Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Tag Archives: lenny

Exceptionally Lucky

Monty and Amy

The weekend before last there was an ice storm, so no sanctuary visit. It is only January and already I have missed a week!

This past weekend the weather was chilly but still nice. We have a couple new regulars on Saturdays now. One is young man, Eric, who went vegan just a few months ago, after seeing Forks Over Knives. It’s always interesting to pick the brains of people who are new vegans, and to see the various influences that led them to veganism.

Eric, taking a quick break in the pig yard

He was talking a bit last weekend about his transition, which was about as abrupt as possible. He went to see Forks Over Knives as an omni, and while he was in the theater watching the documentary, he basically said to himself, “well, that’s it, you’re going vegan.” And he did.

Hearing stories like this always makes me wonder how it is that there are people like Eric (who is into weight-lifting, and had been “the biggest meat eater” by his own description, prior to going vegan) who make that connection at lightning speed and change their life to realign with their new-found convictions, where I can only assume that the vast majority of people sitting in that room with him either didn’t make the same connections, or simply didn’t have it in them to act on it, despite being presented with the same information and images. What makes the difference between those who act and those who don’t?

Well, that’s the eternal question, I suppose. And it likely has to do with the entire tapestry of their lives, rather than the one snapshot in time. Which leads me to the related question: what made Eric, and the others in that room, choose to watch a documentary that they must have known would present them with information that could have a strong impact, strong enough to convince them to make major changes? Or am I wrong about that? Do people think about that before watching documentaries? Maybe that is just me.

The other new regular is a long-time supporter and (occasional) volunteer of the sanctuary, who recently decided to make his volunteering a regular thing. He also happens to be a world-famous author, who writes about pleasure in the lives of animals – Jonathan Balcombe. I’ve enjoyed his books and always enjoy talking to him when I see him at the sanctuary, so I know it will be fun to hear some of his observations of the animals as we do chores, especially as he gets to know them more as the weeks go by.

Jonathan and Lenny

Marius is the king of the hill in the goat yard, but in my experience he’s really sweet to the humans in his area, even as he chases upstart goats around. Contrast this to Lenny and Jeremy, who seem to think that we are goats, and who we’ve learned to not turn our backs on! We often have to put them in one of the stalls while we clean the yard.

Bad boys! But Marius, when he’s not sweet-talking the girl goats, will do his best to get his share of attention from us. Last week I happened to capture a couple shots as he approached Amy.

The Approach...

It reminded me of how our dogs and cats will act, moving so that the conveniently free hand dangling at the side of the human just happens to end up right on their head or neck or back, and the human typically will start petting them. That’s exactly what Marius did, and of course it worked like a charm.


Hamlet did his usual “come pet me” grunt as we were emptying our buckets from the horse barn into the spreader.

Hamlet and Amy

Hamlet is such an interesting case, because he’s – I hate to say it – the ugliest pig you have ever seen. He has weird flaky dry skin, and this funky hair that goes in all directions at once and seems to trap just about everything imaginable in it. (Last weekend it was food pellets in addition to the usual hay and grass!) He tends to be off doing his own thing, and doesn’t really come up and ask for attention…until we’re out of the pig yard. He knows that we’ll be emptying the muck buckets from the horse barn into the spreader right near the pig yard, so he’ll go and wait and get attention then. Perhaps he likes that there will be no other pigs around to compete with for attention.

For whatever the reason, I think many of us have a soft spot in our hearts for this particular pig, who is so ugly he comes right back around to being cute. Two different people independent of each other (as far as I know) have come to the sanctuary to visit with the animals and to choose who to sponsor, and have ended up sponsoring Hamlet specifically because he looks so ugly! I thought I’d told his full story in an earlier post, but now I can’t find it. Figures!

The short version is that he was bought to be killed for a pig roast, but that particular year there was a delay between when they brought the pig home and when they were to kill him…and in those few days, with Hamlet following the people around like a dog, they decided to release him to Poplar Spring instead of killing him. The wife of the couple came to PSAS periodically to visit Hamlet for a few years, and always insisted that Hamlet was different, that he was special, that he (and he alone) had “deserved” to be saved from being killed.

Essentially he’s the last pig you’d really expect someone to put the hat of exceptionalism on, and yet the people who bought him did exactly that.

Whatever this blog accomplishes (and I’m never sure exactly what it might accomplish), I hope that it shows people that these animals have individual personalities. They are not machines, they are not automatons, they are not commodities, and they are not products. They are individuals, and they have their own likes and dislikes, their own wants and joys and disappointments, they have all the idiosyncrasies that comes along with being an individual.

And yet, they are not exceptional. They aren’t the chosen few who “deserve” to be rescued while the rest “deserve” to die. These rescued residents are all just like the billions who are not as lucky. All of those billions “deserved” to be rescued, they all have lives they want to live, they are all individuals, and they all want the same thing as we do – to live, free of harm, free of exploitation. At sanctuaries, we meet those lucky and rare rescued few. We meet those few we’ll ever be lucky enough to get to know.



Vegan Pledges visit Poplar Spring

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!

goslings (and other cuteness) at the sanctuary…

Last week I saw the goslings at the sanctuary for the first time this year. Tiny yellow balls of fluff, they are one of those many signs of new life in the springtime that make us smile. There’s just something about babies…as much as we try to not be ageist, I wonder if there is anyone who doesn’t feel that special tenderness when they see those tiny little bits of life.

At the sanctuary, there is an extra special twist to the story of the goslings. Most of the Canadian Geese who spend time at the sanctuary are wild, not rescues. Though it is hard to tell whether individuals are staying year round, there seems to be wild geese at the sanctuary year round. Perhaps they simply know a good thing when they see it – a protected place with everything geese could want. There are also some rescued domestic geese who are permanent residents. These domestic geese play nanny to the wild-born goslings every year. The wild geese seem to be content to have the domestic geese follow them and their brood along, and the domestic geese are very protective of the goslings they have adopted. It is an odd couple type relationship, but it clearly works.

Dave told a story today about one of the domestic geese. She adopted this group of slightly older goslings – they’re only about 3 weeks old, but the goslings grow so fast that they hardly look anything like the younger babies! A few nights ago the wild geese took these four babies down to the lower pond after Jolene was already in the barn for the night. (She spends the night in the pig barn.) When Jolene came out in the morning, she was upset that her adopted family was not at the upper pond, the one that is near the pig barn. She spend the morning wandering around looking for them, and when she finally saw them parading up from the lower pond, she ran over to them honking and carrying on.

Her attachment to her adopted family couldn’t have been more clear.

If you look closely at that picture, you might be able to barely make out a goat on top of the blue truck in the background.

Yup, that’s my truck, and that would be Lenny. I parked underneath some yummy trees, and Lenny and Jeremy made good use of my truck to strip the lower branches bare. Those boys! (This is why they’re not allowed out of the main goat yard when there are visitors…)

guest post up at

I have a guest post up at Stephanie’s Animal Rights blog!

Includes some cute new pics of the little trouble makers, so go check it out!

catching up on sanctuary news

One of my fellow volunteers from this past summer, who is now living on the west coast, tweeted that she missed the sanctuary. It is impossible to fit any real update in a tweet, so I thought I’d do a general update in a post.

A few weeks ago 10 hens arrived from a rescue when a fighting rooster operation was shut down. Oddly enough I didn’t even see them until today! I just never quite got to the barn they were in the past two weeks. They’re gorgeous, and they’ve got attitude to spare.

Since their arrival meant that they were able to be paired with roosters who had never before had girls of their own, their attitude comes in handy! The boys are very happy, but not exactly experienced in the gentle arts of courtship.

Two weeks ago Jeremy broke his leg.



It was during a very icy time here in the DC area, and they don’t know exactly what happened. He came in from the field with the rest of the goats with the broken leg, so they can only assume he was being his normal rambunctious goat self, and had an accident on the ice, causing the break. They took him to the vet, where his leg was set and encased in a cast. The vet sent him home with strict instructions to not let him rough house for at least 4 weeks. This meant he’s had to stay in the quarantine barn, all alone, because the only way to make sure he doesn’t rough house with the other goats is to keep him separated. He doesn’t like being alone, he’s always had Lenny with him.

And so of course he broke out of the barn last night. Literally broke the door off its hinges.

Terry and Dave were a bit shocked when he came down for breakfast with the rest of the goats, acting for all the world as if it were normal. Head-butting Lenny, swinging his cast around, jumping up on everything he could. Not exactly what the doctor ordered!

I got a different stall ready for him, and we carted him (literally, pulled him in a cart) up to the barn again. He was very quiet, and I think tuckered out. As much as he wants to play as if everything is normal, he does need the quiet and the rest.

The eagles have been busy rebuilding their nest and it looks like they’ve got an egg up there as well. “Looks like” is based on their behavior, not a direct sighting of the inside of the nest – they’re very sensitive to disturbance in this period, so we just watch from afar as they swoop down to pick up giant sticks to add to the nest.

Not that we poke around in their nest at other times either! From the quarantine barn, there is a pretty clear view of their nest, and typically you’ll see one eagle on/in the nest, and the other in a tree nearby when they are sitting on an egg. It’s pretty neat, actually. They’ve had this nest for years.

Not sure if you can see very well, but the largish dark blob on the right side is the nest, and the itty bitty white spot is the head of the eagle sitting in the nest. In the left third of the picture a little more than halfway up is the second eagle. It starts to look pretty choppy in bigger sizes, but click the photo for a bigger size if you can’t pick out the eagles in the smaller size.

Three new pigs arrived at the sanctuary in this past week as well. They were from a neglect / hoarding case. I don’t know many of the details, just that when the county intervened there were animals frozen to the ground, and the situation was pretty dire in general. It sounds like these pigs were fed bread and (sorry, this is gross) the bodies of the animals that had died there. They look in good shape now, though, after having been in foster care while the courts did their thing. It is a mother and two babies, about 5 months old.

This is pretty exciting, as it is the first time we’ll get to see a momma pig and her babies together at the sanctuary. When I saw them they were just sleeping all snuggled together, but I have heard that they are pretty friendly towards people, and will approach without hesitation. They aren’t sure yet about belly rubs, but I can’t imagine they’ll hold out for long!

There is a new pig barn now, which replaced an old barn that was on its last legs. In Maryland there is a community service requirement for kids to complete in order to graduate from high school. We get some volunteers at the sanctuary who are there for those community service hours, and one of them from last year not only volunteered quite often, when she had a bat mitzvah she took that opportunity to raise money for a new pig barn. So this gorgeous new barn is thanks to a young girl named Alex.

And, of interest only to anyone who has volunteered at the sanctuary and understands why we wear muck boots, I’m happy to say that today we had ideal pig yard conditions!