I arrived at the sanctuary at 2pm on a Sunday. Not my normal day, or time, or purpose. This time I was there to hang out with some friends, and to take a tour with them.
A large group of vegan mentors and mentees, through the Open The Cages Alliance, were gathering at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary for their week 4 get-together. Next week they conclude their mentor/mentee program.
Though I’ve volunteered at the sanctuary for over 4 years, I have never taken an actual tour! It was fun to just wander around, no other obligations, while listening to the stories and chatting with friends. I went primarily because I knew that Shannon from Vegan Burnout was going to be there with her husband, but several other friends and acquaintances were there as well. Some I know very well – like Gary! – others I meet here and there, at the FARM AR conference, or at Poplar Spring events.
I overheard some conversations between mentors and mentees, or between aspiring vegans and Terry or Dave. Lots of great questions were asked. But first we got to hear the story of how Terry and Dave ended up starting the sanctuary.
I’ve heard this story before, in different situations, and in different levels of detail. I learn something new every time. It’s such a powerful and inspiring story, a story of two people awakening to the issues of animal exploitation by what they witnessed happening on the small family farm that was right outside their window.
I think someone was taking video, if I see it online someday I’ll post it here.
From there we went into the field to see the cows. We hung out with Lily and Charlotte and even headed further out to see the mules and horses.
Sal, the newest mule resident
When we got to the pig yard, Lita and Julio were hanging out and so they got to show off their willingness to sit for treats.
One of the Bald Eagles who makes their nest at the sanctuary was circling around for a while as we gave Julio and Lita treats. I pointed the eagle out to those around me; it was the first time many had seen a Bald Eagle in person. She eventually headed toward the Potomac River. Dinner time, maybe.
At the chicken yard people got to hold Harrison and Alina and Mary Grace.
Shannon and Alina
One of the other visitors was a woman who I had talked to at the thanksgiving event, who had transported a couple of the roosters from DC to the sanctuary a few years back. At the time we couldn’t figure out who she must have transported – her memories were of young roosters not yet full grown, and her memories were a few years old, so we couldn’t be sure, but while listening to the stories today she figured out which ones she’d transported – Russel and Albert. Albert is a big gorgeous golden rooster, and Russel is a big gorgeous dark red multi-colored rooster. So she got to see them both, see how well they were each doing…I can only imagine the satisfaction it must bring her to see how healthy and happy animals are who she had a hand in rescuing.
Albert and Clarice, surrounded by fans
The goats and sheep were our last stop. The sheep were, predictably, too shy for a group our size, but the goats enjoyed all the attention. Marius, Monty, Chloe and Malcolm were in the middle of the crowds, eating up the attention. Lenny was also, which made us nervous.
Lenny was rescued from a local small family goat dairy, where he was being thrown away as trash. This is typical of all goat dairies, and dairies in general. Since goats and cows only make milk when they have babies, they are impregnated routinely so that they continue to produce milk. However the farmers do not let the babies nurse from their mothers – they are no more than a by-product of the dairy industry, and they’re either thrown out as trash and left to die, or they are killed shortly after birth.
Several goats were rescued on that day that Lenny was born, and two of them came to Poplar Spring. Lenny and Jeremy were the sweetest goats as babies, and while they are still sweet, they seem to have grown up not making any distinction between goats and people. This doesn’t work out as well as it sounds, since one of the things goats love to do with each other is head butt. However Lenny behaved quite nicely today.
The goats headed over the hill to join the sheep, and the crowd began to disperse. Leaving, however, I saw that the sheep and goats had gathered by the side of the road, as if they were sending us off.
My favorite place in the world. I’m so glad that Open the Cages Alliance brought the group to meet the animals. Interacting with the sanctuary residents, seeing that they are individuals, looking into their eyes, it’s a powerful experience. Good luck to all those just beginning their vegan journey!