Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Tag Archives: dexter

Zachary and Dexter: A Video Post

Zachary wearing his little blue coat

Zachary

I’m usually all about pictures, but this is going to be a post predominantly featuring video!

Though technically one of the videos is actually made with stills.

A friend of Ryan’s, Jason, has come down from NJ to visit the sanctuary a few times in the past few months, and is completely in love with it. As we all are. He took tons of pictures with his camera phone, and when he got home, he put them together with some music. I find this to be extremely powerful. He intersperses a few pictures from animal agriculture – not the graphic stuff, but sad stuff nonetheless. The juxtaposition between the sad-reality for most animals, and the rescued animals at the sanctuary as well as the crowds of people who are clearly filled with joy at spending time with the animals really makes it all hit home for me.

The next video is of the cutest little baby goat! Zachary was rescued on New Year’s Eve. Some people had bought him to use as a NYE sacrifice. Their plans were to slit his throat. It is hard to even think about, let alone comprehend. Their plan was foiled by Zachary himself. He cried, loudly, and since baby goat cries sound remarkably like human baby cries, the neighbors called the authorities to investigate. When they found Zachary, they were able to confiscate him because “livestock is not allowed in the city”. The law would allow the killing of Zachary, but not the keeping of him. This is sad, but true, but it also shows that even pretty low-bar laws can be used to save lives.

That video is of Zachary just a few days after he’d come to the sanctuary. Terry brought him down to be near us by the chicken yard, and he happily munched on grass in the sunshine, wearing his adorable little blue coat.

Even one week later, he was turning into a bit of a rascal! (i.e., being a completely normal baby.)

I took a bunch of video snippets, trying to capture his baby cry at the request of a friend. I put the snippets together using iMovie. I’m not very handy with video, obviously, but I think Zachary’s antics overcome my video skills!

And finally, some very short footage of Dexter feeling full of himself! I missed most of the action, actually, where he was pestering Gloria and Sal, and they were having none of it, kicking him and tossing their heads.

Knowing what all of these residents went through before they came to the sanctuary, to see them acting so normal (hijinks and all) is a beautiful thing.

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Spring at the Sanctuary

Marius's seduction technique

Marius is a trip. He’s been checked for (ahem) hidden testosterone producers several times, but he’s definitely not an intact male, yet he is fairly relentless when it comes to his pursuit of the ladies. He’ll chase all of the other male goats away, while also chasing after the girls with his weird tongue waggle.

A video from about a year ago gives you the benefit of hearing him too!

Sometimes he’ll do a sort of snorting sneeze, which in goats can be part of the seduction routine, or can just mean they’re happy. My google skills aren’t up to par tonight, because I can’t find much in the way of articles on this type of goat behavior (or maybe I need to use a different search engine now that google is evil?), but I did run across this very interesting article on Goats and Cows, written by Maneka Gandhi and published by an Animal Welfare organization in India. It does talk about the goat sneezes, as well as the tongue waggling, but it also talks about their personalities, and it makes some important connections.

How odd that we value our dogs so much but we do not think twice before eating goats – which are kept like pets all over the world and are as intelligent, loyal and emotional as them. Goats are very often not given credit for being the smart and loving creatures they actually are. Think of them like dogs, except they don’t have the “I must please humans” thing that dogs have.

It is not for nothing that human children are called kids – a term that means baby goat. Baby goats love playing hide and seek. They crawl into little hidey holes and will lie very quiet and jump about squealing when you find them. They “explore their world” with their mouths just like human babies “chewing” and “mouthing” things to learn about them. They love climbing. Family members let their babies jump and climb on them. If you let them climb on you, you are considered family some of the activities enjoyed by kids include galloping, jumping vertically into the air, tossing their heads, and whirling around.

The same article talks about cows, describing their intelligence and personalities. But also:

When you next have a steak or wear new leather shoes, remember that this cow could articulate her pain. We are just not smart enough to understand her voice. John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol, has just published a book on the topic, Animal Welfare: Limping Towards Eden. “People have assumed that because animals have smaller brains they suffer less than humans. That is a pathetic piece of logic,” he says.

[…]

Every time you choose to buy leather or drink milk you kill a gentle intelligent sensitive being. Cows are not just oblivious, cud chewing milk machines – those terms can be more aptly applied to so many humans instead.

Aggie

Aggie herself is an example of both aspects talked about the in article. Her breed is (or was originally) used for both milk and meat. Terry’s intro for Aggie (from when she first arrived, a few months back):

Aggie, our newest rescue, is a young Red short horn calf. She most likely escaped from the livestock auction, because she appeared at a home about a mile from the auction on sale day, as a tiny one month old calf. It seems she followed the railroad tracks to a farm where luckily a kind woman made the efforts to find her a sanctuary home. The local sheriff’s dept. and animal control wanted to take her and sell her for slaughter, but the woman kept her safe for several months until she was tame enough to lead onto a trailer. We picked her up yesterday, and she is very friendly and sweet, she loves to lick people. We can’t wait to introduce her to the other rescued cows, and here she will be able to spend the rest of her life in peace and happiness.

The pig yard was in great shape – we always end up talking about the pig yard conditions, because it makes a huge difference in how hard or easy it is to clean the pig yard. Last week was perfect. And as I scooped, I had a chance to get a picture of the cutest pig nose in the world.

Paige

Paige came with another little piglet, Patty, about 9 months ago, and they both have curly (for pigs) hair for their winter coat! It’s adorable.

Here’s the video from when they first arrived:

Aren’t they cute? They are still the littlest ones at the sanctuary!

Now that I’ve spent some time with Brenda Lee, I notice her right away. It’s funny how that happens – what used to be the general group of “beta barn girls” to me, are now distinct hens who I distinguish easily, though I don’t know their names yet.

And that’s the essence of an awakening to the individuality of others, isn’t it? All it takes is that small starting point, noticing, recognizing, and suddenly a whole new vista opens up. It’s a mirror of the awakening we go through when we realize that we must go vegan.

Julius and Brenda Lee

Spring in the DC area is very pretty (if you don’t have allergies) with lots of flowering plants and trees. Last week was the peak of the Cherry Blossoms, which is a pretty big deal because there are so many of them – something like 3700 just in the Tidal Basin area of DC itself, and many more all over the DC metro area. Most of the ones I see are planted as part of landscaping in people’s yards, or bordering developments. There is only one at the sanctuary (that I have seen – I haven’t walked through the woods to see if there are others!), and it is a wild cherry tree.

I don’t know enough about cherry trees to be able to talk about them in great detail, but I do know that most of the ones I see – the ones that are part of the landscaping – are more like the ones down in the Tidal Basin – the ones gifted by Japan. There are many species of cherry tree, however, and some of them are native to North America, as the wild cherry tree at the sanctuary is.

It just so happened that Dexter was wandering around down near the wild cherry tree, so I wanted to try to get a portrait of him with the blooming cherry tree in the background. It was a marginal success. An overcast day, a horse who wasn’t really with the whole “hold still and pose” program…well, you’ll have to trust my word that the vague fluffy white stuff on the upper left side of the picture is, indeed, the wild cherry tree’s blossoms!

Dexter

As we were leaving after chores, I stopped to take a picture of four recent arrivals – domestic geese whose story I have forgotten for the moment. As I knelt there, this Canadian goose walked up to me. I imagine she was hoping I had something tasty for her, instead of just a big clunky camera!

So cute, with all that grass on her beak!

Spring Fever – Is That a Goat or a Pig? And Opinionated Horses…

Crackerjack enjoying the sun

We finally had a Saturday with absolutely gorgeous weather. The only bummer, for me, was that I had to leave early. Even that was kind of cool, because I was leaving early to head up to the first ever Baltimore VegFest to table for the sanctuary. Tabling for an animal sanctuary at a vegfest is pretty fun. Lots of people stop to talk and I saw bunches of old and new friends.

At the sanctuary, though, there were lots of hijinks!

First up, Malcolm! I was cleaning and filling the horse barn water buckets when I caught sight of Malcolm busting into the pig yard! He’s such a little character! He reminds me of Jake, he of the kale chips. (And pinto beans, I have recently discovered.)

Funny looking pig...

I also took a picture through one of the horse barn windows into the horse barn, and had no idea until I got home that I captured a classic picture of Tally sticking her tongue out at me. Was it something I said?

And then! I realized, also not until I got home, that when I was taking pictures of Dexter (while trying not to get nibbled) he also stuck his tongue out at me!

I think it’s clear why getting up early on Saturday mornings to pick up poo is such a draw!

Dexter: Highlighting the Disconnect

Dexter at psas

Dexter is a young horse who came to Poplar Spring just a few short weeks ago. He was skinny, covered in bug bites, had evidence of old injuries to both his back and his eye, and he is only 18 months old. His head looks impossibly tiny to me – I haven’t been around a young horse in a very long time. He is barely taller than I am, and I’m nowhere near tall. Terry reminds me that he’s just a baby…

A coworker asked me today how “the animals” were doing. I was fairly certain he was asking about the sanctuary. We’d talked about it once before, which I only remembered later. When he asked if any new animals had arrived, I was certain we were on the same page, and I told him a little about Dexter.

And when I say “a little”, I mean I barely told him anything at all – that he came to PSAS a few weeks ago, that he had evidence of eye and back injuries, and that he was 18 months old – before my coworker got upset and started walking away saying “no, don’t tell me any more, I can’t stand to hear about people being cruel to animals.”

That’s when I remembered; he had the same reaction the last time we talked about the sanctuary, and considering the atmosphere at work, where we’re repeatedly told to discuss nothing that might upset someone else (translation: discuss nothing that isn’t widely accepted in the mainstream; in other words, hunting and bbq are acceptable topics, but veganism is not and the realities of animal exploitation is definitely not), I certainly was sharing almost none of the reality. And it upset him anyway, to the point he had to walk away.

dexter at psas 2

I can’t remember every detail of today’s conversation; mostly I remember that I had a lot of long silences filled with everything I didn’t feel I could say at work, and that my silences seemed to say more to him than my words did. And though reading my quasi transcript of our conversation looks like it was confrontational, it wasn’t actually. I suppose tone of voice isn’t easy to convey in written form, but I made it a point to be gentle in my spoken tone.

Here’s how it went:

When I pointed out that he was part of the process (of harming animals) that he said he hated, he immediately denied it.

“I don’t eat horsemeat.”

[silence]

“I’m very grateful for the people who work in the slaughterhouse. I could never do it myself.”

[very loud silence]

“I’m a meat eater and I am proud of it!”

[deafening silence]

Finally I found some actual words, “I just don’t understand the disconnect. You are practically in tears [he’d told me previously] hearing about a horse who survived, but when it comes to other animals…”

[brief silence]

“I’m a hypocrite,” was his response as he walked down the hall, headed towards a meeting we were both almost late for. “You win!”

“It’s not about winning…”

This particular coworker is not one I would have picked out of the crowd as someone remotely open to veganism, and of course at this point I doubt he is. But his compassion, his emotions, are real. He’s in his 50’s, at my best guess, not exactly of the generation raised to be “in touch” with his feelings, and yet with hardly any description at all, and certainly barely a hint of what any of the animals have gone through before arriving at the sanctuary, he is quite literally almost crying.

The first conversation, around a month ago, probably took him by surprise. It started with the standard question of “what did you do this weekend,” and I ended up talking about the sanctuary in more detail primarily because he was mis-understanding, thinking I was talking about one of the areas along the Potomic River that is a “wildlife refuge” (not that such designation ever stops the animal exploitation, but that’s a different topic altogether). He definitely didn’t approach me for that conversation.

But this one, this was one he instigated. He asked first if I had been to the sanctuary, and then asked how they were handling the weather (it’s been a hot summer!), and then he asked if any new animals had arrived. He knew in asking this that any new arrival would have a heart-wrenching story, but I can only conclude that the sanctuary and its residents have been on his mind.

I don’t know if I handled our conversation very well this afternoon. There are likely ways I could have talked about it with him that wouldn’t have ended with him accusing himself of being a hypocrite. Not that this isn’t an accurate assessment, and not that it isn’t something that can be quite powerful (it is what got me to go vegetarian way back when), but I have a feeling it simply put him more on the defensive than he was before.

At the same time, it’s sort of awesome to have seen how little I needed to say overall…the conversation was mostly him, and his reactions to my silence.

This is, as ever, one of the most frustrating aspects of advocacy. Our impact, if we had any, might not be visible for a while. Maybe not even until after our lives no longer connect. Even if we see a positive change, it is hard to know for certain what was our influence, or which of our conversations contributed in a positive way.

There just is no formula. Everyone is different, bringing their own life experiences and their own personalities to the table, and it makes advocacy something of an improv performance. Except harder – we can see the reaction of our audience, but we don’t really know how well we did for a long time, if ever.

dexter at psas 3