Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Tag Archives: tally

An August Sanctuary Update


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 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!

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.)

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.