Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Being a Witness for my New Friends

  This week I have been getting to know the Sanctuary a bit, learning the routine, and becoming more familiar with some of the residents. A few mornings, I have been on water duty in the Goat/Sheep and Pig Barns. I have found myself working like a bank robber while changing the water bowls (well more like mud bowls) in the pig barn. Pigs are like cats, they eat and sleep about 18 hours a day. They say at the Sanctuary, that Miss Piggy is like a sun dial, look at which way her belly is turned and you will find the sun. She is SO pink! She loves the sun.

  Besides, the waters in the morning, I have been working in the Medical Building most of the days. A caregiver, Dawnell (who is totally awesome, and such a calm presence), refers to the Med Building as "hospice". There are some roosters, who just have to be separated for the time being, they are raging teenagers right now. There are a few hens that are are waiting to be integrated into the flock. Then there are a few that are being made comfortable for their last days. 

  One of those, is a white bird, Dandy. Dandy is a what the industry refers to as a "broiler" because that was his destiny in the industry. At Woodstock, they refer to them as the white birds. They are chickens, however, they have been so insanely genetically manipulated, that they are also referred to as "frankenbirds".  They have been altered, to grow extremely fast and to have large white breasts, since that is what the consumer desires. Chickens in the industry live for 45 days. No longer.  Due to growing so fast so quickly, and not meaning to live beyond 45 days, white birds tend to have organ issues, are at risk for heart attacks, and mobility issues. Not to mention, they are STARVING all the time, because they have genetically manipulated to eat constantly so they can grow very large. At the sanctuary, they are a a very strict low fat diet, and have measured feedings. 

Dandy in the Med Building Yard enjoying some Sunshine
Dandy, my new friend, is such a calm sweet guy. He has lived some happy days out at the Sanctuary. He started walking with one leg sticking out behind him recently. He has received treatment but it is not getting better. His hock is quite inflamed. He is no longer mobile. He kinda of move  from one spot to the next but it isn't very pretty, and it takes a lot of effort. He can't support himself on his feet at all. Dandy is a very large chicken.

Since he is weak, he is in the Med Building and in a crate (a dog crate) with lots of cushion for comfort. He is on pain medication, as he is in lots of pain. To help reduce the swelling and some pain, he gets cold compressed on his leg a few times a day.  I have been able to hold him the last couple of days for his cold compress for his leg. He just lays snug in my lap for a about 20 minutes, kind of on his side, relieving some pressure on his chest, and I hold the compress on his foot. He closes his eyes a bit. Sometimes he makes a low chirp sound. He always starts to try to turn and flap his wings a bit when he is finished.  

Someone asked me if I was attached to him, as he won't be here for even a few more days. My reply "I am just honored to make his last few days (hopefully) a bit more comfortable..."  

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Don't Jump Pigs are Drama Queens

     And it begins.... hand me a rake, pitch fork, and a bale of hay! 

     My first day as a intern at Woodstock Animal Sanctuary was cleaning and lots of it! Mark and I jumped in to lend a hand with the daily chores. We cleaned and prepared a stall for the arrival of two new sheep (more on these girls at a later date). We did poop patrol through the pig enclosure, cleaned out a pig stall, and cleaned and re-did a chicken coop.
Walter and I at Woodstock Animal Sanctuary 

   So, challenge number one, get wheelbarrow through the muddy pig enclosure full of poop without letting a pig dump it over. Yea, they think it's fun. Challenge number two if  "Little Dude" (who isn't little at all) comes towards you MOVE. Challenge number three, get more comfortable with the pigs! Yea, it's a natural reaction to flinch when you hear squeals and grunts coming out of a 300-400lb being. Everyone has assured me the pigs are "Drama Queens". Being a Leo, I totally get it. 
  Ya know, all that talk about how dirty pigs are? Well, their "nests" are spotless, that is where they sleep. And I actually said out out loud today "Pig poop actually isn't bad". Seriously, easy clean-up and not much smell. Well, until the wheelbarrow is full. Just a little more info on "Little Dude", he just gets overwhelmed a bit, as he is almost blind and is deaf.
 The next big job today, cleaning out one of the chicken coops. This involved, removing all the shavings, scraping cracks and the floor with a putty knife, sprinkling mite treatment down, and replacing the shavings. Pretty big task for the afternoon, but add to that a dozen chickens who are totally into your every move! We kept all the chickens out of the coop except one,"Tamulah". She kept trying to make a nest in our piles, and trying to get through the doors to the other areas. I loved having some time up close with the chickens today. One of my goals while here, is to get to know more about the birds.

  When we wake-up there is no going back to sleep. 

I found myself tearing up many times today for no obvious reason in the moment. But knowing that it is a culmination of moments. It is amazing to be here with these animals. For them to give us a chance. To be that human that that they can trust. That scratches that hard to reach place behind their horns. That stands with them in the moment, in complete peace. And all the while, realizing the horrible things that are happening to BILLIONS of other animals, in that same moment. And being very much aware of how much I have to learn, the doubt that can creep in.... and the "Yes" that is even louder - because they deserve better.