Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Tag Archives: gloria

Foggy Morning, Treats, and The Show-Stealing Hen


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.


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.


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.)



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.