Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Snowy Day at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

Yesterday morning produced a half inch of snow – just enough for pretty pictures at the sanctuary without much of an impact on the roads.

Most of the animals are just fine with the cold winter weather. The older and very young individuals need a little extra help – the goats who need them get winter coats, the pigs who need them get heat lamps and of course have lots of hay to snuggle under – and the birds don’t want anything to do with the snow on the ground and are happy for the heat lamps over their perches, but the cows and sheep and horses and mules all seem to enjoy it when it’s a bit colder out.

Malcolm, who arrived the day before the Open House in late September and who was rescued when he was found on the side of a busy highway at just 3 months old, is growing up fast. He’s one of the sweetest goats, and is great friends with Rocky, who arrived not long before Malcolm. As fellow volunteer Sheryl said when she saw this picture, “What I enjoy about Malcolm, other than his ridiculous cuteness, is that he’ll get really close to my face and just touch me with his little nose.”

A sweetheart. Still independent in the way of goats, and with a youngster’s exuberance he’s likely to be jumping into the wheelbarrow as we work, or climbing on top of the pigs as they sleep, or getting into the empty-but-for-some-crumbs feeding devices for the cows. Trouble of a sort!

In the pig yard, Petey convinced Ryan to give him a belly rub. He started out by coming to stand right next to Ryan, and when getting in between Ryan’s rake and bucket worked to get Ryan to pet him, he started stretching until he finally flopped over onto his side for a belly rub. The snow didn’t seem to bother him at all! Or maybe belly rubs are just that much more important.

A couple weeks ago he carried some hay out of the barn and dropped it right in the middle of where some of the volunteers were cleaning. They were new volunteers and didn’t know quite what to make of it when Petey then laid down on his mini bed. Terry told them that Petey was asking for a belly rub, at which they exclaimed in surprise, “he’s just like a dog!”

They can act like dogs, for certain. I think that every domesticated animal “acts like a dog” in some ways – that is, their dependence on humans encourages certain behaviors. They’ll beg for treats, and even do tricks of a sort. They’ll ask for attention. Of course they are like dogs in other ways too – they are able to feel pain and pleasure, suffering and joy. They don’t have to be lap dogs for us to not hurt them, to let them live free of harm, free of exploitation.

Gloria is an example of an animal who is not typically killed for food, but who is exploited just the same. She, and her companion Hal, were rescued from a petting zoo type operation, where they were often punished by tying their heads to their feet. Yesterday Glora was sticking her tongue out at us, but mostly she does like people. This is surprising considering the abuse she received at the hands of her former owner, but at the same time, I see it as a symptom of domestication. Even when abused, even if they do end up fearful of humans, they are still dependent on us.

Darcy continues to do quite well adapting to his blindness. Tally still wears a halter with a bell, and most of the time Darcy sticks quite close to her. Once in a while he gets separated from her. Sometimes this happens right after they’re let out of the horse barn, and when I’m there I am usually the one to lead Darcy to Tally. Last weekend was one of those times. I am touched by the trust it takes for a blind horse to be led along by a human. There is often some hesitation along the way, but once we get close to Tally he relaxes and then sticks to her like velcro.

They were both racehorses, both were rescued from auction where they would have been sold for horsemeat. Hearing this tends to shock people, because in this country horses aren’t food. Horse slaughterhouses were shut down based on the delicate sensibilities of meat-eaters, and there is some sense of violation on their part when they learn that horses are instead shipped to other countries to be slaughtered instead. Yet these same people will continue to eat beef, which leads to wild horses being rounded up and killed to make room for cattle to graze.

Apparently it is one thing to prevent others from sending horses to slaughterhouses, but something else entirely to change their own behavior.

The bunnies weren’t much bothered by the cold either. Elton and Twinkle were pretty much in the food bowl as they ate. Usually they are napping when we get down there, but the cold seems to invigorate them a bit. They’ve got some pretty serious winter coats.

I forgot to mention it earlier on this blog, though you might have seen it on twitter or facebook or the other blog, but the 2011 Poplar Spring Calendar is available through lulu. (25% off through 1/31/2011 11:59PM with the coupon code WINTERFOTO355.)


13 responses to “Snowy Day at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

  1. ☼Illuminary☼ January 9, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    I love the photo of malcom~!
    a potential painting…
    going to share the calendar link~!

  2. NotHoney January 10, 2011 at 7:31 am

    I love this post! I love all the pictures and the stories of our friends at PSAS. I don’t know any place on earth where I feel more welcome or needed – and we have fun! I think the critters know we’re having a good time and it makes them feel good, too.

    Now if only the pigs gave kisses ’cause a Trumie smooch would make me year.


  3. Jennie January 10, 2011 at 9:21 am

    My bunnies do the whole “in the food bowl to eat thing too.” Well, mostly Regan, because she’s a glutton. It’s hilarious, since she can cover the whole thing with her belly, and she shoots angry bunny looks at Jax the whole time.

    The “horse person” take on horse slaughter always confuses me. Many “horse people” are pro-slaughter, on the grounds that it is somehow more humane than other alternatives. Can you imagine if “dog people” were the same way – actively advocating for the slaughter of their companions? In a world where all non-humans occupy a weird place between friends and property, horses occupy an even weirder place between cherished companion and machine made of flesh.

    I love Darcy, by the way.

  4. Shannon (Vegan Burnout) January 10, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Aw, Malcolm! He’s such a love. The sweet kisses he gave me were the highlight of Thanksgiving with the Turkeys. 🙂

  5. Nancy January 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Thank you for these photos, I miss volunteering at my nearest sanctuary.

  6. Deb January 11, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    @Sheryl – that’s an interesting thought, that they know we’re having fun and it making them feel good too. There is probably something to that, they’re much better at reading body language than we are!

    @Jennie – I’m laughing thinking of your Regan giving Jax angry bunny looks! Oh, they’re just too funny sometimes.

    Regarding horse people, I agree, the attitudes are so strange to me. I had a friend in college who was really into riding dressage. She had this horse who she adored, and she always said that when she got a better horse or when he got too old to ride, she’d put him out to pasture and let him have a peaceful retirement. But then when she did start getting more horses, her attitude changed. In general, her attitude toward horses, which is the attitude (according to her) that horse people have for their horses, is that the horses are “partners” not pets, and so the trading, selling, etc is normal, no room in there for true emotional attachments. (Not exactly a partner situation, when you sell/trade/rent them.) And so she didn’t keep Spatz in the end, and while he went to another person who wanted to ride him, the message seems clear – they live as long as there is someone who wants to use them, but no longer. We never talked about horse slaughter (I had no idea at the time that people killed horses), but looking back that was the subtext.

    I love Darcy too, so so much. He just touches my heart in a special way. And when we see him gallop in the field? My heart soars.

    @Shannon – so glad you got the special malcolm kisses!

    @Nancy – my pleasure! Volunteering at the sanctuary is the best part of every week, so I understand how much you must miss it!

  7. Jennie January 13, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Amen. One of my two geldings is a rescue from the therapeutic riding program where I used to work, who wanted to put him down because he could no longer carry people on his back. They didn’t bother to do a vet check and claimed he had degenerative joint disease (think arthritis) and needed to be put down, based on the opinion of one of the program staff. At the time of his rescue, we were convinced he had only months to live because of how severe they were claiming his illness was.

    Fast forward 3, almost 4, years. He’s happy, healthy enough, almost 32. He has some arthritis but the majority of his stiffness is from an old muscle injury which causes no pain. He’s still the king of the paddock.

    That’s a perfect example of how people care for the horses they “love” in old age, and how they justify their deaths by saying that they are somehow “better” than continuing to live.

    P.S. We ended up sponsoring a turkey this year as a Christmas gift from my dad.

  8. Sandra Ludwig January 13, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Hi! I’m here!
    I didn’t know that about the horses either. Ugh!
    I was so glad to find piggy pics, as well as bunnies! Honestly, I do not know how people eat rabbits (or anything like that, at this point). While I don’t know if I could be a vegan (having been diagnosed with diabetes in 2009, my diet is severely restricted and eggs and fish are a few of the remaining things I can eat), I haven’t had meat in a couple of years. The more I stay away from it, the harder it is to contemplate eating it again.
    Thanks for pointing me to this blog!

  9. Deb January 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    @Jennie – I remember you talking about that horse when you were trying to rescue him…can’t believe it has been so long already! Very glad to hear that he’s doing so well. Even if he’d had only months left to live when you rescued him, he deserved to have some pampered time after hauling people around his whole life. It makes me so mad, they’ll say they love them, and when it comes down to it, they only love how useful these animals are to them. Once they’re not useful, that’s it, end of line. We need more people like you! And how awesome of your dad to give you such a nice gift! I always put something like that on my wish list, and I guess my parents just don’t think it’s a nice gift or something – it’s always ignored!

    @Sandra – I knew you’d love the pig pics! I hadn’t realized that you were diagnosed with diabetes. I’m so glad that it is (it sounds like ) under control now though. I remember just a couple years ago how hard you found family situations. Hopefully that has improved! But regardless, I think it is great that you’ve eliminated so much in the way of animal products.

    If you were interested in looking into the possibility of going vegan, there is a book on the topic that I’ve heard great things about. I was recently gathering some information for a coworker, and this book was one that people really highly recommended:

  10. Bill Noall January 18, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Terrific piggy treat video.

    Is it on YouTube? It’s a winner

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