Sunday, September 30, 2018

Happily Ever Esther, Two Men, A Wonder Pig, and their Life-Changing Mission to Give Animals a Home is a darling story that made me both cry and laugh. The authors, Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter, move from a small house in the city to a dilapidated farm in the country to give Esther more space and also start a sanctuary for other farmed animals. I moved from my small house in the city to acreage in the county to start a cat sanctuary and experienced many of the same "challenges" my first year in. Snowed in with a stuck car on a hill and no AWD? Check! Freezing temps and a broken furnace? Check! No pizza delivery within miles? Check! "People often think about giving it all up and just moving to a farm. It's an old cliche. Everything will be wonderful, they think. And in theory, sure - it sounds great... The realities of actually closing up shop on the life you've always known and moving to a farm - when, by the way, you have actually never been a farmer - are frantic, crazy, and potentially insane," the authors point out. So true.

Since I am not a big social media user, I wasn't aware of Esther's fame and how wildly popular she is. This is an interesting phenomena given that many people in the U.S. still eat pigs. (Over 100 million pigs are killed for food in this country each year; see Humane Society of the United States.) Only nine states have legislation regarding sow crates, which completely inhibit movement of mother pigs while they have nursing piglets. None of these nine states are the high pork production states and not all of the states have phased in the industry changes yet. In contrast, the European Union phased out sow crates, routine tail docking, tethering and sought to improve floor surfaces over a period of years by 2013. Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary, like most sanctuaries for animals traditionally farmed for food, allows Esther to act as a diplomat for her species to help people see these animals as individuals. While some folks say that developing a relationship with their dog or cat forced them to evaluate their relationships with other animals (those they eat, hunt, or support the exploitation of at a zoo or circus for example), others feel a shift after meeting a famed animal.

The mission of Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary is simple: To inspire kindness and compassion for farmed animals everywhere. This is such a lovely goal to work towards while also literally saving animal lives. Even if you can't pack up and move to devote your life to the daily care taking of animals, hopefully you can make choices that make a difference and inspire others around you to care as well.
Happy pigs at Pigs Peace Sanctuary in Arlington, WA

Monday, September 10, 2018

Welcome to Flower Feline Sanctuary’s very first blog post! 

We  took in our first kitty this past August; Ellie, the darling Maine Coon, holds this distinction. She was at the end of her stray hold in a municipal shelter and the shelter staff was at the end of their patience with her aggressive behavior. This sassy little girl is not a feral cat at all but was furious by day ten in a small cage. Ellie had been brought in as a stray but calls to the numbers on her microchip went unanswered and no one claimed her. Did she leave on her own and her guardians said “good riddance,” or was she deliberately dumped somewhere she could never find her way home from? Only a few years old, Ellie has a ball chasing bugs at twilight. She’s not much for being cuddled or held but she is not shy and always greets us.

Ellie in a ray of sunshine
Christina (wood chips are planned to cover the dirt)

“Barn cats” Bramwell and Christina sat for weeks waiting for a home where they could do their own thing and not be expected to perform too many social duties. With so many kittens in the shelter these two were getting passed up and were growing depressed. Bramwell (the medium haired tabby/white) is far too pretty and gentle to be a working cat. He’s polite and respectful to the ladies he rooms with; an all-around lovely kitty. Christina is a knock-out  with her classic calico colors and polydactyl “mittens.” I often call her Queen Christina after the Greta Garbo character because she often wants to be left alone. She’s the least likely one you might see if you came for a visit but she does enjoy playing with interactive toys (which is how I got these great pictures!).

Bunny is a dear soul. She’s at least 14 years old, probably older given her arthritis. She was part of a large group of cats who were surrendered by a family member when an older person passed away. Bunny obviously had a lot of human contact and was well loved. So not only did she lose her special person but her home as well. (Please have a documented plan for your pets no matter your age or health.) Because we need to get Bunny’s weight up with frequent snacks and because she has no interest in being outside, even on a catio, she lives in the main house with a few other senior kitties. She loves to sit with us and be petted. 

One question we frequently hear is, “How many cats will you be able to help?” This will depend on how the cats all get along, their individual needs, and the cost of managing their medical issues as they arise. Our kitties whom we brought with us to Camano also play a huge role in our lives and we want to be fully available for them as well. Right now we are taking kitties mainly from one large animal control facility and are one of many smaller groups they work with to save cats whom the general public isn’t interested in. Most folks work, have families and simply want a “normal” pet they can feed, play with, and have plenty of years ahead without large vet bills. That’s understandable but sadly plenty of animals get dropped off at a shelter when they become unhealthy, or too messy or expensive. All we can do to alleviate the hopelessness and sense of abandonment that these kitties have suffered is to provide a permanent, stable home where they can expect delicious meals, affection regularly, and the opportunity to feel joy again. We can help a very small number of cats in the grand scheme but I like to think that we are challenging cultural norms that animals are disposable. Every time we speak up for animals and insist that each animal matters, we help society evolve to include all non-human, sentient creatures. 

Stay tuned - one more kitty is on his way soon!