We visited four different locations and had different experiences at each. Our first stop was Home At Last Sanctuary in Oroville, CA. Most, if not all of the residents were rescued from the slaughterhouse or from negligent/abusive handlers.
It was a cold morning with grey skies and showers in the forecast. We pulled up to the ranch while the residents were munching on breakfast. We spotted dozens of horses, donkeys, mules, cows, alpacas, roosters, and interesting looking birds called guineafowl (originating from Africa). The owner gave us a warm welcome and said we could walk around as we pleased. I asked why some of them were in the pen while others were walking about freely and she smiled and replied, “Oh, they got out.”
Michael gave us staffs just in case the animals got too close and we couldn’t block them with our limbs.
(Note: There was never an intention to strike with the staffs; we would only use them to block the 1000+ pound animals if we accidentally made them feel threatened.)
The animals were broken at some point in their lives and many of them were probably still healing. We kept ourselves at a respectable distance and allowed them to approach us. Some were friendlier than others, and then there was Julian, who loved to give kisses and thought he was still the size of a calf.
It’s difficult to express the range of emotions I felt. I was amused by the curious and playful ones. Relieved that these few animals were saved. Saddened that the vast majority of animals suffer for their entire lives. Angry that people can get away with mistreating animals (and of course, other people). Touched that there are some people who dedicate their lives to saving others. In martial arts and Qigong training, we talk about cultivating our spirits as individuals and as a society. Where are we now?
The owner said most of the animals usually go to the stalls when it rains, yet they all stayed outside to be around us. We stayed for several hours but no one was keeping track of time.