting question, though, and maybe someday there will be enough information for some vegan vet out there to come up with something that would work.

  14. Elaine Vigneault September 29, 2009 at 11:37 am

    “Is there anything cuter than a newborn piglet? ”

    I don’t think so.

  15. Deb September 29, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    They really are sweet. πŸ™‚

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