Goats who follow you around? Pigs who want their bellies scratched? Cows who eat kale from your hand? HEART campers, many of whom had never met a farm animal, were in for a treat when they left the Bronx and headed up to Catskill Animal Sanctuary to come face to face (and hand to belly) with the happy residents of the sanctuary.
Even though the trip took place during last week’s heat wave, founder and director Kathy Stevens knew how to keep the kids cool. Right after they ate lunch in the shade, Kathy offered the kids the chance to run through the hose.
Once they cooled down, the campers split into two groups, one for the tour of the sanctuary and the other for the educational portion of the day. The kids who sat down to learn about the animals didn’t stay sitting for long. With clipboards and pencils in hand, they ventured around the grounds as they discussed the emotions and behaviors of various animals to better understand their complex needs and lives. The kids learned that farm animals need the same things that we do like food, shelter, water, friendship, toys and kindness.
It was a pretty hot day so many of the animals were enjoying the shade in their enclosures…especially the pigs. Campers were taken to see the enormous animals as they lounged in the hay, grunting happily when a camper would rub a belly or kiss an ear. The kids learned about how pigs are considered to be the fourth smartest nonhuman animal, and how, while their skin is rough, it’s also incredibly sensitive. The pigs rub mud on their backs to help protect themselves from getting a sunburn. They also learned about how pigs are treated on factory farms, especially the mother sows who are kept in gestation crates for the duration of their pregnancies.
Even though they were warm, the chickens were thrilled to come out and find that the campers had plenty of corn to share. These hens can be seen chomping down on the delicious snack while the campers learned about their behaviors and the rescue stories that led them to the sanctuary.
The goats, who had been following both groups around as they toured the sanctuary, must have known that their turn was coming. The kids were given grooming tools to brush down the goats as they happily stood there soaking in the attention. The campers also delighted in grabbing handfuls of willow leaves to feed to them. They acted as the unofficial tour guides for Catskill Animal Sanctuary.
As a last stop on the trip around the sanctuary, the kids entered the barn where they met rescue horses, sheep and a piglet. Two of the horses (one named Mirage who actually has a book written about him) lost both of their eyes due to an illness. While the campers were surprised at first to see a horse with no eyes, their shock turned to compassion as they let Mirage smell their hands and gently rubbed his face.
We can’t thank the staff at Catskill Animal Sanctuary enough for taking the time to introduce the campers to the animals and to share their rescue stories. We know the kids had an incredible day, and will forever remember their new friends who taught them so much.