Animal Farm as Written by Gandhi
Lisa is a big pig: More than 1,000 pounds, and when she goes into heat she can and will go through just about anyone or anything; so it is sadly not surprising that the farmer who owned Lisa used to whack her upside the head with a two-by-four. What is surprising is that Lisa was rescued from a life of battery. Given that Lisa is too big to be safely spayed, what’s most surprising is that Lisa now spends most days with a couple of other huge pigs, rooting in the dirt and getting her belly scratched by schoolkids and military vets. Each month, instead of tearing down the stalls and mounting people, she chills over a six-pack of beer in a private enclosure.
Lisa is in hog heaven, an idyllic 55-acre “care farm” called Sanctuary One along the Applegate River in southern Oregon. With her, at least until they found other homes, were a cat that had been deliberately set afire and a dog that had been shot through the mouth. There’s also a horse once owned by a hoarder. Some people, it turns out, hoard animals like old newspapers and treat them as well. Many “hoarder” horses end up so weak they have to be put down, but this horse won the lottery and will live out her days at Sanctuary One. There are also llamas and goats and chickens that had nowhere else to go. Many of their stories were heartbreaking until they got here.
Sanctuary One seemed like a crazy idea in 2007, says Lloyd Matthew Haines, the man most responsible for getting it going. Lloyd Haines is a hard-nosed lawyer and real estate developer. His alter ego, Matthew, has a heart as big as all outdoors. Somehow big-hearted Matthew convinced Lloyd that the care farm was a venture worth doing. Hard-nosed Lloyd pushed it through, and then Matthew pretty much took over. Now the bulk of Haines’ passion and estate is committed to the farm.
But that’s not how Haines tells it:
“We found the perfect farm for sale by a family who had raised forty-three foster kids and understood what we hoped to do, but the first public meeting was like a scene from the original Frankenstein movie. The neighbors didn’t understand why we would turn such great farmland into an ark for abused animals. They didn’t want it and came prepared to fight. Back then, we didn’t even know there was a name for what we were trying to build. In the Netherlands, it’s called a ‘care farm’ and doctors write prescriptions for patients to go out and work on these farms to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Care farms transform everyone involved. Our neighbors who didn’t like the idea are now some of our most dedicated volunteers. We have local veterinarians who donate their time. Five or six hundred people regularly send checks to help keep this crazy ark afloat.”
Haines says that magic happens betweens humans and animals, but there is a special magic with these animals. “School groups come out here all the time and the kids love it, but the most important ones are the hard kids who are required to come out and work. By the end of the day their shoulders drop and their faces relax and they actually enjoy mucking out the stables. Some choose to come back.” Veteran groups also visit Sanctuary One, but funding has been hard to find.
Sanctuary One only accepts animals from agencies. “People buy horses for their kids and then the horses become expensive lawn ornaments, so they turn to us. But we can’t help. We can only save a few animals, and we concentrate our efforts on the hard cases because they are the most healing. We will sometimes accept a beloved pet from a person who is dying, but the person must not only fund the pet but a program for other animals.”
Haines says that lots of people call for advice on starting their own versions of Sanctuary One. Lloyd shakes his head. “Don’t,” he says. “It is totally insane. It takes too many people, too much work, and too much money.” But Matthew allows that care farms are very expensive “farms” but dirt-cheap places of healing. “With the right people and the right piece of land, it would be cool someday to open Sanctuary Two and Three.”
What you can do
If You Have a Minute…
Post this note where you will notice it: “Life is short, play with your dog.” Adapt the note to fit your pet or the nearest available pet.
If You Have an Hour…
Visit your local animal shelter. Take a tour and play with as many animals are you can. Allow your heart to tell you what to do next.
If You Have a Month…
Check out World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (Wwoof.net) to volunteer on a farm.
If You Are “Completely Insane”
Gather a group of dedicated partners and find a piece of unused farmland. Then start planning a really good crowdfunding proposal.