Goat Walking in Guatemala

It’s not everyday that you see goats being walked on a leash. It was such a treat for me to see this little girl walking her goat when I was in Tecpan, Guatemala. I love goats, and made quite a few friends during my volunteer trip earlier this month. They are fun, playful, and more curious than dogs. They’ve got such personalities too. Some are loners, some are stubborn, and some are plain goofy.

I almost missed this sight as I was inside a home learning how to make tortillas from a family who generously opened their doors to the group. When I walked out of the kitchen, which faced a road that led the school were working on, I was filled with delight to see the sight of the girl and her furry friend. Soon, I saw women carrying their babies on their backs walking their goats. More followed. As I followed them, I learned that they were all gathering for vaccine shots for their animals. There were goats everywhere tied to trees, hanging out with kids, and munching on grass. For this animal lover, it was definitely a morning full of wonderful surprises.

North Fork’s Best Dog-Friendly Wineries

Looking to take your dog on a tour of the vineyards this long weekend? In my article below in 25A Gold Coast Luxury Magazine, I write about my favorite canine friendly wineries in Long Island’s North Fork. Click on the picture below for the article:

North Fork DogFriendly Wineries

Featured photo: Indu at Palmer Vineyards

Book Review: The Paradise Guest House

I love reading books that transport me to another land, somewhere far away from my New York City fast paced life. I picked this book, The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman, because I was drawn to the cover. The inviting doors, the adorable statue of Lord Ganesha and the palm leaves were all I needed to read the back cover. I was immediately hooked when I read that the book is about an adventure guide who loves to travel.

The Paradise Guest House tells the story of Jamie Hyde from Berkeley on a tour in Bali and the sudden turn her life takes when the nightclub bombs (of 2002) go off. I was looking for an escapist read, and parts of the book do transport the reader to the lush landscape and vivid cultural ceremonies, but what I got was an engaging tale of hope, healing, and the power of love in the face of adversity. When I finished reading, I had a huge smile on my face. I highly recommend it.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

“It starts as a trip to paradise. Sent on assignment to Bali, Jamie, an American adventure guide, imagines spending weeks exploring the island’s lush jungles and pristine white sand beaches. Yet three days after her arrival, she is caught in Bali’s infamous nightclub bombings, which irreparably change her life and leave her with many unanswered questions.One year later, haunted by memories, Jamie returns to Bali seeking a sense of closure. Most of all, she hopes to find Gabe, the man who saved her from the attacks. She hasn’t been able to forget his kindness—or the spark between them as he helped her heal. Checking into a cozy guest house for her stay, Jamie meets the kindly owner, who is coping with a painful past of his own, and a young boy who improbably becomes crucial to her search. Jamie has never shied away from a challenge, but a second chance with Gabe presents her with the biggest dilemma of all: whether she’s ready to open her heart.”

Visit www.ellensussman.com for more info on the book.

Howling Woods Farm: Where Wolfdogs Get a Second Chance

A brown, burly dog came jogging toward me. His wolf-like face had amber colored eyes that sparkled in the sun. His heavy coat waved and his thick legs moved with grace. When he reached me, he sniffed and slowly plopped to the ground, exposing his long, soft belly to rub. Big, and surprisingly cuddly, Samson, a 7-year-old, 110-pound, wolfdog mix of wolf and Alaskan Malamute lives at the Howling Woods Farm in Jackson, New Jersey.

Lavanya_and_SamsonHowling Woods Farm is a breed-specific animal rescue organization, situated on a 10-acre pinewoods forest in the Pinelands National Reserve. The all-volunteer organization rescues and re-homes domesticated wolfdogs. It is home to 20 rescued hybrids, including 15 awaiting adoption. Samson lives there along with his pack members–Bandit, Sierra, Takoda, Ahote, Kotori, and Chante–roaming the grounds in a 3-acre enclosure and greeting visitors.

A wolfdog, also known as a “wolf hybrid,” is a dog that has pure wolf in its recent family history—its parents or grandparents. All dog breeds descended from wolves, but most family dogs have distant wolf ancestry—possibly even hundreds of generations back.

“The biggest misconception is that they are aggressive. Everything in our lives from fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood to commercials on TV to movies, wolves are pictured as dangerous and mean, but they are actually wimps. They run from people as far as possible. In no way, are they aggressive. In fact, they are less aggressive than other dogs,” said Michael Hodanish, founder of Howling Woods Farm.

Wolfdogs face two main problems today. First, ownership is illegal or restricted in more than half of the states, yet backyard breeders continue to breed and sell them to those seeking status symbol dogs. Second, some of those who get these canines as puppies don’t possess the proper knowledge to raise these animals. Wolfdogs are quite large and require a sizeable area of land and plenty of exercise. They also need canine companions and a high-protein diet. With socialization training, attention and good care, they can make wonderful companions. Owners with unrealistic expectations and/or who are unable to care for their wolfdogs end up abandoning them.

Samson and his littermate, Noah, came to Howling Woods after their former owner surrendered them in November 2007. Noah was adopted shortly afterward by a local family, and Samson stayed at the farm, enjoying a life of peace with his friends. If he had ended up in a shelter, his fate would have been very different. Wolfdogs in shelters face inevitable euthanization. Even if a hybrid has just one percent wolf, he is sure to be put down, which is why founder and president of the Howling Woods Farm, Michael Hodanish, has dedicated his life to saving these creatures.

In addition to rescuing and adopting wolfdogs, Howling Woods also participates in educational programs. On weekends, Samson and his canine companions educate visitors about their kind. They give kisses and cuddle with guests. They stand patiently atop a wooden stand to pose for pictures and prove that wolfdogs are gentle and friendly.

To read the rest of the story, click on the picture below or subscribe to Everydog Magazine at www.everydogmagazine.com.

HowlingWoodsFarm2

 

My Galápagos Adventure

I had dreamed of visiting the Galápagos for nearly ten years. In September 2012, I was able to finally make the trip of a lifetime. I got to swim with sea lions, hang out with wise old giant tortoises, hike on spectacular cliff trails next to iguanas and exotic birds. I even experienced the thrill of swimming with a white-tip reef shark and snorkeling with adorable sea lions. It was a dream come true for this wildlife lover.

The Galápagos Islands are located in the Pacific 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador on the equator. The stops on the seven-day Ecoventura cruise I took included San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Española, Isabela, and Floreana. Cruising allows visitors to reach remote parts of the islands for best wildlife viewing. The government of Ecuador and the Galápagos National Park, which encompasses 97% of land on the islands, ensure that nature is preserved in all its glory.
Print article link coming soon…

20 Tips for Traveling the Globe with Your Dog

It wasn’t until I read Sheron Long’s adorable book, Dog Trots Globe: To Paris & Provence, that I began to consider bringing my dog with me on my travels.

Dog Trots Globe is a new travelogue by Sheron Long that recounts travel adventures through France with her Sheltie, Chula. After dozens of trips, Sheron and her husband decided to take their dog, who was nine years old at the time, with them to their house in St. Rémy-de-Provence in France. Chula got to hike off leash in Les Alpilles (Little Alps), visit farmers markets, enjoy sunny lunches outside and make friends in Paris. Chula has since flown to France a few more times and has her crate packed in hopes of another adventure.

The best trip, Sheron said was when Chula came along. “I wrote this book to share the joie de vivre I relish when I’m in France and to help others know how easy—and how much fun—it is to travel with your pup,” she said.

Below are some tested travel tips from Sheron Long that she kindly shared with us.

1. Consider the time of year

If it is too hot or too cold, it may not be safe for your pup to fly, and some airlines may not agree to board your pet.

2. Research Airlines

Find out about airline safety records and regulations before getting your tickets.PetFlight.com offers safety records and PetTravelStore.com provides pet policies and regulations for each airline.

3. Make Phone Reservations

Make your reservations on the phone to guarantee a spot for Fido on your flight since most airlines limit the number of pets in the cabin and the hold.

4. Choose Non-Stop Flights

Whenever possible book non-stop flights so that your furry friend doesn’t have to change planes or end up caught at an airport during delays. If you have to switch planes, find out about the airline’s policies on keeping pets safe during a layover. Some offer pet hotels and air-conditioned vans during the wait. Avoid at all costs airlines that leave your pet waiting on a hot tarmac.

5. Waiting to Board

Some airlines allow owners to keep their dogs in the lobby area until boarding. Sheron chose Air France, which allowed them to keep Chula with them until 20 minutes before takeoff.

6. Proof of Vaccinations

Make sure to have your pet’s health certificates (issued within 10 days prior to flying) and proof of vaccinations handy for international trips. Forms for a “Pet Passport” to various countries are available here, and here you can also find out the signatures you need and the fees that apply.

7. Microchip

Make sure your pet is microchipped so that no one gets lost on the trip. Place a GPS device on the collar so you can track your pet in case she gets out of sight. Some countries require that the pet is microchipped, but not all have the scanners to read them. Bring your own portable scanner to provide proof.

8. Pet Relief Areas

Many airports have animal relief areas, but some do not. Find out where you can walk your dog before boarding and after arrival before booking.

9. Cabin Pressure

Find out ahead of time whether the plane’s cabin for animals is  heated and kept at the same temperature and pressure as the cabin for humans. Most 747’s and other wide body jets have forced air ventilation in the cargo holds, while smaller planes such as 737’s and 727’s do not.

10. Choose the Right Crate

Your pet’s size will determine travel in-cabin or in the hold. If your pet will need a crate to go in the hold, be sure to get one (preferably with wheels) that is airline-approved. Go to Pettravel.com for list of carrier requirements.

11. Crate Comfort

Your pet should be able to stand, lie down, stretch out and turn around in the crate. Click here for info on how to choose the right size. Put a comfortable matt, and add a few favorite toys or something that carries your scent so the pet feels safe. Most importantly, bolt a food and water bowl to the grill to minimize spills.

12. Information Sticker

Affix a sticker to the top of the crate with information on the pet’s name, airline and flight number, departure and destination cities, the planned departure and arrival times, and a mobile phone number where you can be reached.

13. Freeze Water Bowl

Dehydration during flight is the greatest danger. Freezing the water bowl before boarding really helps eliminate spills and ensuring that your dog has water during flight. Also, a product called Waterbites offers a hydrating gel that doesn’t spill out. Another option is to fasten a drip bottle if your dog knows how to use it. If not, put a bit of peanut butter at the end of the tube so your dog gets acquainted with the process quickly.

14. Do Not Medicate

Experts in the pet transport industry do not recommend sedatives as they increase dehydration.

15. Emergency Pet Clinics

Go to PetFlight.com for a list of vets and emergency pet clinics in the USA. If you’re traveling internationally, ask your hotel or a local tourist office for a vet recommendation as soon as you arrive.

16. Bring Food

Pack your pet’s favorite food to bring with you so she can have a treat shortly after landing. It’s one way to bring along a little bit of “home.” But, if you’re coming back into the USA from a foreign destination, do not bring any food as the officials will confiscate the food or, worse, fine you.

17. Pack Two Leashes

Bring two leashes because they are so easy to lose. Invest in a good harness that goes around the dog’s body and makes it easier to walk.

18. Bottled Water, Portable Water Bowl and Paper Towels

Get the plastic kind that pack flat and then inflate. Have paper towels handy for airport “accidents”.

19. Arrival

Dogs arrive in a separate area with the oversized luggage. As soon as you get to baggage claim, find out where the oversized luggage arrives so your pup won’t wonder where you are.

20. Itinerary

If you need help planning your trip, visit BringFido.com for dog-friendly places and events.

Note that airlines will no longer transport snub-nosed dogs.

Below are some resorts offering pet friendly accommodations:

  • Montelucia Resort & Spa Scottsdale in Arizona is an expansive resort nestled at the foot of Camelback Mountain with plenty of pet-friendly areas and guestrooms with plush pet beds, doggie bowls and baked treats.
  • The Lazy Dog Inn in New Hampshire is a charming inn located in near the White Mountains. It caters specifically to dogs and their owners. Furry friends can enjoy hiking and playtime with other dogs.
  • Hotel Villa Magna in Madrid is a premier luxury hotel providing customized services to fit your dog’s needs. Pups get new accessories like a plush Yagu pet beds and stylishly decorated food and water bowls waiting in their rooms.
  • The Kimpton Firesky Resort & Spa Scottsdale in Arizona is considered one of Arizona’s most pet-friendly hotels, and there is no additional charge for pets.
  • Dream South Beach in Miami Beach, Florida is an ideal Art Deco oasis for both travelers and their pets. The Doggie Hautel Couture Package is only for dogs 30lbs and under.
  • The W Scottsdale offers four-legged guests a pet toy, treat, chic W Hotels pet tag and W pet beds.
  • The beautiful pet friendly Inn At Perry Cabin, located in St Michaels, Maryland is the place where Wedding Crashers was filmed. The Inn offers delicious dishes specifically made for your canine companion.
  • At the Paw House Inn in Vermont, the theme is No Dog Left Behind. This historic inn is near dog friendly restaurants, outdoor concerts, swimming, and hiking trails.
  • Find out if the hotel you booked welcomes pets by visitingPetswelcome.com.image

Dog Trots Globe is available from Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Enhanced eBook with audio and video embedded is available in the Apple iBookstore.

Where are you planning to take your dog on vacation? Share in a comment.

Darwin Animal Doctors: Vet Care for All Galápagos Animals

The Galápagos Islands located off the coast of Ecuador are known for their exotic wildlife, such as the giant tortoises, swimming iguanas, sunbathing sea lions, and dancing blue-footed boobies. But did you know that the islands are also home to many dogs and cats? Pets were brought to the islands by those who come to work in the tourism industry. While the wildlife is protected, the four populated islands in the archipelago—Santa Cruz, Floreana, Isabela and San Cristobal— have a number of non-native animal breeds, some legally and others illegally brought to the islands.

Published on NBC Petside on May 3, 2013

When Tod Emko, a computer programmer from New York first visited the Galápagosin 2008 to volunteer for a marine conservation group, he discovered hundreds ofhomeless dogs and cats roaming the islands. “Many of them were hungry or suffering, many carried infectious diseases, and too many were left to feed on the native wildlife, altering the delicate balance of the ecosystem,” Emko said. Emko even adopted a puppy he named Hoover and brought him to the U.S. When Emko realized that there were no “permanent, year-round veterinarians to spay/neuter these introduced animals, or to help injured wildlife,” he decided to start Darwin Animal Doctors (DAD), named after the islands’ most celebrated naturalist Charles Darwin.image

Providing Free Vet Care  

DAD was founded in 2010 and it plays the crucial role of providing much needed free health care to all the animals of the Galápagos with the help of volunteer vets from around the world. DAD is the only full-time, professional veterinary clinic working year-round. The vets come from North and South Americas, Europe, and Australia to work in these remote islands. Some stay as little as two weeks, and some stay for a year or more.

Volunteers like Dr. Lorelei Wakefield, an ASPCA vet from NYC, do everything they can with limited resources. Dr. Wakefield worked in a makeshift clinic in San Cristobal island in 2012. “When the last surgical light burned out after my second day, I used a headlamp in surgery for the remaining weeks. Drugs and vaccines that I’m accustomed to are unavailable or extremely hard to come by there,” she said. When a family rushed their dog in after she was hit by a car, Dr. Wakefield had to improvise. “The dog’s broken leg needed a splint, which we did not have. I went to two local hardware stores before finding some window trimming with the appropriate rigidity that they cut to size for me. I splinted the cute mutt’s leg and it worked well, but I don’t recommend trying that at home.” Dr. Wakefield also discovered a life-threatening UTI and performed an emergency spay on the dog, saving her life.  .

Helping Non-Native and Exotic Animals 

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Since its inception, DAD’s main clinic on Santa Cruz and a “clinic on wheels” has treated thousands of­­ animals and prevented hundreds of unwanted litters.“One of the primary services we provide is free spaying and neutering. This minimizes domestic animal and wildlife interactions, which can spread invasive diseases between them,” said Emko. DAD’s emergency medicine has saved and improved the lives of animals who would otherwise have been left to suffer alone. DAD treats malnourished pets, and manages the health of inbred animals suffering from hip dysplasia.

DAD also helps the Galápagos National Park with injured wildlife. “Birds, giant tortoises, sea lions, and even a lava lizard have all been our patients. The native animal that we treat the most by far, is the sea lion. From pollution to illegal fishing gear, these amazing animals face a lot of unnatural threats, but their survival is important to the health of the marine ecosystem,” said Emko.

Educating the Public

DAD is the only provider of general humane education in the Galápagos, and is involved with schools and the community to teach lessons on animal care and conservation. “Most Galápagos locals did not know about basic pet care, like buying dog food for dogs. Many feared that neutering a dog would hurt his health or make him less macho,” said Emko. In addition to teaching the importance of spay and neutering, DAD also provides regular deworming treatments against parasites that can infect wildlife and teaches owners about keeping their cats indoors and walking their dogs on leashes.

Dr. Seina Capp, Director at Thornbury Veterinary Hospital in Melbourne, Australia and volunteer vet for DAD, said, “By far the best thing that I think DAD is doing for this community is helping to educate the locals on basic health care for their pets who they obviously care greatly about – sterilization, parasite control, feeding pet food (puppies can’t survive on gatorade), walking your dog on a lead and keeping them confined at home sound pretty simple but you’d be amazed by how much of a difference these small things make.”image

Volunteer Opportunities

If you are a veterinarian, a vet technician, or a vet student looking to volunteer, DAD needs you. All of the volunteers get transient status on Galápagos, which allows them to avoid the $100 Galápagos National Park entrance fee at the  airport and are provides accommodations during their stay.

DAD currently has openings for long term medical volunteers in its clinic. To apply, please submit application on website tovolunteer@darwinanimaldoctors.org.

Darwin Animal Doctors Needs Your Support

Darwin Animal Doctors is currently working to get critically needed veterinary equipment and to hire more staff for clinics. DAD is funded mainly through private donations and fundraisers. DAD holds bake sales and online fundraisers. DAD recently started selling hand-made recycled jewelry made by locals in the Galápagos at tabling events in the U.S. You can help by visiting www.darwinanimaldoctors.org.

Interview with Melanie Sue Bowles, Founder of Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary

“A horse doesn’t have to be used to have value,” wrote Melanie in Hoof Prints, a sequel to her book The Horses of Proud Spirit about starting a sanctuary for neglected and abused horses 20 years ago. Melanie and her husband Jim founded Proud Spirit while still working as professional firefighters in Florida. Today, located in Lincolnton, Georgia, Proud Spirit is one of the most successful and longest running sanctuaries for horses in the United States.

Melanie never backs away from helping an animal in need- whether it’s an elderly unwanted retired horse, a miniature horse with an abusive past or an abandoned emaciated dog- she comes to their rescue. With Jim and Melanie’s diligent care and the comfort of the herd, the dogs, donkeys and horses that find their way to Proud Spirit recover their health, and become a part of their family. The 58 current resident horses of Proud Spirit get to run freely on 150 acres playing in the sparkling lake and living their lives in peace.

During my visit to this amazing place where I spent time in the company of so many happy and much loved animals, I had a conversation with Melanie about the sanctuary, rescue work and what we can all do to help animals.

Lavanya Sunkara: Proud Spirit is celebrating its 20th year this year, and no doubt you have saved hundreds of horses. How did it all begin?

Melanie Sue Bowles: I have to be honest and tell you that I avoid using the word  ‘celebrate’. The fact that animals even need to be rescued can’t be celebrated and I actually wish that Proud Spirit was out of business. But we started the sanctuary because we saw a need; abused, elderly and neglected horses needed a place to go where they could heal. We began with just one horse on five acres of land. Over the years we’ve evolved into an award-winning facility and we’ve intervened on behalf of nearly 400 horses.

LS: What motivates you every morning to do the work you do?

MSB: The short answer is, the horses. The longer answer is that I believe we are most happy in our life when we take the focus off of ourselves- what we have, what we don’t have, what we wish we had- and instead find ways to give back without expecting anything in return. In that regard, I get much more from our rescued horses than they get from me.

LS: You treat all animals that come into your life as family, you nurture them, communicate with them and they seem to bond with you right away. What is it about horses that you think most people misunderstand?

MSB: One of the biggest things that most people, even seasoned equestrians, misunderstand or disregard about horses is their emotional well-being. Horses form very strong ties, they become family to one another, but we sell them and trade them and shuffle them around from owner to  owner, breaking up bonded mates and taking babies from their mothers way too young. It’s heartbreaking. Even sadder is all the horses that are forced  to come and go through show barns and industries like Thoroughbred racing. Horses are herd animals, they desperately need each other to thrive, but those horses never even have a chance for that essential bonding.

LS: How do you stay positive with all of the animal abuse and neglect you witness in your rescue work?

MSB: I’m not always positive! Anyone who does rescue work sees the worst of mankind. It can be exhausting. But I think I’ve survived for 20 years in the trenches because I accept that evil has existed since the beginning of time and there will always be wrongdoing. For me, it’s a waste of time and energy to lament this fact, or to constantly question how or why abuse and cruelty happens. I’d rather put my energy into making things right for the lives I’m able to touch and rejoice the successes. When we bring a new horse into our fold we don’t dwell on his or her past or rail on about the abusive former owner. We focus on “right now”… this horse is here, right now, and he is safe and his future is secure.

LS: I read your book, The Horses of Proud Spirit, and I am touched by the stories. Each time you brought an emaciated horse back to life, tears welled up in my eyes. You are truly a blessing for these animals. What else would you like to see happen?

MSB: We aren’t taking care of the animals already here, and everyone who brings another colt into the world or another litter of puppies or kittens is guilty of adding to the burden. No man is an island and irresponsibility affects us all. Before you breed, or buy from a breeder, consider rescuing an animal instead. Imagine a day when we aren’t sending millions of animals to their death. I would like to see stricter laws regarding animal abuse, but these laws must be enforced. The laws serve no purpose when authorities turn a blind eye to the suffering of powerless animals.

LS: I bet your house is never dull with all the rescued dogs and horses. Any memorable or humorous moments in all these years?

MSB: Oh, there’s lots of funny stories, and I recount many of them in all three of my books. But one incident comes to mind that’s not in the books: One afternoon we had let several horses into the yard around our house so they could munch on the grass. It was a lovely fall day and we had all the windows and doors open. Jim and I were in the den doing something on the computer. Suddenly, we heard, CLOMP, CLOMP, CLOMP… one of the horses had walked into the carport which connected our house with the barn. We weren’t concerned as there was really nothing they could get into, and we just continued on with what we were doing. Then that distinctive sound of a horse’s hoof on concrete changed. It sounded more like a horse walking on tile. Jim jokingly said, “It sounds like someone is in the house.” We both laughed, not really believing that one of them would walk through the (for a horse) narrow back door. But then we looked at each other and hurried into the kitchen. Sure enough, there was Dancer, a beautiful elderly Appaloosa we had recently rescued, standing at the center island of the kitchen, just as calm as could be, as though he was ready to help us prepare dinner. My first thought was, “Please don’t potty!” My second thought was, “How in the world are we going to get him turned around?” But there were no mishaps and he walked around the entire island for us, and right back out the door.

LS: Any advice for people who want to do rescue work?

MSB: Your vision regarding why you’re doing this should be very clear. Rescue work takes an extraordinary amount of commitment and sacrifice. It goes back to my statement about finding ways to give back to the world around you without expecting anything in return.

To support Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary, purchase Melanie’s books The Horses of Proud Spirit, Hoof Prints: More Stories from Proud Spirit and The Dogs of Proud Spirit or make a donation at

www.horsesofproudspirit.com

Considering Going Vegetarian? Visit the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

Three legged Albie the goat was sprawled on a patch of hay with his nose glued to his food, Timmy the wild turkey strutted his stuff and the two recently rescued cows, Kaylie and Mike Jr., relaxed in a green paddock under an overcast sky. Chickens ran freely, the pigs made contented grunts as they ate their greens and the woolly sheep patiently let visitors pet their thick coats. This was the scene on a Saturday afternoon at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (WFAS), located in upstate New York.

Rescued farm animals from all over the Empire state and the surrounding areas find their way to the Sanctuary, where they live out their lives in peace. Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary is home to more than 200 rescued farm animals. The friendly staff and volunteers of the Sanctuary give tours and educate the public about factory farming and the impact it has on the environment, our health and the defenseless animals that live in horrible conditions and give up their lives so humans can eat meat. Most of all, the Sanctuary reminds one and all about the way animals ought to be treated- with compassion and respect.

Spending time with the animals at the Sanctuary always reminds me how similar they are to pets. The pigs love getting belly rubs, the goats bask in the attention and the chickens just want to run around and have fun. The sheep enjoy the fresh air and simple life among the herd. The friendly cows approach visitors to be fed fruit.  

Mike Stura, a longtime volunteer at the Sanctuary, said that even though the animals all seem to look alike, they have different personalities. Pointing to Kaylie and Mike Jr, two cows that have escaped slaughterhouses at different occasions and were rescued by the Sanctuary, Mike said, “Most cows are docile, but some are feisty like these two, just like people.”

Jenny Brown, co-founder of the Sanctuary, spoke to us about wild turkey Timmy as if he were a person. “He’s feeling a little shy right now. He’s losing his feathers and doesn’t look his best, but he wants your attention” she said as the turkey ruffled his remaining feathers and trotted over to greet us.

Visiting the Sanctuary and spending time with these feeling, thinking beings, I was more sure than ever that I made the right decision to forgo eating meat ten years ago. Other visitors felt the same too. Michael Venzor, a computer specialist born in meat loving El Paso Texas, said it re-ignited the passion he felt for the vegan lifestyle he’d chosen a decade ago. “I always wanted to try vegetarianism, but was never really supported by parents, friends or anyone else.” He said, “There’s not any vegetarian superheroes. When you see vegetarians in movies and TV shows, it’s usually the weird crazy neighbor. It took me actually meeting someone who is vegetarian who is cool, healthy and that inspired me to actually try.”

Aviv Roth, a musician and former carnivore, said “Sometimes, you need a little encouragement. They have happy animals living good lives here, and they are friendly and seem to love people. It boggles my mind that they can be considered food.”

It is indeed mind boggling to think that we call some animals companions, while some are considered food. There was a time when I enjoyed goat curry my aunt made, but meeting a goat face to face reinforced my decision to go meat-free. A gracious goat I met at the Sanctuary had sparkling eyes just like my dog. I rubbed his back and chatted (a habit I formed thanks to my furry friend), as he moved closer to me. I could tell he was enjoying the attention. When I looked away for a moment, he raised his front leg and patted my thigh a few times, just like my pet, trying to get my attention back.

It was such a simple act, yet so endearing, showing acknowledgment and emotion.

There are millions of animals that are sacrificed every day. Every single one of them is special. Their suffering is just one of the many bad consequences of factory farming. Raising animals for food has impacts on both the people and the planet.



 

If more people turned vegetarian and vegan, we would have less torture of animals, less pollution-causing factory farms, and decrease in horrible working conditions for food production employees.  Consumption of meat, which most often comes for animals raised with hormones and antibiotics, is known for increasing heart disease, cancer, obesity, reproductive disorders, liver and kidney disease among other ailments. The amount of food, water, and energy used to raise 10 billion animals for human consumption could be used to grow food for the hungry in this world.

A healthier and more compassionate world is possible for us and our farm animal friends.

For more information:

Previously published on NBC Petside