2018 has been amazing … From an idea to an Incorporated 501(c)3 … to living on 21 acres.
What a ride! But the focus here is somewhat of a sad one .. but one that reminds us why we do what we do.
We were able to begin taking in small residents in April and our first two: Willow and Brook
. It was such a contrast: Willow so small and fragile next to Brook who appeared to be stronger than ever.
And then she passed. Willow got stronger and stronger but Brook … that was one of the saddest moments in my life. Holding a small little chick, so happy and healthy – and within moments she just died.
Even knowing that 25% of industry born chicks die, it did not make it any easier. Even more so, not fully understanding that chickens actually create friendships – it was devastating to see Willow in mourning.
And that is what brought Penn into our lives.
One of the happiest, and saddest, days were one in the same: excitement for our newest resident lost in a matter of hours with the death of Benjamin.
Benjamin was an amazing turkey with an amazing story. He was rescued by the Gentle Barn in Missouri along with several other turkeys. Because he was male, they knew that he would become territorial (along with the others) – he needed to find a new home. We were that home.
Michelle, their farm manager, drove Benjamin to us (all 2 hours). He got out of the car, walked around, fluffled up, and proceeded to dance around. He was happy. He was a little confused by our teeny tiny chickens, but he was happy nonetheless.
He crawled into my lap after Michelle left, which inspired me to make my first call to a realtor about buying property in Indiana. Before Benjamin, it had been all talk – no walk. Looking into his eyes, I knew that we needed our sanctuary to grow so that he could have even more space.
It was really only a couple hours later than he stumbled … I grabbed my phone and googled “why is my turkey acting drunk” – and before I could even read the first site that came up, he fell down. I was absolutely terrified and held him close. Seeing he was barely breathing, I called Michelle and began looking for an emergency vet that would handle birds.
The nearest vet was 45 minutes away – and from the vet’s exam, she noted he had passed away in transit. Michelle turned and drove back to meet me – and offered me comforting words.
Even typing this brings tears to my eyes.
Even after we found out from the University’s necropsy that it was nothing we did, that Gentle Barn did, or even the transport did … it didn’t make it any easier.
That was a painful day.
Harriet was our first true rescue.
From a classroom of neglect and lack of compassion/love, Harriet made her way to Willowbrook Farms. To this day I still remember what her enclosure smelled like – leaning over and taking a quick whiff when the vet pulled her out. It wasn’t deliberate but it was eye opening.
The teacher yelling at students to just “let her die” because she was old…
We rushed in and sight unseen, took her to the vet for her visit. The vet did her best and said that if Harriet lived through the weekend, bring her back and she could do more.
And she did.
While Harriet was only with us for 3 weeks, she got healthy and loved every moment of her new home. She ran on her wheel almost non-stop. She loved the freedom her ball gave her – unlike her previous experience where students would roll her around roughly … at our house, she controlled her decisions (where she went, when she went, etc). She ate like a horse and enjoyed every fruit and vegetable she was offered.
She came around the same time as Benjamin. And just like Willow and Brook – Benjamin came across as completely healthy and Harriet came from a place of neglect and illness. She grew stronger and stronger and I feel she truly passed due to her age.
What a strong spirit in such a small package.
And these are the souls Willowbrook Farms lost in 2018. Each came to us under different circumstances and each taught us a different lesson.
Loss is something we will endure because we are a sanctuary. I don’t think it will ever get easier … and in reality, I’m not sure I want it to become easy.
I ask that each of you please take a moment to remember each of them and know they represented a place of neglect and abuse … but in the end represented love and appreciation.
Crystal, WFAS President and Co-Founder
Willowbrook Farms Animal Sanctuary