Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sitting the Sanctuary (Part II)

When Lucie left the sanctuary in our hands for the week, it wasn’t all warm fuzzy moments of sunrises and cooperative critters. In fact, two prerequisites for working at a sanctuary are a cool head and a sense of humour.

Lucie left before sunrise Friday morning, and the animals expected breakfast around nine o’clock.  Although I was moving into the sanctuary that day, Nancy and I decided we would both do the Friday feeds to make sure we knew the routine. What one person forgot or misunderstood, the other would hopefully catch. 

And so, there we were.  Nine AM, facing one pen of  hungry senior pigs, another pen and pasture of hungry younger pigs,  six equines, and a flock of various farmbirds flapping around giving orders to anyone who will listen. 
Suzie:  We're hungry.  Feed us please!
Us:  Of course, Suzie.  You are such a polite piggy! 

Sergio:  Over there!  Fill that bowl over there!  Right now!

Sarah:  Sergio! Don't be so bossy!  They are moving as fast as they can, dear! 

Splash:  When you are done with the food,  would you mind bringing more water for my bath?

Bob:  Hmmmm.....not a very good job there, ladies. That bowl has almost twice as much as the other one! 

The routine for the senior pigs’ pen goes as planned. Hamlet trots into his little fenced personal feeding spot, the other seniors run to the dishes scattered around the pen, and Jacob pokes his head out of his shelter as he awaits his bowl.  Jacob eats in his shelter with an x-pen pulled across it - he’s a slow eater and needs a little more time than most. 

Jacob:  Room service?  Oh, thank you! 

Over the fence, we pour a scoopful of chow into Theo’s big red bowl.  We remembered to check that the bowl was right side up (equines and giant steer have a habit of turning tubs over), but Lucie never said anything about the logistics of pouring the chow in while two goats and two donkeys block the feed’s trajectory with their eager, greedy mouths. Half the scoopful ends up on the ground beside the bowl. By then Theo has already arrived for breakfast and shooed the others away – and now his very large head with its very large horns are directly in the way of adding any more crunchies to the bowl.

Theo:  Move, goats, I do believe that is MY breakfast! 

Later, Theo will once again obstruct our feeding attempts by standing right in front of the gate through which we need to push a wheelbarrow loaded with one heavy bale of hay for him.  Cooperation is not his middle name.  And only a fool argues with a 3000 pound steer.

Never stand in the way of a 3000 lb steer.
If the horns don't get you, the tongue will!

We move on to the next pen, where the younger pigs and Toby the mini horse  are waiting, and the goats and donkeys race in from the pasture.  There are more than a dozen bowls in this pen, and each pig, goat, and donkey races around and around, tripping us and tackling us, as they check out which bowl might have the most pellets or the tastiest treats.

Simon:  Oh, am I in your way?
As we fill the last bowl, we notice one grey pig who has not joined the rest for breakfast.  He stands in the pasture close to the pen’s fence, staring silently at something behind one of the shelters.  I walk over to see what is wrong and I'm greeted by the sight of a very sad silvery pink pig – Marley – who is silently standing in the gap between the shelter and the fence, his short little tusks caught in the page wire fencing.  Oh sh*t.  Marley wasn’t a pig we knew well – he always kept his distance from Nancy and I – and getting tusks untangled from fences is not easy.   Flight response, in the prey animal, coupled with porcine fear and panic, makes untangling tusks more difficult than it needs to be.

Thankfully, his guardian angel pig must be watching over him – or us - because as I step up behind Marley, he ducks his head and turns it, moving backward slightly to see what scary enemy is approaching,  and in doing so frees himself from his wiry (pun intended) captor.  He runs around the shelter and heads straight for the nearest bowl, and the grey pig who alerted us to the problem runs through the gate for breakfast too. From that point on, Marley becomes very friendly with both Nancy and I, and happy to talk with us  whenever we are about.  

Marley:  Good thing my tusks are short, eh?  
There were a dozen other ‘oh-oh’ moments that first day or two. Nancy and I agreed in advance that we wouldn't call Lucie unless there was truly something we can't handle – a major emergency, an ailing animal.  We both have a fair bit of experience with animals, having had potbellied pigs and other animals to care for in our pasts, as well as our experience as volunteers.  We know that ‘stuff happens’ and that most of the stuff that happens can be quickly remedied.  Panic, especially around animals, can only make matters worse.  And stressing Lucie out by phoning her with every little incident would probably not be in her best interests either.

And so we never did call Lucie for help.  Not when Sly, the cat who likes to pee in shoes and on beds (and is therefore confined to his own spacious room when a person cannot be with him) freaks out upon seeing me open the door with his food, and flies through my feet, down the stairs and right under the bed, back against the wall.  As I lie on the floor pondering this situation and talking softly to him,  he flies out the pther side, out the bedroom, into the basement, and behind the furnace.  He is having nothing to do with me, with treats, with food.  And as I don't want pee-filled shoes or a wet bed, I am flummoxed – if I leave, he might come out and do just that, but if I don't leave he isn't going to come out.  I pop outside for a minute to let Nancy know what is going on, and by the time I return to the house, he has not only reappeared but returned voluntarily to his own safe room.  Within a couple of days, he is purring at us, curling up on our laps, and willingly returning to his room when asked.

(Day 2)
Sly:  Ooooh - who are you?

(Day 5)
Sly:  I own you! 

Nor do we call Lucie when the front gate falls right off its mooring (fixed it!), or when we hear screeching that sounds like Sergio in agony coming from the old barn (turns out to be Bob the Rooster, imitating Sergio, because Natty the hen was off socializing with the pigs without his consent),  or when I inadvertently forget to close the gate between the back lawn where the senior pigs hang out during the day and their pen where they are secured for the night once dinner is served.  Thankfully, only Big Rudy notices this and heads back out to the lawn after dinner;  but an offer of dessert soon coaxes him back to the pen.  Pigs are somewhat easier to bribe than recalcitrant cats.

By half way through the week, we both had the routine down pat – which gates to open or close when, which order to do things in, what to check for and what to double check, and how to avoid getting injured by Theo’s horns, bouncy goats, hungry pigs, raucous roosters, or flapping geese.  Of course, we already knew this stuff – but keeping it to the forefront while feeding 48 hungry animals is another matter.  It takes multi-tasking to a whole new level.

Would we do it again?  You bet!  Why?  Because the animals can’t feed and water themselves, and because no one person can be there 24/7/365, and because the animals are great to be around,  and…… and because of the Magic Moments. Oh the Magic Moments.  But to hear about those, you’ll have to wait for Part Three. 


CarolineA said...

This post soo reminded me of when you had the piglets in Mission and were up early cooking breakfast and taking it to the barn.
How was Mitzi during all this? Did she get to come to the sanctuary?

Marie said...

Jean I loved this posting and laughed out loud!! Sparkle woke up and I'm sure she wondered what on earth is wrong with Mom!!! I swear you have out done yourself in the telling of your week at the shelter, good job!

Jean said...

Hi Caroline - Mitzi was in the house while we were feeding the animals. She did come to the sanctuary with me, but could only be outside when I was right by her side due to the number of birds of prey in that area. She loves farm life with all its interesting smells though - there's a photo of her checking out the grounds in the previous post. :)