My volunteering slot at the farm is on Monday afternoons and I’ve been asked to take on the responsibilities in one of the barns. I spent last Monday and Tuesday afternoon being trained by a twelve year old one day and a fourteen year old the next. The farm is mostly populated by these dedicated kids who spend an average of three afternoons a week at the sanctuary. I envy the life experience these kids are building surrounded by so many different animals and the responsibilities in caring for them helmed by a truly dedicated and passionate person, Debra White, who owns and operates Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary. I wish I had something like this when I was a kid, who knows where it would have led my passion for animals by this point.
In this particular barn, there are four main animals and a handful of barn cats. The two horses are named Moonie and Lunar; there’s a sheep named Athena and a large goat named Gulliver. Moonie is an elderly male horse who’s blind and Lunar is his sweet companion. I was told by Deb, that he’s a kicker when he’s being moody. Armed with this bit of info, I was a bit nervous when I first met him. Talking in gentle tones with him, I offered him my hand and moved slowly around him. Any time I passed by him, I made sure to vocalize and make gentle contact. He never flinched at my touch, so I was excited. Lunar is an energetic senior horse. At dinnertime, she’s food driven and very sweet even while she nibbles on your hands looking for food. She’s also one of the loudest eaters I’ve ever seen and bangs around her food bucket with gusto. Gulliver is pretty low key and likes his pen which makes him very easy.
And then there’s beautiful Athena with her dark grey body and head that almost looks likes she’s had her hair and makeup done. Athena was found living alone on an interstate median where she’d been for a long time. Attempts were made to catch her which she thwarted. She was finally caught and taken to the MSPCA where she met Gulliver and they were brought to the sanctuary. Athena does not trust humans. This is always hard for me as I’d like to be best friends with every animal. So, while Athena dodged any attempts at getting close, I continued to pursue her with soft speech.
Yesterday was my first solo run. Nervous and excited, I walked into the Barn all set to go and lo and behold, there was 400 pound Waterford the awesome giant pig relaxing in the stall.
(A brief explanation on how the pens are set up since it’s a bit confusing. The horse pen is a large circle. The barn is in the middle of the circle and if you’re looking at it from inside, it has six sections: Gulliver’s stall, a section where the doors to the barn open (this is Athena’s makeshift stall), a section where all the food is kept, behind Gulliver’s stall is the hay pen, then Moonie’s stall which exits out to the back (no doors, just strips of plastic to keep the heat in so that he’s able to go in and out safely), and then Lunar’s stall. Go through Moonie’s area out the back and there’s a special pen for Moonie and Lunar. It’s set up with a rope around it so that Moonie can feel his way. Pretty cool! Waterford’s pen and teeny house is adjacent to the whole area and has a gate so that he can be let into the bigger pen during the day and has access to this part of the barn.)
So, was I surprised to find Waterford in “Athena’s” section of the barn as he’s usually back in his pen when I’ve arrived. I have to say that there certainly is a difference between petting a giant pig over a fence and having him right next to me. Especially when he started bumping into me and chomping on my backside! I went off to find Deb for assistance on getting him in. I walked slowly with him across the pen keeping an eye on him when he got behind me. Deb had also mentioned at some point something to the effect of “he can break all my bones in one fell swoop but he’s a wonderful animal” so I was being careful of the bone-breakage while shooting the breeze. He’s very chatty! After I located her, she needed to free herself up, so I went back to sit with him. I hung out on the top of the fence and he chewed on my foot. He’s super cute and wow is he a big animal with giant teeth!
After he was back in his pen, I worked my way through my chores in the barn. I was still getting the hang of things and since Moonie came in to eat with zero prodding (!!!), I fed him first. I probably should have fed Lunar first since she started galloping around inside the stall right next to Moonie (uh, NOT big enough!) but I managed to get her food to her and Moonie didn’t seem to notice so I’ve learned something for next time. I was still riding on the high that Moonie was completely comfortable with my voice! But even more exciting was Athena. When I went to put her food down, she was comfortable enough to bring her face to the bowl while my hand was still attached. No bob and weave out of the barn. No waiting for me to move. So exciting! Now, maybe if someday I can just pet her…
Since I can’t bring my big camera on my cleaning shift, I used my phone to capture a few images. One of these days, I’ll go in the middle of the day to photograph my lovely friends.
In my last blog post, I mentioned that an emu looks like it’s swallowing a cat while it’s sleeping. Ta da:
These roosters hang out all over the place. I tried to get closer and he kept scooting further away. Mission!
I went into the other barn for a bit yesterday where most of the goats live. Wow, do I love the goats. This one was a bit apprehensive of me. I went to pet her and she moved. I finally got a hand on her and started to give her a massage and then stopped. She sidled closer. I continued the massage and stopped again. Sidled closer. And now we’re friends!
THIS is Waterford!!! Isn’t he spectacular???
And THIS is Napoleon. In love! I was so excited to meet him and I happened upon him in a pathway. I figured I’d maybe get a pet or two but what happened instead was that right as I went to pet him, he immediately flopped over and demanded belly rubs and made super awesome grunting noises of joy while I did it. I love him!!!