Hello World, I’m Levy and I’m FAMILY!

Momandme

Baby season started early this year. Last Fall, two potbellied pigs were found dumped on an Ontario highway, and were mercifully taken in by kind folk on a nearby horse farm. Thanks to informal rescue relationships across local farms, they were transferred to FrogHollow Farm Sanctuary.

When animals come into rescue, they are evaluated physically and emotionally by their handlers for the right mix of shelter, nutrition, socialization, engagement and enrichment needs. Histories are critical – they divulge the specific types of support each individual requires.

Mya is a young, all-black female potbelly, and Frankie is an older (possibly Vietnamese cross) male potbellied pig. Because Mya was so small, she would be kept in the house. Frankie, gregarious fellow that he is, went straight into the barn, made friends and blended in like magic — while his caregivers booked his neuter, pronto!

Pregnancy is always suspected – and was becoming more obvious as Mya started growing larger. In early December as Mya was laying in her caregiver’s lap, her caregiver, Andrea, felt something move. It was confirmed. 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days later …enter Olaf and Levi!

Two young boys were born to Mya late in January. Both are jet black, and sport small markings that make them distinct. Olaf has a tiny white patch on his forehead, and a heart shaped patch on his snout. Levi also has a patch on his snout, but it’s smaller. They inherited their white spots and feet from Dad. In the rescue community, animal advocates across Ontario and beyond have watched the little ones feed, grow and play in their first weeks. His caregivers post regular updates on Facebook that brighten even the harshest of rescue days.

In honor of family day, Levi and Olaf’s caregiver posted this: With as stern a look as possible Levi wants to remind everyone that “even though I am terribly cute now I want you to do your research before choosing any pet. Pets are a lifetime commitment. Will you still love and care for me when I grow big, or, when you add that baby, dog, cat or goat? Will you keep me when you have to move? If so, then consider adopting a pet who really needs a home, over shopping. We are not up for adoption. We are already loved and staying to live right where we are with our Mom and Dad and each other. Thanks for reading, love, Levi and Olaf.”

Mya, Frankie, Levi and Olaf are family. Their caregivers recognize this and afford them the luxury of a stable home life, having their needs met — and it’s a forever reality. Not so for most pigs: people need to be aware of what they’re getting into when they consider buying or adopting pigs. “Mini” and “micro pigs” don’t exist. Breeders need to be more honest with potential adoptors about what they are signing up for. Pigs are not easy pets. And, unless you are living in an area that is zoned agricultural, you’re not legal to have pigs. People getting into breeding pigs just don’t realize that we don’t have enough homes for them when they are inevitably dumped.

Join us in following the happy ever after story of Mya, Frankie, Olaf and Levi: https://www.facebook.com/froghollowrescuefarm

If you’d like to do something to help abandoned pigs, Dougy Pig is currently in need of community support: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/9wKYa/pay

 

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An open apology to Limba, our beloved elephant.

Dearest Limba, the world owes you an apology.

I am sorry for your life of servitude and loneliness.

I am sorry you were taken from your precious Vietnamese family in 1964, robbed of your tribe (your mother and father, sisters and brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles), robbed of your culture, and the warmth of the native country you should have lived your life in.

I am so very sorry for the fifty plus years you ended up living in Canada — a country known for its weak animal protection laws. I deeply regret the reality of your small pen, the insufficient space, your inability to roam freely, and the bitter cold.

I’d like to apologize for the countless performances and tricks you had to do — tricks that were unnatural to you and your physiology — and for the fact that you were forced to endure loud music and all the vibrations of the crowds that you were naturally so sensitive to.

I am sorry for the bullhooks and chains that are part of the captive elephant’s reality. It has been so saddening to read of the anger of your early years and to see what appears to be the learned helplessness you exhibited in your final years.

I am sorry for the life-long humiliation you endured. Like the time you were painted pink and yellow, and made walk down a street in Montreal as a gag. And all the Christmases where you were dressed in silly Santa outfits, and reduced to a sad spectacle in the name of so-called entertainment.

I was sorry to read reports on public days where you obsessively opened and closed your mouth, demonstrating at the most, stress, and at the very least, boredom. I profoundly apologize for the litter and cigarette butts you reportedly ate when you were given the chance to explore public areas. I am sorry your eyes, ears and trunk were almost always turned downwards.

I am sorry you were robbed of your own kind. I am sorry you lived an unnatural life, were stuffed into transports, and shunted from location to location, probably stressed and afraid.

And I am most sorry no one ever saw fit to reward you for all your hard work and incredible compliance by releasing you to one of the southern sanctuaries that were willing to welcome you.

Dearest Limba, the world owes you an apology, sadly, one that you will never get.

Does it help you to know that thousands of Canadians, and even more international folk, advocated for you? That there were 2,500 “likes” alone for one call for your liberation? That year over year demonstrators showed up with flowers, candles, healing messages and intentions for you? Does it help to know that newspapers wrote articles bringing your plight to the attention of the masses? That a nearby town stepped up and banned your being used as entertainment within their town limits? That your name and plight were known around the world?

No. But it helps us, those you’ve left behind.

Animal advocates worldwide are grieving you girl. We will forever remember you.

We loved you. We saw you. We are so very sorry. We tried.

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Giving Thanks for One Precious Canadian Life

Three weeks ago, a small miracle took place in Hay River, Northwest Territories: Loki, a semi-feral northern Canadian dog was brought into safety just short of the September 30th deadline to get him “off the streets” …i.e., shoot him. As we celebrate this particular Thanksgiving, I am deeply grateful to all who went to such lengths to save his precious life.

In 2010 a local puppy mill was raided. 23 dogs were seized by the Town. Only one survived: Loki – because he bolted and ran during transfer. The other 22, to our knowledge, no longer exist.

After bolting to safety, Loki roamed the Town’s streets for three years.  One might ask what’s safe about living outdoors in the Northwest Territories without the benefit of parents teaching you to fend for yourself, nor extended family to protect you. On his own, Loki’s instincts kicked in. Thankfully, also, a very caring local woman had eyes out for him: Bonnie Dawson.

Bonnie is an advocate whose compassion and pro-action towards animals in need knows no bounds. Bonnie kept watch over Loki, going out every day to scout for, and feed him. Month over month, she would ensure that Loki was alive, and that he was anchored to her in any way possible. Like all rescuers in situations with animals in peril, at any given point over that long-suffering time, Bonnie experienced heartache and joy, despair and hope, fear and comfort, desperation and resolve.

As the seasons rolled on, local and regional authorities had been warning Bonnie that Loki could not be left to stray indefinitely. Two efforts to “dart” Loki by a wildlife officer proved unsuccessful.

Bonnie continued to fight for the welfare of northern dogs and had even worked to amend the Dog Act in the Territories.  Undeterred, she reached out for help from rescue networks. As her blogs extended into the southern Canadian and international communities, some 9000+ advocates signed on to follow the story: “Friends of Loki – Sole Survivor” https://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-LOKI-Sole-Survivor/188340937903082

The situation came to a head this summer when Town officials decided they’d had enough. People were expressing a pervasive fear about this “lone-wolf” roaming the streets, who might aggress? Who knows why. He had never shown any aggression whatsoever. In fact, Loki had pretty well made friends with every off-tether dog in the entire community, often showing up with one of his “collared” pals for supper. Being fed regularly, he was not likely to kill for food. Realistically, unless Loki was aggressed and had to defend himself, chances are he wouldn’t. But there’s no changing old ways and dated perceptions. And not being supporters of spay/neuter programs, indeed, not even a local vet in situ, roaming dogs sadly plague our northern towns. The usual solution is to shoot them in the street. A very painful death.

The Town of Hay River was inundated with pleas to spare this innocent dog. Hundreds of emails brought greater attention and resources, including funds for a fenced-in pen. The last week of September found a reknown US specialist dog trapper, Eldad Hagar, journeying to NWT to help Bonnie secure Loki. We all breathlessly awaited news on the rescue effort – and Loki’s reaction to it. It took an approximate twelve hours to capture him. Eldad slept face to face with Loki the first night, in a local garage.  

Weeks later, Loki’s shock is subsiding. He is adapting to his altered freedom, and is being socialized to other dogs. He is experiencing love and caring touch, learning to walk on leash, and to trust humans. Loki Dawson is now the proud owner of a Hay River Dog Tag, soon to be inoculated, neutered and habituated to the house. Bonnie is also in shock, adjusting to her new responsibilities, learning to handle a semi-feral dog.

Yesterday, Bonnie published photos of Loki in his enclosure with his new housemate Hemi. His ears are still held slightly back, signaling wariness, but the smile on his face is genuine. He is safe. Bonnie is relieved and hopeful. Rescuers worldwide are rejoicing in his rescue and his adaptation to same.

 

The Town, we hope, has learned a little something about compassion. Having legal and political interests to juggle, town officials were indeed between a rock and a hard place. We remain grateful to them for extending Loki’s deadline to September 30th – which allowed Bonnie to marshal the exact human and materiel resources she needed to secure Loki properly.

Loki, the gentle giant, now serves as a model for thousands of hapless northern dogs. On this Thanksgiving, 2013, I am humbled by the gratitude I feel for each and every advocate who went to the wall to save his life, most notably Bonnie Dawson and Eldad Hagar of Hope For Paws US, but also the thousands of supporters who advocated for a safe and successful transition to a normal dogs’ life.

 

Well done, Loki. Well done, Bonnie. Each of you bravely held up your end of the rescue. With a giant sigh of relief, I celebrate this Thanksgiving in your honour.

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A love letter for all mothers on Valentine’s Day

One of the purest of loves is that of a mother for her child.  Recently, at Farm Sanctuary’s Orland California farm, (www.farmsanctuary.org), a beautiful sheep mother gave birth to two baby girls, Zuri and Elizabeth.  Scads of folk have been overjoyed by regular updates on their young lives, the happiness they exude, relishing photos of their farmyard gymnastics, and witnessing the enduring closeness they are allowed with their mother. If only they knew how many humans are monitoring their progress and how many human hearts they have healed just by being alive – straight across the North American advocacy community and beyond. This little sheep family will happily live out their lives just being sheep, doing sheep things, having their sheep needs met. In their first three weeks, the babies have been “liked” thousands of times, everyone anxiously awaiting the latest photos of the little darlings and their ultra-proud momma Dolly.

This was juxtaposed with another recent event, where humans witnessed and reported a mother bear killing her own child and then herself. Now, I’m up to my ears in animal issues, but I’ve never heard of animal suicide. I could almost not believe what I was reading. Sadly, the mother bear was trapped in a bile manufacturer setting, where the animal is imprisoned in a cage with a tube permanently inserted in to her stomach that removes bile for commercial purposes. The mother, knowing what they were going to do to her baby, rushed the young one when she had a chance, smothered it to death and then ran herself straight into a wall head-first and killed herself. http://bit.ly/qmxViC

Working in animal advocacy is always tough. Bridging the discrepancy between our societal beliefs on animals (and how much we love them) and our actual treatment of them (how we exploit them), is a near impossible goal that animal advocates work on 24/7, straight across the globe.

This valentine’s day, as I think about Dolly and her babies, and the poor dear bear and her young one, I am reminded of my own mother. Now nearly five years gone, my mother’s love lives in my heart, her voice comes out in my words, her spirit comes out in my actions, her teachings guide my life. My mother’s name was Mary. She taught me to never walk away from someone in need.

Dolly the sheep is now teaching her young how to navigate farm life, how to stay together as family, and how to watch out for and protect each other. I wonder what that dear bear mother would have taught her young one, had she not been cruelly trapped and forced to live a life of hell.  But perhaps in reflecting on it, the bear mother showed the greatest love of all: protecting her child at all costs from a world that only cared about money and commerce, and didn’t care about love and life. Showing the greatest emotional and physical strength, she put an end to it for herself and her baby.

I hope anyone reading this will take the time to remember just how much every mother loves her children, whether they are human or animal, and take conscious action to help reduce the suffering for animals. This Valentine’s Day, I’m holding that momma bear very close in my heart, and I’m making sure in the only way I can, that her love, her story, her voice, will live on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farm Sanctuary’s Compassionate Communities Campaign: How to help the most animals…

Dear Animal Lovers, Animal Advocates, Animal Rescuers:

Happy New Year everyone!  It’s great to be back safe and sound. The internship at  Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres in Acton, California was a heartwarming and heartening experience.
One of the best events was a webinar Nick Cooney and Bruce Friedrich presented via concall on the last week at the farm.  They run Farm Sanctuary’s “Compassionate Communities Campaign http://ccc.farmsanctuary.org/ The presentation was on advocacy for farm animals going forward and a concomitant plant based diet. I tried to capture as much as I could – with their permission, below are my notes.
Why?
– To spare these individual farm animals a lifetime of suffering.
– By not eating any meat at all, over the course of a year, you save 31 animals.
– If you reduce meat consumption by only half, you save an approximate 14 animals per year.
Why not? Reasons people don’t go vegan:  taste, convenience, overwhelmed, negative perception

How? Note: how to consume less (meat/dairy) is as important as why.
– One of the most important things to convey is that animals are individuals: they are someone, not something:
– Vegetarian or vegan advocacy will spare the greatest number of them.
– Capitalize not just on doing “good” but how to “do the most good”.
– Put your limited time, money, and energy towards the greatest effort.
– Focus on the day to day, quote Warren Buffett “as looking for one foot hurdles – not ten foot hurdles”. The people around us are the one foot hurdles.
– Keep an hour a week for advocacy: distribute vegetarian starter guides, leaflets, etc.,  where you can (available through http://ccc.farmsanctuary.org/ ) in places like yoga studios, coffee shops, etc.
– People are hard to convince. It’s a “numbers game”.  Get to the general public, don’t worry about friends and family. You may reach hundreds of people and out of that number, a small number will change. So the more people we reach, the greater the impact.
– The most critical point is that we need to move towards the greatest reduction in numbers: we can reach dozens, or we can reach hundreds, or we can reach thousands.
Tools to be more effective and persuasive:
– Get a foot in the door on the subject.
– Use the animals’ stories versus using statistics. Stories are twice as effective as stats.
– Use more compassion and less guilt/judgment with your human friends.
– Social norms are more effective for change:  share with human friends how vegetarianism and veganism are popular, healthy, growing trends.
– Encourage less meat consumption, even by 10%. Don’t shoot for perfection.
– Focus on commonalities – compassion for animals, wanting to adopt healthier lifestyle. Leverage similarities you have with them.
– Promote “plant based diet”.
– Leave “other” issues off the table, seek commonalities.
– Encourage  small behavioural changes.
– Tell them “what’s in it for them”, how any positive change in diet is in line with who they are, and the values they hold.
– Encourage them to bring their actions in line with their values; talk to them about the environmental social justice climate.
– Be a positive example.
– Teach/share how to find veg foods, how to cook, prepare & plan. Join or start a club/internet group, promote on social media.

 

Highest predictor for change?  Help them believe they can do it.

Check out the Compassionate Communities Campaign here – surf their info – they’ve got some great stuff:
Or, join the Compassionate Communities Campaign itself and get updates:  

http://bit.ly/Pocw7n


The time on the farm with my friends the animals was absolutely priceless. It was really hard work – harder than anything I’ve ever done.   But to be in those yards all day, witnessing the antics, seeing the individual attributes, hearing the stories of each and every last one of them, and actually helping them, well, there’s no better feeling.
There is only one way to describe what it was like to hold Harry’s head in my arms, smell his fur, stare into his deep brown eyes, to hold Ramona in my hands and talk to her, to stroke Violet’s head resting in my lap, to help Russell get up and walk out of his barn, to stare at Jimmy and Macy curled up together in their yard, to witness Papa Ed caretaking the youngsters, to listen to the turkey girls sing: it was just true love.
Back to the real world.  C4P is back to publishing the weekly newsletter, which then gets posted here as a blog.  Thanks to everyone for their good wishes and support. Anyone with questions on interning at Farm Sanctuary don’t hesitate to consider it, don’t hesitate to call me.
For my new friend, beautiful Maria, m.
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