It’s been just over a year since I started volunteering at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, Maryland. When I first found out that there was a farm sanctuary so close to where I lived, I was amazed (and annoyed with myself!) that I hadn’t come across it sooner. After one visit, it was clear this was a place I wanted to be associated with.
Terry and Dave are two of the coolest people you could hope to meet. They do an amazing job taking care of such a wide variety of animals on their 400-acre farm in Montgomery County. There are pigs, cows, horses, mules, chickens, goats, sheep, geese, ducks, turkeys, guinea hens, peacocks and peahens, and rabbits roaming various areas of the farm, absolutely content in their relaxed life after being rescued from their dire situations.
The most rewarding thing has been seeing the personality of each of the animals. Clover the sheep, for instance, came to the farm just a couple of weeks before I started there. I remember carrying the little guy around before he was allowed to roam freely. Now he’s grown up, but is still one of the few sheep that will come running up to you when he sees you. His buddy Adam, who’s about the same age, is similarly friendly with humans, which is quite amazing considering that he was rescued from a group of men who belong to the Santeria cult/religion (depending on who you ask) in DC who were carrying him, a butcher knife, and a bottle of barbecue sauce into the woods for a sacrifice (and, it seems, dinner).
Then there’s Big Newton, the formerly-alpha male goat who battled a parasite in his brain and other health issues, causing him to slow down considerably. Yet, I still have to be careful when I bend over to pick something up at the goat barn, because he’s always there to try and knock me over.
Or Opal, a new arrival at the farm just last month. She and two other turkeys had escaped from a slaughterhouse in Harrisonburg, VA (sidebar: Have you ever driven through Harrisonburg on route 81 and smelled the stench in the air? It is awful.). Two vegetarian women spent 45 minutes trying to catch the turkeys, who had gotten all the way to the median of the highway, scared and confused. Workers from the slaughterhouse came out and demanded the turkeys back, but when the women pleaded with them, the workers said they could keep one turkey and that they’d tell their boss it was hit by a truck. So, they picked the most dejected looking turkey of the three and took her back to their apartment. Immediately, Opal hopped up on the bed and became their friend. The women called Poplar Spring and Opal is now living there, quite happily. She follows visitors around the farm and loves to be pet. She’s one of the sweetest animals you’ll ever meet. Terry reported that when Opal arrived at the farm, they brought her inside the house to sleep for the night. As soon as she got inside, she hopped up onto the couch to watch TV.
I could go on and on about Alexandria the pig, Hal and Gloria the mules, Spike and Corey the roosters, and Juniper the goat (who I will go on about at a later time, as she’s the goat my wife and I sponsor). The point is, I’ve found that spending time working at the farm has only served to firm my belief in animal rights/welfare/protectionism. It also played a very large part in my decision to become vegan in October of last year. I knew the pain that farmed animals endured, but being able to see them live without fear at Poplar Spring helped me confirm what I’ve come to hold most true: if we can do something to eliminate the suffering of animals, we should do it.