Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Tag Archives: rescue

Zachary and Dexter: A Video Post

Zachary wearing his little blue coat


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.


Rooster Taxi to Vermont…

On my way to bring some roosters up to Vermont. And two hens, I believe. They were rescued from an illegal rooster fighting ring in Virginia. Eastern Shore (now in Vermont) agreed to take them. There were more, of course, not all will have this chance, but I’m so glad to be able to take part in the rescue.

Polly, Patrick and Wilbur – saved by neglect

Reformed Fast Food Mascot’s post today cut right to the chase.

A Minnesota pet sitter accused of animal abuse for letting a potbellied pig triple her weight was fined $1,000 and sentenced to a year of probation. So how could the pet sitter have avoided the animal cruelty charges? Simple. Confine the pig in a cage too small for her to turn around in, shoot a captive stun bolt into her brain, then while the stunned pig is still blinking and struggling, dunk her in a tank of scalding water to loosen her hide for skinning.

Some of the pigs at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary have arrived through the courts, through neglect cases. These are farmers who intend to make money off the animals, and had plans to treat the pigs essentially as RFFM described. Yet something went wrong, and they found themselves unable to give even that much “care” to the pigs. Eventually the county will step in and tell the farmers to do something. What they mean by “do something” is “slaughter these animals or we’re going to take them away.” Isn’t that weird? That’s how it works though. When the farmers have so little money that they can’t afford to get the animals to slaughter, the county steps in, and some of the animals end up at sanctuaries like Poplar Spring. And presumably the farmers are prosecuted for neglect…which they would not have been if they’d actually killed the animals. It is a mixed message – killing the animals on purpose to make money off the death is okay. Killing the animals through neglect or otherwise not making money off them is not okay. What is wrong with that picture?

What is missing, of course, is any feeling that the animals in question are individuals.

A month or two ago a small family arrived at Poplar Spring. A mother pig, Polly, and her two sons, Patrick and Wilbur. It was the first time a momma pig had come to the sanctuary with her babies, so we were especially curious to see how they would be, together.

The babies were a few months old by the time the family arrived, so we weren’t sure how much mothering Polly would be doing. They were already weaned, though it is difficult to know whether they would normally have been weaned by that age. The three pigs had come from an extreme neglect case in the county. They’d been living on a trash heap, and it really is amazing that they are alive at all. Polly is quite small for an adult pig. Terry thought that she’d continue to grow, once she finally had enough food, but now they think that Polly’s growth was permanently stunted from malnourishment, that she’ll always be a small pig.

Small, but mighty. When the three first arrived, they stayed in the quarantine stall, as all the new residents do. It was when they went out into the general population that Polly flexed her mom muscles. The first pig to approach them was Peapod, a big love of a pig. I remember when he first came to the sanctuary, as a tiny piglet himself. Now he’s one of the larger pigs, but still a sweetheart. I imagine he was just being friendly, but Polly wasn’t having anything to do with it. She’s probably less than half Peapod’s size, but she didn’t let that stop her – she flipped Peapod right over onto his back. That was mom-speak for “don’t mess with my babies.” They’ve never seen anything like it!

Now they are fully integrated into the group. Polly is often, but not always, near Patrick and Wilbur. The two boys are almost always together. Patrick has polka dots on his butt, which makes him easy to pick out. Plus he’s the one who comes running over to see if we’ve got any goodies for him.

It’s really amazing to see a family of pigs at the sanctuary.

mid-winter blues: all the good news

I wrote that post last night about fatigue, and I was heartened by the responses. Sometimes it helps just to know that you’re not alone feeling whatever-it-is. And given the time of year, I would not be surprised if this collective fatigue is enhanced by the weather.

Mary tweeted today asking for some good news. And I had some to share! It did us both good, I think, to have a good story shared. That got me thinking about the rescue stories I end up hearing through my work at the sanctuary, and how different it is from what’s in the papers. Not that it is all good (clearly!) but there certainly IS a lot of good. Mary tries periodically to post good news, and so I’m going to try also. I’m hoping that others will share their good news in the comments. Doesn’t have to be “news” as in “an article in the Times”, after all, and that should make it easier to find! I think that kind of thing will do a lot to motivate me, and hopefully the rest of you. We deserve some smiles, in any case.

So the first batch of good news: I heard today that of the 8 former fighting roosters that Gary and I transported to Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary, 6 have already been rehabilitated, and are wandering free in the flock. The remaining 2 just need more time. This is usually a process that takes much longer than this, so these roosters are proving exactly what a difference gentle hands can make. I have no doubt that the month they spent at the animal shelter before going to the sanctuary was beneficial, and it makes me smile to know that the shelter really did care about those poor abused roosters, as they seemed to at the time. The roosters have confirmed it for us.

The other good news is that a couple weeks ago 90, yes ninety, hens were rescued from a fighting rooster breeding operation. 90 hens! And they all found homes at sanctuaries in this general region.

You might wonder why 90 hens found homes, when 31 roosters could not. Partially, yes, because of the rehabilitation needed for the roosters (Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary is the only sanctuary I know for certain that does this, though I think there is one in Hawaii also), but also because most sanctuaries find themselves with more roosters than hens, and that can cause tension. And so it was easier for the sanctuaries to take in the hens, because while it will fill up the available barn space, it will also decrease tension. Happy roosters now that they have girlfriends!

Some other good news, of a more general sort, was shared by Ari in the comments:

Take heart! Every day I meet more and more people who are making the connection between sustainability and a plant-based diet – and I keep seeing people waking up, taking action, starting to engage.

You know, that was something I needed to hear! I spend most of my days at work in a place where I’m more likely to see the Flying Spaghetti Monster than people thinking about sustainability, let alone the rest! I forget sometimes that the whole world isn’t like that.

My other good news story is about Liesel, at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary.

A couple months ago, she was attacked by a hawk. One of the workers came around the side of a barn, and saw the hawk on the ground with … something. She assumed the worst and scared the hawk away, and I think it is safe to say that she had a major freak out when she saw it was Liesel on the ground. Not that anyone admits to having favorites, but I think Liesel is a favorite of hers.

Liesel had blood coming out of wounds on her head and wasn’t moving. It didn’t look good. Naturally that was a day when Terry and Dave were not at the farm, but a couple of the workers rushed Liesel to the vet…the vet essentially said there was nothing that could be done, and recommended she be put to sleep.

Terry, thankfully, decided to ignore that advice. Liesel was brought home, and into the house. It was a few days before they were sure she was improving, but improve she did. Day by day she got better and better. She became interested in food, but couldn’t stand. Then she was able to stand, but her balance was off, and she’d stumble and fall like a little drunken chicken. Now she’s back with the flock, healed and happy.

Isn’t it amazing what happens when they’re given a chance?

So, good news? Share it!

the painful goodbyes

Most of us are probably activists and vegans because we care. A lot. Too much sometimes, it seems. And if we’re working to save animals, that means we’re also dealing with situations where we are bound to be faced with loss.

This happens through my work at the sanctuary, of course. It is part of the cycle of life, no one would deny that, but it is also extremely painful. I see these animals only once a week, and there are many who I never get to know. Others hit a lot harder, sometimes for reasons I can’t fully explain.

I learned today that Amanda, the mute swan, died about 10 days ago. This is a loss that has hit me hard. Amy, another of the volunteers, had the same reaction, and I’m betting that she also wouldn’t be able to explain why the loss of Amanda, specifically, hit her hard. A couple months ago one of the rescued geese died, and it hit me in a similar way. Perhaps it is that these birds stick out, as they are among the very rare wild birds that I have had a chance to get to know (in a very limited way; they are wild, after all) due to their wing injuries. So their loss seems especially large.



Another loss, of a different kind, is of Smoke, the FeLV cat that my friend Rich rescued a few months back.

Rich tried very hard to find Smoke a home, but it was a daunting task. Smoke can never live among other cats, unless they are also FeLV. FeLV is a heartbreaking disease, and it is a rare cat who lives even to 8 years old. Their care, when they are sick, is not necessarily easy. The few people Rich found who had rescued FeLV cats in the past were heartbroken and burnt out and couldn’t face the thought of taking on more heartbreak, no matter how cute and lovable Smoke is. Others who were willing, couldn’t because they already had non-FeLV cats, and the risk of infection with this disease is too high to chance.

And of course it likely goes without saying that the people most likely to be willing to rescue a cat, in general, already have cats.

Rich contacted Angel’s Gate, and has nothing but glowing things to say about them based on his interactions with them. He feels that Smoke will be in good hands, and will finally get to be around other cats. Smoke, quite ironically, being one of those rare cats who absolutely adores other cats. Angel’s Gate has a lot of experience with FeLV cats, and that is another plus.

Yet the decision wasn’t easy. No matter how good the shelter is (and there are several who do take in FeLV and FIV cats, which is something of an amazing thing all on its own), it is always the second best option. Nothing is ever as good as a loving home.

Smoke and Rich hanging out in the bathroom

Smoke and Rich hanging out in the bathroom

(picture taken by Rich)

It was a difficult decision for Rich. He loves Smoke, and after my too-brief introduction to her last weekend, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t. She’s just a completely lovable cat. (Something I can’t, in honesty, say about my own cat, as much as I love her! She’s difficult. Smoke is easy.) Yet it was definitely the right decision for them both, given that in order to protect Rich’s other rescued cat, Smoke was limited to living in Rich’s bathroom.

Rich took her to Angel’s Gate today. A painful goodbye, of a different kind.

smoke still needs a home…

Remember Smoke, the sweet little kitty that my friend Rich rescued? She turned out to have FeLV, and so he’s not able to keep her without risking his other rescued cat, Beanie.

Rich has started a facebook group to try to spread the word about Smoke, and he’s also got a lot more info and cute pics on a webpage he created for her.

The FeLV means she needs to be an only cat, or in a home with other FeLV positive cats, and that is what makes finding her a forever home such a challenge.

If you could help pass the word by emailing her page around, or joining Rich’s “Find Smoke a home” facebook group, or both, it would be much appreciated.

Rich and Smoke are in NYC, but he’d be willing to drive her just about anywhere, so don’t let distance factor into the equation. Smoke is a very sweet and loving cat. Living in a bathroom, as she is now, is better than many of her other alternatives and Rich does everything he can to make it good for her, but ideally she will have a chance to live freely in a home, with all the attention that would come from a loving home where she could safely interact with everyone. With luck and perseverance, maybe we can make that happen for her.

Pics of Smoke in this post are from Rich’s gallery.

Harley and Piglet

Yesterday was one of those days at the sanctuary where we had so many people helping (about a dozen girl scouts, in addition to the normal crew) that we got done super fast. I felt like I hardly did anything at all!

I did spend some time inside the pig barn, where Harley was in his pen. The new pigs always spend time there at first – they can interact with the other pigs, without being right in the middle of everything. And Harley is just too little to be with the big pigs quite yet.

He has his water, which is now a bowl nested inside a tire, since he’d apparently been a rambunctious boy. He has lots of fresh hay, a blanket to snuggle on, a heating lamp to make him warm, and … piglet.

Harley and Piglet

Harley and Piglet

Piglet is something of a legend by now, his restuffed and restitched body having been a companion to many of the baby pigs who have arrived at the sanctuary. I’m not sure, but I think that someone brought Piglet when Peapod first arrived at the sanctuary, about two years ago. I should ask, to jog my memory.

When I made a quick post about Harley last weekend, one of the people who facilitated his rescue ended up finding my post and commenting. I thought that was pretty cool. I told Terry and Dave about it yesterday morning, and we talked more about that part of the rescue. Shana commented again on the Harley post, with a link to the story that she wrote about the rescue.

And it really amazes me. Harley is triply lucky, really. He fell off a transport truck, and lived. He was rescued by people who were kind, though his role with them seemed to be something between a pet and a money maker. Shana described their business as an education center, and she doesn’t go into detail about what Harley’s fate was going to be once he got too big for his first rescuers to handle. But from what Terry and Dave told me, the original plan had been for him to be sent to slaughter when he was too big for the first rescuers to have at their education center.

So the third piece of Harley’s luck was in having Shana visit the education center. She asked questions, and learned the truth. Shana had lived in the DC area, and already knew about Poplar Spring, so she was able to save Harley, and help him come to Poplar Spring.

The details make it clear how precarious his situation was, and how amazing it is that he is safe, now.

It is also a really wonderful reminder that each of us can make that kind of difference – life or death – to others. We never know when we’ll be in a situation where asking the right questions and noticing the right details can save someone’s life. We should know that it is always a possibility.

Thanks to Shana and her husband for helping to rescue precious Harley, thanks to Shana’s friend Deena for lending them the Jeep so they could get Harley to the place they were to meet Dave, and thanks to Terry and Dave of Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary and to every other animal sanctuary out there for making sure that there are safe places.

chicken duty at the poplar spring open house

I’ve worked the horse/mule/cow area at events before, so this time when they asked us for our preferences, I went with chickens. I have gotten to know a lot of the chickens in my weekly volunteering, but what I found with the cows is that I learned their names and stories so much better by working their area during a big event.

So this time it was the chickens and turkeys (and guineas and the peacock).

victor, elliot and gobbles

victor, elliot and gobbles

When I first started volunteering at the sanctuary, I couldn’t read the chickens at all. I didn’t understand them, and I was a little freaked out at the thought of holding them. Of course I wouldn’t have admitted that, so the first time Dave said “do you want to hold one?” and put someone in my arms, I went along with it.

And I learned.

Chickens are curious and intelligent. They are filled to the brim with personality, and they go mad for corn and grapes and bread. The roosters will show their girls where the food tidbits are, and they’ll often pick up pieces and drop them on the ground again so that their girls can see it.

I think that my experience is very common. When we don’t have a lot of exposure to birds in a way that lets us observe their personality, they seem alien. Their expressions are inscrutable.

And I think that is why a lot of people will give up eating cows and pigs, but continue to eat chickens. Those big brown eyes of the cows and pigs make their intelligence and personality obvious to anyone who has been around dogs, but chickens remain more of a mystery.

The big events at the sanctuary are never my favorite days at the sanctuary. There are a lot of people, 800-1000 expected today, and usually when we’re at the sanctuary it is around 8 of us. When there are so many people there, we have to limit where they can go, and we have to keep an eye on the people as well as the animals. We answer a lot of questions, many of them the same ones over and over.

What I saw today, though, is that we were able to give many people their first exposure to these birds. Some of them like being held, and those got so much attention all day that they’ll be spoiled for weeks to come. I could see that people were touched by these wonderful personalities, that they could see their individuality.

Some of this I saw in the few pictures I snapped while I was there. Some of it I was able to see during the event.

There were the kids who gathered around when three of the chickens ignored the fence (as they sometimes do) to come out where the people were. They listened to me, sat down instead of accidentally chasing the chickens (people will follow them, and other animals, not really understanding that following them is a slow-speed chase), and were almost beside themselves when one of the chickens let herself be held. They couldn’t get enough.

That was a pretty common scenario, though the chickens did mostly stay inside the fencing.

Towards the end of the day, the chickens and turkeys all decided that it was time for bed, so they went inside to their night perches and hung out. The crowd of people had mostly dispersed by then, but there were a few stragglers.

One was a FARM employee, Adam, who I had thought looked vaguely familiar. He’s the AV guy we always see running around at the AR conference, so he looked vaguely familiar for a good reason. I’d earlier met Jen, who I’d also recognized as being someone running around with equipment hanging off her while looking stressed. It was good to see them both looking more relaxed.

Adam sponsors one of the Japanese silkies, so I went into the barn and brought him outside for Adam and his friend Robin to meet. Cornelius seemed happy enough being held, so I handed him over for them to hold. There was such a look of joy on both their faces.

He’d been talking about how important he thought it was for people to make personal connections with the animals, so they can understand who is being impacted by their everyday decisions. And I can’t disagree – this is clearly important, and we can only hope that days like the open house will influence people.

It was clear, watching Adam and Robin with Cornelius that there is a special joy that comes from interacting with these rescued animals. I could see it shining from them, and though I didn’t get a picture of them, I recognized that same joy in other people in some of the pictures I did get.

It was an amazing day, really. I got to know more of the chickens’ names, and I had the chance to feel some hope as I witnessed joy. And maybe some of the people there fell in love with the chickens, as I’ve been doing ever since I first started to really see them.

Smoke: a rescue of a feral kitten

A friend, Rich, noticed a feral kitten hanging around his yard a couple weeks ago. There’s a managed colony across the street, but of course you wouldn’t expect a kitten to be at a managed colony. The kitten, who Rich began calling Smoke, got friendlier and friendlier, and Rich was determined to rescue him or her.

And today it worked out, and Smoke was trapped.

She or he is in the bathroom of Rich’s place now, a little scared, but not too badly. Rich has another cat already, and it is a one bedroom apartment, so the logistics are not perfect for this kind of rescue, but there are backup plans in place, in case Beanie won’t accept Smoke. Beanie was a street cat himself, before he decided to adopt Rich, and while he’s now an indoor cat, he is still territorial and gets super upset to see cats outside in his territory.

So Rich has some worries about Beanie accepting Smoke.

For now, he’s giving Beanie a lot of attention, he’s keeping them separated, he let Beanie sniff the now Smoke-less trap. So far Beanie is curious but not upset.

There are several challenges, of course, because Smoke is sort of half-tame, but certainly not your average friendly kitten. So Smoke needs to become more comfortable with people, and the introduction to Beanie has to happen as well. And all this in a one bedroom apartment.

Smoke will be going to the vet in the next day or so to get checked out by the vet and spayed or neutered as well, which is the obvious first step.

This is the first experience Rich has had with a feral cat (Beanie doesn’t really count because he became part of Rich’s life when Beanie jumped in the open window one night and curled up to sleep on Rich’s bed), and while he’s read plenty of advice, it always seems best to get advice that is based on the actual situation.

If anyone has some hints or information that might help Rich, Smoke and Beanie, please comment!

smoke, just rescued

smoke, just rescued

Ranger the box turtle

ranger on land

We welcomed an interesting new resident to Polar Spring on Saturday. Things often get a bit crazy towards noon with people showing up for tours. This past Saturday was like that, but one woman was there to drop someone off rather than go on a tour.

She told me parts of how she came to have Ranger, the cute little box turtle she was bringing to the sanctuary. A friend had found Ranger on the side of the road and (I believe) noticed that she was missing a foot. I’m not sure what prompted a removal type rescue – perhaps it was a new injury, or perhaps the rescuer wasn’t sure how best to rescue a turtle. Whatever the case, Ranger came to live with them for about a year.

And then for reasons I either didn’t hear or don’t remember, Ranger came to live with this other woman. I think she had Ranger for only a few months before she started feeling bad about having a box turtle in a cage. She would give her outside time and saw how happy she was. She knew of Poplar Spring because she comes every year to the Open House in the fall, and so she contacted Terry.

I feel pretty lucky that I got to witness Ranger being introduced to her new home. There is a quiet little stream, which isn’t much more than a trickle of water, but it is a perfect area in the woods for a box turtle. Other box turtles have been released there in the past, and Terry would periodically see them for years afterwards, so it is known to be a good spot.

She did a little exploring and while I don’t know turtles that well, I would swear that her personality was shining right through the leaves and dappled sunlight. She didn’t seem hampered at all by her three footedness – there was a little less traction from the footless stump, and you could see that there was some impact to her movements, but it certainly didn’t stop her.

The woman who had brought Ranger to live at Poplar Spring was so happy. Sad, in the sense that she’d miss Ranger in her life, but incredibly happy because she knew she was doing the right thing for Ranger. She was greatly cheered by the thought of coming to visit Ranger (or at least look for Ranger) on some other visits to the sanctuary.

Myself, I’ll be taking little breaks on Saturdays to see if I can spot Ranger. There’s just something about that little face, I hope I get to see her again.

Ranger in stream

I am never quite sure what to do when rescuing turtles. I mean, obviously, get them out of the road. But why did they go to the road, and do I know which side they were trying to get to, and if I don’t figure it out correctly, am I really helping them? I do my best, but they’re not always pointed in one direction or another. I don’t know much about turtles. I googled to do a bit of research for this post, and found some good stories and good information. If anyone has turtle rescuing hints, please pass them on!