Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Tag Archives: darcy

Foggy Morning, Treats, and The Show-Stealing Hen

Emily

When I first arrived at the sanctuary this past Saturday, Emily was up near the entrance to the sheep yard. She was done with her medicine and had been released out of the sheep yard, but she was staying close hoping to be spoiled with more food! I guess she wasn’t too disappointed to be in the sheep yard for those weeks.

The rest of the cows were hanging out on the hillside near her. It’s been neat to have them hanging out so close to the sheep yard. Of course the sheep don’t really agree – I guess cows are pretty intimidating if you’re a sheep…

Two people showed up while we were in the horse barn to meet and spend some time with Darcy and Tally. They sponsored these two as gifts for Valentine’s Day, if I recall the story correctly. They are friends of one of the other volunteers, Sheryl, and I think Sheryl recommended Tally and Darcy specifically because they are close companions, especially in the years since Darcy lost the final bit of vision to a degenerative eye disease. Tally wears a halter with a bell on it, and Darcy uses that to help him keep track of where she is, and to follow her. Sometimes he gets separated, and then he’ll call to the rest of the horses and the two mules. Tally will emerge from wherever they had been and lead him to the group. It really is sweet.

Darcy

So their sponsors came and got to meet them for the first time, and fed them some treats (apples for everyone but Darcy, who prefers carrots). Of course Dexter, Sal and Gloria got some apples too, or there would have been a mutiny!

Gloria waiting for her apple

In the chicken yard I spent some time hanging out with the “beta barn” chickens. The main yard has two barns, and the smaller one is called the “Beta Barn” after the painting of a Beta fish that hangs inside. The barn was donated, and the person donating it requested that the portrait of his beloved fish hang inside. For a while when I first started volunteering, I thought the main barn was the “alpha barn”!

Even though there isn’t really a separation between the yards (a mesh fence, but one that’s more a suggestion than a rule), the chickens tend to hang out with the other chickens from “their” barn, and I have mostly gotten to know the chickens who live in the main barn, as opposed to the Beta barn. But last weekend I got to know a couple of the Beta barn girls.

Brenda Lee checking out the camera

It started when I noticed that one of the hens in one of the stalls was broody, and stayed in the nest box after I opened up the stalls. I asked Terry about it, and she requested that I bring the hen outside. This turned out to be Brenda Lee.

Brenda Lee is one of a handful of hens at the sanctuary who was rescued from a cock-fighting breeding organization a while back. It was a pretty big bust, and several sanctuaries on the east coast took a number of the hens. They’ve always seemed a little wilder to me, probably because they often spend time fairly high in the trees. They’re also hard for me to tell apart, as they all have that distinctive look – I call it “firebird”, though I’m not really sure why!

The firebird look... (not Brenda Lee)

Normally I wouldn’t have been able to pick up and hold one of these hens, but because Brenda Lee was broody and sitting in the nest box, she let me pick her up. I carried her outside to the tree where the rest of her group was, and had one of those heart-warming moments that I pretty much always have when I’m in such close contact with these amazing animals.

Brenda Lee

While I was over with her group, I took some pictures, and noticed that Brenda Lee was fascinated by the camera. She wanted to be the star! She’d chase the others away when they tried to steal her limelight.

And then I started videoing one of the other hens dust bathing, and once again, Brenda Lee stole the show!

These birds have so much personality. They’re curious and smart and they interact with their world in ways that often surprise me. Though it took me a while before I could really “see” them, now I am fascinated. It is a shame that so few people will ever take the time to see the wonder of these birds. They’ll continue to think that calling someone “chicken” is an insult instead of a compliment, and even worse, they’ll continue to think of chickens as little more than automatons made of flesh. The truth is that these amazing beings are filled to the brim with curiosity and a zest for life. My life is enriched by knowing them.

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An August Sanctuary Update

Sheldon

For those wondering about the sanctuary after last week’s Hurricane Irene, everyone is doing fine. The sanctuary got a bunch of rain and some not-very-bad winds, but nothing severe.

The rain made some puddles that the pigs and ducks and geese are enjoying! Terry said that the puddle in the pig yard was deep enough that the babies, Patty and Paige, were swimming in it! I wish I had seen that. Maybe someone got pictures, it sounds too cute to miss!

Two weeks ago there was a baby-sized mud puddle that they were enjoying.

Imagine them swimming in this mud puddle, which I imagine was even deeper after Irene than it was two weeks ago:

Truman enjoying a siesta in a mud puddle

The newest goat, Sadie, is in with all the other goats now. She’d spent a while in quarantine getting healthy, as is often the case for newcomers, especially the adults. She is at least 6 years old, but she’s tiny, so it’s hard not to think of her as a baby. She’s great friends with Malcolm, and I saw them head-butting each other last weekend in play, but it was more like head-pressing. They had their heads down, and it looked like they were just resting their heads together!

Sadie is not comfortable with people, though after a month of Terry and Dave working with her, she is much better than when she first arrived. I saw her for the first time two weeks ago, when Terry brought her down from quarantine to spend time with the big group of goats. She pranced down the hill like a little princess! Now she’s with the goats full time, and she seemed both curious and wary of people. The curious part means she will likely be comfortable getting some attention from people eventually. It takes time to gain their trust, which is no surprise. The surprise for me is that they can ever trust humans at all, after what they go through before they arrive at the sanctuary!

Little Josie, the blind lamb, is doing really well. She is figuring her little world out, and can be seen jumping around and playing at times. They think she might be have limited hearing as well as limited vision, but she’ll do great once she’s big enough to be in the full herd of sheep.

I think it is really lucky that the three blind animals at the sanctuary are herd animals. In addition to Josie, there is Darcy and Emily. Darcy is an older horse who went blind slowly as he aged. He generally does really well sticking with the other two horses and two mules, and one of the horses, Tally, wears a halter with a bell to make it easier for him. Once in a while he gets separated from them, but usually he’s right there with them.

And Emily, the young cow, was adopted by Heidi, and though Emily has always done a great job making her way through her world, Heidi will help her stay with the herd by going back for her, mooing at her, and generally pestering Emily (who is quite independent!) just like a mother with a stubborn teenager!

Josie will be comforted to be in a herd of sheep. In many ways they can use those around them to compensate for the senses they might not have. I see this with my deaf cat, Jake. He watches the reactions of the other cats to help him figure out what might be going on in his world. Their ability to compensate is pretty remarkable. Jake has lived with me for 1.5 years now, and I still find myself talking to him, forgetting he can’t hear me!

Spring is (hopefully) on its way!

snowy driveway at psasI was sick of winter by mid-December. It’s now the beginning of February, and I’m starting to feel desperate. Thankfully I will be escaping to Florida for a long weekend in just over a week, where I will get to hang out with Baby Sky and hopefully see some sun.

Winters in this area aren’t usually too horrible, though I’d choose a Hawaiian winter any day of the week. Usually, though, we have cold days and then warmish days, so it’s not too oppressive. We had hope early on that it would be a mild winter when we had a day in the 70’s for the Thanksgiving For the Turkeys.

Unfortunately mild is not a word that can be applied to the winter this year. We had a December that was at least 5 degrees colder than normal (I think we saw 40 only twice), and a January that continued the trend. At least we haven’t gotten gigantic snows like we got last year, and like the rest of the country seems to be getting this year!

hickory at psas

We did get some snow last week, enough to coat the sanctuary in a white blanket. The sheep and goats had been spending a lot of time hanging around the barn, and we tried to bribe them to go up to the hay feeder on top of the hill, but they’d follow us up there, and then follow us back down! Jeremy did not help things by standing in the middle, intimidating the other goats and sheep. And to think he was such a sweetheart as a baby!

goats heading up the hill at psas

While we were up there we saw one of the Bald Eagles flying to their nest holding onto some nest-making material. They re-use the same nest year after year, and it seems like the nest should be a three story condo by now. In the early summer when the sheep are sheared, the eagles will take a lot of the wool from the compost pile and use it for their nest!

bald eagle carrying nest material at psas

We can see the nest from the top of the hill in the goat and sheep yard, but we don’t approach it, especially at this time of year. I believe February is when they lay their eggs in this area, and if they were disturbed they could abandon the nest, which would be a very sad thing.

There are a few huge round bales of hay hanging out near the pig barn, and Malcolm was having a great time climbing up and jumping from bale to bale.

malcolm levitating at psas

This picture makes me laugh, because it doesn’t even look real. It looks like he is levitating instead of jumping!

The tractor had some serious bling to deal with the snow.

tractor at psas

I’m really glad I don’t have to drive the tractor. When the ground isn’t slippery they have a donated SUV that they use to tow the spreader, which means they are not only warmer while spreading all the goodies we collect, they are protected from flying turds. But using the tractor to tow the spreader is better than not using the spreader at all, which we learned last year when the area had gotten several feet of snow several times, and the buckets had to be dumped in these giant piles instead of being spread out in the far pasture. Add some bling to the tractor, and it heads right up the snowy hill!

Still trying to get that certain expression on Darcy’s face. Not even close this week, but I like the consolation prize!

darcy's tongue at psas

Birthdaypalooza on a Cold Day at the Sanctuary

Last Saturday was a very cold day at Poplar Spring, topping out at about 20 degrees. Frozen water pumps, too cold to scrub the chickens’ perches, too cold to linger in any one place for long. At least it was dry, and there was no wind!

Marius was in rare form in the goat yard. He must have been neutered older than the others, because he exhibits significantly more male behavior. If any of the female goats are in heat, you know who because Marius is right there with her, acting in his own odd way.

Last weekend he was being extra funny. I managed to capture some of his antics on video:

You might be wondering about the tongue waggle. From Jonathan Balcombe, who volunteers at the sanctuary sometimes, I learned that there is something called the Flehmen Response:

In the flehmen response, animals draw back their lips in a manner that makes them appear to be “grimacing” or “smirking”. The action, which is adopted when examining scents left by other animals either of the same species or of prey, helps expose the vomeronasal organ and draws scent molecules back toward it. This behavior allows animals to detect scents, for example from urine, of other members of their species or clues to the presence of prey. Flehming allows the animals to determine several factors, including the presence or absence of estrus, the physiological state of the animal, and how long ago the animal passed by.

It seems likely to me that the tongue waggle is related in some way, if only because it’s part of Marius’ behavior around females who are in heat. I’ll have to ask Jonathan if he knows anything about it.

There is something about Darcy. I like to think that I don’t have favorites, but Darcy does touch my heart in a different way. I think it is because he is blind, and because despite being blind, he just keeps on doing his horse thing. It isn’t always easy for him – he has adapted, and quite well, but he has adapted because he keeps trying, even though he gets separated sometimes, and bumps into things sometimes. When I think about the difference between him and Emily, a young cow who was born blind and who retains a stubborn independence and often chooses to be apart from the herd, I think that Darcy’s blindness is a challenge for him that it just isn’t for Emily.

He has a certain expression that I love, and which I haven’t quite gotten on camera yet…I keep trying. Someday, maybe.

Malcolm is still a complete sweetheart, as you can see!

Ben’s dad sponsors Malcolm, so I joke about Malcolm being Ben’s brother. I took this picture telling Ben that his dad would appreciate the family portrait. The funny thing is that goat breath is not exactly a pleasant thing (think: fermented grass), so this is what Ben thought of the goat kisses:

We hustled during chores, partially because it was cold, and partially because we were having a feast afterward. It was Sheryl‘s and Ben’s birthday weekend, so we had a little birthdaypalooza. Sheryl did most of the cooking, of course, with BBQ seitan, pasta salad, french onion dip and veggies, chocolate cake with a fancy cherry filling (or layer?), and (my contributions) whiskey chocolate and orange chocolate chunk cookies. There was more food than that, actually, I just can’t remember it all!

We have a good time at the sanctuary…

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.)

Thankful day at the sanctuary

I am very thankful to live so close to an animal sanctuary. I am also thankful that I have no family obligations that would make this holiday difficult for me. Instead, I headed to the sanctuary for morning chores.

This is sort of my default for holiday mornings. And I’m not alone. Holidays seem to bring more people than just a normal weekend day, which makes it a pretty easy volunteer day.

Spending time at the sanctuary gives me about 200 reasons to be thankful, and for some of them I’m extra thankful because it hasn’t been easy for them.

Wilbur is one of those – after surviving extreme neglect last winter before being rescued, Wilbur ended up partially paralyzed this summer for reasons that seem to be more a guess than a diagnosis. He simply stopped being able to use his rear legs, which might have been due to an infection. The vets didn’t think he had a chance, but Terry and Dave didn’t agree. The medication the vets gave him did help, and once he started moving his back legs a little bit we knew that he would likely be okay in the long run. His road to recovery has been long, but with steady progress. He wanders to the goat yard and back, to the stream and back, and grows stronger every day. Today he’s not only able to walk, he trotted towards where we were gathering leftover pumpkins! He has made an amazing recovery so far, and watching him happily munch a pumpkin is definitely something to be thankful for.

I was also thankful that it was a rare foggy morning, making for interesting pictures that I don’t normally see.

Edward is always gorgeous, but this morning when he would make his odd peacock sound (cross between a guinea and a crow, as best I can describe it) small plumes of “smoke” would come from his mouth. I can honestly say I’ve never seen that before!

Darcy, the blind horse, was walking around neighing for his herd mates. It’s heartbreaking to hear him calling for them, and looking for them, but at the same time it makes me thankful that he is at a place that doesn’t see him as a someone whose value is based on youth, usability, or money. He is highly valued simply because he is loved. And he is in a place where his blindness isn’t a handicap, though it is sometimes a challenge. He is in a place where when he calls, someone responds, even if it’s a human responding by helping him find his herd mates.

They say that the more we love, the more we can love. I am thankful for the 200 or so residents of the sanctuary for showing me how true that really is.

Poplar Spring Open House 2009

I got to the sanctuary at 7am this morning, sort of shocked. Like, what was I doing there at 7am?

It was so beautiful though. Peaceful, the moon was setting, everything was quiet and hushed. I love those early mornings.

My schedule was:

  • 7-10am: animal chores
  • 10am – 1pm: help setup
  • 1pm – 5pm: the event! working the chicken yard
  • 5pm – 7pm: help cleanup

What was I thinking? I was actually thinking that I know myself, and I know I can’t walk away from work I can see needs to be done even if I haven’t signed up for it. So I might as well sign up and stay to the bitter end. Plus the bitter end comes with Stickyfingers cake!

I actually spent almost the entire day in the chicken yard. I was working with two of the weekday employees, which I love because they know so much about the chickens, and I learn so much. Simply based on the timing of when I asked the farm manager where he wanted me to start working, I was sent to the chicken yard to help there first thing. And that’s where I stayed until we finished that area, at about 11am.

The chicken area always ends up feeling like it is in its own universe. It is not far from the house, but it is down a slight hill, so the busy activity happens almost entirely out of sight of us. And it isn’t on the way to a different part of the sanctuary, so unless someone is going to the chicken yard, they don’t come down the hill.

In other words, it was almost surreal in its peacefulness, given the frantic activity we knew was happening just a couple hundred yards away, as everyone scrambled to get all the last minute things done for the big event.

Even when I made my way up the hill to see what I could do to help with set up, I ended up inside the gift shop folding t-shirts. While this is not my favorite activity, it was also quiet and peaceful, and even more significantly, it had nothing to do with tables and chairs. Tables and chairs are the typical set-up and break-down chore, and that’s what I’ve always ended up working on at every event I’ve helped at in the past. Today, purely by chance, I didn’t touch a single table or a single chair. If I’d had a dream, that’s what I’d have dreamt. Only it didn’t occur to me to dream of that; it just landed in my lap.

When I left almost exactly 12 hours after I arrived, Terry told me that they are guestimating that 1200 people showed up. Many more people than they’ve ever had in the past. I hope the silent auction went well. I put down some bids right before I headed down to the chicken barn when the event was about to start, but I don’t think I won any of them.

It is hard to gauge the size of the crowd from the chicken yard, for many of the same reasons that it was a peaceful oasis during the morning chores. We get a steady stream of people, but I have a feeling plenty of people never even make it down the hill.

The Open House tends to be primarily the current supporters of the sanctuary. And while you would think that means mostly vegetarians and vegans, truly most of the supporters are neither. They are the target audience of a sanctuary for precisely that reason.

There were many people who had never held a chicken before today. I am pretty sure that everyone who has ever held a chicken falls in love. I talked to some great people, and saw several people I recognized from previous events. Cornelius and Leopold, the Japanese Silkies, continue to be a big hit. They’re super sweet; they don’t necessarily make it easy to pick them up, but once you have them, they seem to enjoy being held. Oddly, or at least contrary to people’s assumptions, most of the chickens who don’t mind being held are roosters.

At one point we could hear a horse whinnying. I assumed it was Darcy; he’s blind, and thought Tally wears a bell to make it easier for him to find and keep up with the rest of the horses, sometimes he gets separated. And so he’ll whinny. This time it was Didi whinnying, which I thought was unusual, but then I also heard Darcy whinnying. I think Didi might have been calling back to him. Eventually Darcy heard Tally’s bell, and they walked over to each other, and touched noses. My heart melted.

At the end of the afternoon, the chickens started parading themselves into the barn. It was the end of the day, and they knew it. They wanted to go in and get settled for the night! It’s pretty amazing to watch.

After I helped with clean up chores (which again, purely by chance, ended up having nothing to do with tables or chairs), it was cake time. And cookie time. And leftover samosa and other tidbit time. Relaxing time, with fellow volunteers. I got some really sweet comments about this blog (*waves*), which is funny because there are actually very few people associated with the sanctuary who do read this blog. Especially not my fellow Saturday volunteers! Though as their source of Izzy and Morty pictures and videos, maybe they’ll start.

As we were all milling about, revved up on our sugar highs, Wilbur came over to join us. To do this he had to squeeze himself between two parts of a fence, offset specifically to be wide enough for humans to get through without having to be messing with gates, but essentially it is closed off for the other animals. No way will horses or mules or cows or pigs to get through there! Well, not full grown pigs. Wilbur just barely squeezed through, and it was hilarious. Of course he was going to get into everything if he stayed on the atypical side of the fence, so I sacrificed one of the awesome chocolate chip cookies that one of the other volunteers makes, and bribed Wilbur back through the gate we opened for him.

He was so cute. And his strength? I thought it was amazing that he was all the way down at the goat yard yesterday, but this morning, he walked all the way down to the creek; past the chicken yard by quite a ways.

We watched him walk past, and looked at each other wondering “is he supposed to be all the way down here?” As far as I know, he got himself back up to the pig yard just fine. He seems to have made some major progress in the past couple of weeks!

It was a beautiful, if exhausting, day.

celebration

Joy.

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.