The most difficult part of running a sanctuary is knowing when you have to say no. In one year we’ve gone from having two cats to having 21 animals in our care. In addition to caring for these animals I work full time, my husbands works away half the week and I have a 2 year old – if cloning was a thing I would happily sign up for two copies of myself. Prior to having my daughter and running a sanctuary I used to think I didn’t have time to do things; now that’s pretty dang funny! But I have to make note that without our amazing volunteers (Sarah, Carol, Kirsti, Rick, Karen and Andrea), who do majority of the physical labour at the sanctuary, this wouldn’t be happening without their help. They are all incredibly kind and generous individuals that I am extremely fortunate to have in my life.
At the moment I can honestly say we are at capacity until we have more infrastructure in place. The reality is, that every week I am asked to take new animals and as much as it breaks my heart, I have to say no A LOT! If I said yes to every animal I was asked to take, our animal count would be closer to 100 and I would be running the sanctuary irresponsibly. In order to ensure the safety and health of the animals in our care (and my sanity) I have to take several things into consideration when taking in a new resident.
1. Are the current animals in our care sponsored?
2. Do I have the ability to quarantine them for at least 3 weeks?
3. Once the quarantine period is over do I have adequate space to keep them?
4. Are they fixed?
5. Do they have any special needs and I would I be able to accommodate those?
If I can answer yes to all five of these questions then I will seriously consider taking the animal in.
Just to give you an idea this is what we are planning over the next year as discussed in our AGM tonight:
1. Fundraise for a $11,000 perimeter fence, a $4000 large animal fence and about $2000-$4000 for large animal shelters
2. Determine how our one legged turkey, Gertie, will keep her mobility as she grows
3. Obtain a therapy chair for Henry (Cornish Cross Chicken)
4. Build a special needs coop for Gertie and Henry
5. Integrate Charlie #2 with the pot belly herd – this is going to take some time as he is very nervous around pigs so his integration process is going to be long especially considering we are coming up to the rainy season
6. Train and socialise our new rescue dogs Rocky and Lucky – these two have solid personalities (affectionate and gentle) but they don’t know any commands and they have never been around farm animals before.
7. Apply for charity status.
Some of these may seem daunting, especially number 1, but slow and steady wins the race and we’ll achieve these goals eventually. We just have to keep plugging along!
In December 2015 I was 4 months pregnant and had made the decision to have my 6 year old cat Athena euthanized as she could no longer battle the hereditary kidney disease that had taken her sister one year prior. I’m not sure if it was the hormones flooding my body or not, but having her put to sleep was absolutely devastating for me and it rocked me to my core. The only thing I was thankful for was seeking out a Veterinarian that came to our home to end her suffering.
When I had her sister Persephone put to sleep I drove to a vet clinic in town. While I waited to end her life it was rather unpleasant having strangers surrounding me while I was doing everything in my power to keep my composure. Persephone’s goodbye gift was biting me on the wrist when the veterinarian poked her with the needle. This landed me in the ER 12 hours later with a severe infection that ended with me being on IV therapy for 5 days.
When Athena passed the grief was so unbearable that I remember my husband and I driving around later in the day and I had the most powerful feeling that I did NOT want to go home. I couldn’t bear to be in our house and not have that beautiful creature come running to the door meowing her little face off as she told me everything about her day.
About a month after Athena’s passing I started to look for another bonded pair to adopt. Late one night I came across Koda and Alice on the BC SPCA’s website and they were being featured as the Pet on the Net which is basically animals that are taking longer to adopt than average. After reading their story I convinced my husband to drive down to Victoria to go and meet them. When we finally arrived and walked into their room we both fell in love; my husband latched onto Koda and I latched onto Alice. After spending about half an hour with them we went to the administration to review their paperwork. As soon as I started to read why their previous owner had surrendered them my heart sank because they quite the rap sheet! Alice was apparently guilty of being very active at night, peeing on the stove (I thought this one was comical), peeing on the laundry and scratching the furniture. Koda was guilty of peeing on the laundry, scratching the furniture and pooping on the bed when he was mad. I thought the pooping on the bed accusation was hilarious because how would the previous owner know it was him. I soon found out that Koda has massive poops compared to Alice’s dainty poops so you would definitely he was the guilty party. After I finished reading it through I thought there was no way my husband would agree to adopt them especially considering we were having a baby a few months later and cats are not typically welcoming of new attention seekers. I have to admit that my husband completely shocked me on this day; he said that he had a good feeling about them and wanted to adopt them. Well holy toledo was I ever ecstatic because I kinda have a thing for misfit animals that no one else wants. We’ve had these two, close to three years now, and I am happy to report that in our household they are only guilty of scratching furniture. Though I must admit they did leave one thing off Koda’s rap sheet and that is the fact he drips stinky drool when he’s getting affection which is kinda gross but adorable at the same time.
Last Tuesday was a crazy day which ended with me having two bruised knees and feeling like I ran a marathon. This day was to include having Elvis and Presley neutered along with bringing home a pot belly pig that was showing signs of aggression. The night before the big day I put Elvis and Presley in separate carriers so I didn’t have to worry about chasing roosters around at 5am. Chickens are quite sleepy in the evening so it’s easiest to catch them during this time. The first rooster I caught was Presley and it’s fascinating to hear the sound they make when they think they are being attacked as it’s a very specific sound used to raise the predator alarm. Now travelling with roosters early in the morning is quite an experience because my volunteer Sarah and I got to enjoy 2 hours of crowing in a confined space. As soon as we arrived we took Elvis and Presley straight to our Veterinarian who was performing the surgeries out of the Courtney Veterinary Clinic as it required gas anaesthetic. After we left them in our Veterinarian’s care we had a few hours before we would meet the new pot belly pig so we decided to go have something to eat. We had breakfast at “Rawthentic” which makes really good raw vegan food. After that we spent some time at the Marina and I must say that Courtney is a very pretty town with all the water and mountain views!
Now for the not so fun part as I knew crating this new pot belly was not going to be a walk in the park. This pig , known as Charlie, had suffered through years of abuse and later found himself with someone who had the best of intentions to provide him with a forever home but it didn’t work out that way. The problem was that Charlie had a very solid foundation of why he should fear humans which manifested into aggression that proved to be too much for his new caregivers. Even though they did try everything they could to correct his behaviour, his fear shown through aggression, proved to be too much for them. Now I had been dreading this day because ONE he was afraid of people and TWO he was not fond of confined spaces as he had been sleeping outside even though he had access to two shelters. For our first attempt we put the crate at the opening of his pen and I was hoping we would be REALLY REALLY lucky and he would walk right in if we threw some treats into the back. But who am I kidding, pigs are smart and he knew something was afoot. After about 10 minutes of patiently waiting for him to walk into the crate, with the bribery of blackberries and apples and no success, we had to move to plan B. Now going back to the pigs are smart thing, you really have one good shot to get them into a crate and if you blow it it’s going to be a hundred times more difficult. So for our second attempt, which was a three person job, Sarah and his caregiver had to hold the crate in place and not allow him to escape as I stood in the pen with Charlie. As soon as Charlie’s front legs were in the crate I attempted to push him in but he quickly turned his body to prevent me from doing so. I’m not sure how much time passed with me keeping him between the sorting board and the crate but it felt like an eternity. This was now a battle of strength and I was determined to win because I simply had to. I had made several attempts to push Charlie into the crate, while bracing the sorting board with my knees, with no success. When I was about to give up and every ounce of strength was almost gone Charlie tried to turn and I took that opportunity to grab him by his back end and push him in. I still don’t know how I managed to do it because I literally had no strength left but adrenaline is a wonderful thing and it gave me the extra umph I needed.
Once he was in, we needed to get him into the van and fast. With pigs being a prey animal they will look for any kind of exit in an attempt to escape so Charlie was trying his darndest to open the crate door. We quickly loaded him in the van and much to our surprise he managed to shove his very powerful nose through the side of the crate which in turn blew the two plastic handles off the side - luckily we were standing right there so we were able to fix it before he made his escape. Hence why a crate with the top and bottom bolted with screws is a must with pigs and I’m currently on the hunt for. After this attempt we then closed the back of the van and made it appear that all the exits Charlie could exploit were no longer available so he quickly settled down and laid down in his hay for the journey home.
During the time we were getting ready to take Charlie home we received a call from our Veterinarian that the rooster surgeries were more difficult than originally anticipated. We made the decision to only complete Elvis’s surgery and wait the two months before we would know for sure that it was successful and he stopped producing testosterone. I’ll spare you the details but rooster neuters or “neusters” as we like to call it (a term created by our veterinarian) is far more difficult when they are over 12 weeks old because a roosters testicles are internal. Also due to the invasiveness of Elvis’s surgery he needed to be on oral painkillers and antibiotics and if you’d told me two years ago that I would be giving medication orally to a rooster I would have told you you were nuts!