As I sit here at Lanza's Cafe in Carrboro sipping on a yummy oat milk latte reflecting on this past year, my head is just spinning with gratitude. Seriously, what an amazing year for our little sanctuary in the woods!
First, let's start with our star players - the animals. Can you believe we rescued five new pigs this year? That may not seem like a large number in the world of animal rescue, but it's a lot for a little sanctuary like ours, and it's definitely a big deal for the pigs whose lives are forever changed. What a proud feeling knowing they will be safe and loved for the rest of their lives!
Let's all raise a toast to our 2021 newcomers Roxy, Janice, Abigail, Randie Lou, and Penny Lane!! Here's a short recap of their stories.
Roxy came to us from a nice family in Raleigh who found themselves unable to care for their little dollbaby. She's been a total joy to care for, and she's settled right in with the herd little nobody's business. We love how she jumps up and down in excitement at feeding time!
Janice came to us from Clayton, where she was in a confined area with dogs who had started attacking her. When she arrived, those little ears were all ripped and bloody, but now they've completely healed and are just as perky as ever. We discovered by accident that she sits for treats! We love Miss Janice!
Abigail came to us last spring from an extremely neglectful situation outside of Charlotte. She was literally lying in a pile of trash behind a trailer when we pulled up. You would think she would hate humans for treating her so badly, but she's a trusting soul. We've learned so much about compassion and forgiveness from her. We are committed to treating her like a queen for the rest of her sweet life.
Randie Lou and Penny Lane
Randie Lou and Penny Lane are our latest rescues. They are truly a rags-to-riches story in the making, and we couldn't love them more. Their past may be scarred with Randie's obesity problem, the dog attacks that left Penny with only one ear and a permanent limp, and their filthy living conditions in a urine-soaked mud hole, but that's not stopping these two beauties from living life to the fullest these days. Now they have a warm house, woods to roam, and plenty of healthy food and fresh water for the rest of their lives!
For the first time in two years, we are happy to annouce that we didn't lose any pigs this year. What a relief! Reporting a death is one of the saddest parts of this animal rescue business, and we are so grateful that we didn't have to deliver that sad news this year. We're praying that we can say the same thing this time next year.
Now let's talk about our second favorite subject (behind the animals, of course) - you! We couldn't do what we do without our wonderful supporters, and we are forever grateful. You are helping us give these beautiful souls a life of luxury - a life that they truly deserve - on THEIR terms. And for that, you should be proud. You ARE making a difference, trust me!
We've had several successful Facebook fundraisers this year, raising approximately $6703. We have more pig and rooster residents than ever before in our 6.5 years in the rescue business, so it only makes sense that we have more expenses than ever. I just can't stress how much we depend on these fundraisers. We literally could not continue to rescue and care for our sanctuary residents without your support. Every penny of donations goes directly to the animals, and that is the honest truth. And because we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, donations are always tax deductible!
We also partnered with Cuddly this year to raise funds for the animals. We'd like to give a huge shout-out to Sydney for helping us organize and promote those fundraisers to spread the word about our mission and financial needs. We've been totally humbled by the support we've received from all over the country from total strangers. We truly believe that people are innately compassionate and want to help, and that makes us happy.
Now for a huge shout-out to all our amazing volunteers and visitors! UNC Vegans for Peace - we're looking directly at you when we say THANK YOU! We have so many "repeat offenders" to the sanctuary from that wonderful group, and we are thrilled. We truly believe that "pig therapy" is a real thing, and we always encourage folks to come out and experience it for themselves. Spending time with the animals has a way of cleansing the soul and filling our hearts with joy. Our lives are forever changed by their innocence and beauty, and if you haven't experienced it for yourself, let's set up a visit!
Here's just a couple of photos of some of the wonderful families who took time to come out and visit the animals this year. We have so many photos, it's hard to choose!
Now let me recap all the great improvements we've made this year. I just get giddy when I think about all the awesome things we've accomplished! Bear with us - the list is LONG!
New drainage system
We used to have quite an annoying drainage issue in the pig area. We're already on low ground, but what makes matters even worse is that water runoff from neighboring properties make a beeline for the pig barn. Sometimes the water was so deep that the pigs had trouble moving through it. Thanks to your donations, we were able to hire a landscaping company to dig out trenches and add piping to direct the water around the barn and into a neighboring creek. Now, instead of a mess of mud and runoff, we have a nice stream of running water for the pigs to wade in and explore.
New quarantine space
When Abigail came to us in the spring, we soon realized that she would have to be permanently separated from the other pigs for a long time, possibly for the rest of her life. Her severly arthritic feet would never allow her to acclimate to the herd and get in and out of the barn using the ramps. So when she moved in to the only quarantine space that we had, we knew we needed to build another one. And when we got the call about Randie Lou and Penny Lane, we knew we had to act fast.
And here it is!! Thank you so much to Randy Mapes for dedicating himself to the project and making the new space super luxurious for Randie Lou and Penny Lane!
Electricity in the barn
We now have electricity in the barn! Before, we had to run several extension cords from the house, which I'm sure was a fire hazard with all the heat lamps, fans, and lights. Now we have electrical outlets in each stall for the heat lamps, and we were even able to put a refrigerator in the barn to store home-cooked pig food, produce, and sodas for volunteers!
New water line
Using your donations, we were able to install a new water line from the well directly to the barn! Before, we were stringing hoses together and running them from the house. Trust me, those hoses split open, get stopped up with mud, and freeze at the drop of a hat. With the new water line, we now have water at our finger tips and can fill up those water bowls and swimming pools without having to deal with all those annoying water hoses!
Our new feeding station is a game changer! No more bending over to fill up bowls, standing in the mud, getting rained on, and dragging food back and forth from the barn. Our feeding station has made feeding time so much more efficient! We went from having a single wooden platform on the ground with no cover to....drum roll, please....this! Woot!!
New gravel road
OK this one is huge. We now have a gravel road that allows us to drive all the way down to the barn from the main road! This is a game changer for loading straw and feed (we used to have to haul all that stuff from our personal driveway on a wheelbarrow). Visitors now have plenty of parking space, and even our vet's big truck can make it down safely!
A new outhouse
OK I know this one might seem a little weird, but we are thrilled! Now visitors and volunteers have a private spot to "do their business" when visiting the animals. It's just a little something we've been wanting for a long time, and thanks to Randy Mapes, we have the most awesome outhouse you could even imagine!
A new water platform
After much frustration with Petey the farm pig constantly knocking over the water bowls (he's a toddler, after all), Randy Mapes came to the rescue and built us a platform to secure the water tubs in place. And it comes with its own platform for folks to stand on and visit with the animals without getting feet muddy.
And finally, let me give a shout-out to some folks and organizations who have played a key role in our success this year!
Julia Green - you are a fantastic writing coach, and with your help, I feel like I am so better equipped to write my children's book about the animals. You've taught me so much over the months, and I can't wait to see where this book leads me!
Dr. Shannon Swink - thank you for being such an awesome and caring veterinarian for the animals. I can always trust your advice, and you're always so compassionate. Thank you!
Piedmont Feed Store - thank you for all the hundreds of times you've helped me load feed and supplies in my car! Your store is such a gem in White Cross!
Randy Mapes - Randy has been a game changer for us! There's absolutely nothing he can't do! Randy is responsible for a lot of our new improvements this year, including the water platform, the outhouse, and our new quarantine space. He was also instrumental in our rescue of Randie Lou (named after Randy) and Penny Lane (named after Randy's wife). We thank you from the bottom of our hooves, Randy!
Sylvia Leaver - Sylvia is an amazing artist, and lucky for us, she loves painting pictures of our pigs! We will be featuring Sylvia's artwork in our upcoming children's book, and we are truly honored!
James Davis - Thanks to my personal trainer James for keeping me motivated to stay strong and healthy, just like a farm girl should be!
Christ United Methodist Church - our "second" sanctuary! What a wonderful, supportive group of folks who aren't scared to add a pig or two to their weekly prayer list. Thank you!
Margaret's Cantina - thank you for all the food donations to the animals! You can't blame the pigs for loving all that homemade Tex-Mex food!
Sara Gress - our wonderful neighbor and "on call" caretaker. You've been a lifesaver when we needed help, and we appreciate you so much!
Lanza's Cafe in Carrboro - if you ever try to write a children's book and need some inspiration, this is the place to be! Thank you Christina, Catherine, and all the wonderful staff for making me yummy lattes, serving me awesome food, and letting me camp out and write!
When folks come out to visit the sanctuary, inevitably some of the first questions I hear are "where do you get your pigs?" and "how do pigs end up needing to be rescued?" These are honest questions. Most people can easily give you a list of reasons why cats and dogs end up in shelters and rescue organizations. But pigs? How do they end up in these situations, anyway?
Here are some typical reasons I've encountered why potbellied pigs end up with no home.
People are duped by breeders and false advertising.
Teacup "micro" pigs don't exist, and any breeder who tells you otherwise is just lying to make a sale. We've all seen memes and videos on social media with adorable little pigs running around someone's apartment with a pink bow around their necks, snuggling up with the puppy in a cozy blanket. Those pigs are NOT teacup pigs. They're BABY pigs. And those baby pigs will grow up to be big pigs. Unfortunately, by the time some pig owners realize the truth, they are totally desperate to surrender their pig. And finding a home is not easy, trust me.
For the record, a typical adult potbellied pig weighs anywhere from 80 to 180 pounds, sometimes even more. Just look at Bobby, a six-year-old adult male potbellied pig. He weighs approximately 160 pounds. He's a big boy, and he definitely doesn't belong (or want to be) in an apartment.
People can't control their pig's "destructive" behavior.
When people send me an email saying they need to find their pig a home because she's destroying their home and yard, I want to scream "but that's what pigs do!" Their natural behavior is to use their snouts to root around and forage in the dirt looking for food and things to chew. And they kill the plants and vegetation in the process. They seriously do this all day long. If you deny your pig a natural environment by putting her in your apartment, she's going to act out. And if you think she's going to respect your nicely landscaped backyard, think again. It'll look like the surface of Mars in no time.
Let me show you what I mean. Here's a glimpse of what pigs will do to your yard. That area in the foreground used to be lush woods with lots of vegetation. If you focus in on the trees, you'll see that most of them have died from the pigs chewing off the bark. They literally destroy everything in sight with their incessant biting, rooting, and foraging.
No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Pigs need to be outdoors, and they need a fairly large roaming area in the woods where they can do what they do instinctively.
Pigs can act out when they're lonely.
Another reason pigs can show undesirable or destructive behavior is boredom and loneliness. Just like people, pigs can get depressed when they lack meaningful relationships. Pigs are very intelligent, social animals with strong emotions. They form deep bonds with each other and thrive when they belong to a herd of pigs with a fully established social hierarchy. To be happy, pigs need companionship. Pigs should always live with other pigs.
Here's a typical scene of pigs enjoying each other's company here at Jenna and Friends.
People get pigs without having a stable living condition.
I hear it all the time. "My landlord won't let me keep my pig anymore." "We're moving, and our new place isn't set up for pigs." "My pig is getting too big for my apartment." I understand that circumstances can change unexpectedly, but so many of these situations can be avoided if people who are considering getting a pig can just spend time planning ahead and thinking about their living situation and how it might change. Pigs can live just as long as dogs, so you need to commit to at least 15 or 16 years.
People get pigs without having the required resources and funding.
Resources include the obvious things like food, straw, money for vet bills, and fencing, but they also include bigger things like transportation for sick pigs. How will you transport your pig to a vet in case of an emergency? Have you established a relationship with a mobile vet who can come out for vaccines and hoof trims? These are all important aspects to owning a potbellied pig.
Here is a typical pig enclosure that I have for newcomer pigs as they get to know other pigs through the fencing. Notice the sturdy house with metal roof, wire panels for fencing, and gates with chains. Also notice that the space is in a natural woods environment where they can root around in the dirt and feel the sunshine on their backs.
And here is that same little house with our latest rescues Randie Lou and Penny Lane relaxing inside. Notice the fresh straw and heat lamp for cold nights.
Take it from me. There's no shortage of pigs needing to be rescued. The calls and emails just keep coming. If you're considering getting a potbellied pig, please do your research, make a commitment, and please don't ever - under ANY circumstances - support a breeder. Instead, reach out to a respectable rescue organization and find out where you can find your new best friend. Make sure you have a stable environment with proper housing and fencing. Also make sure you're prepared for vet bills, including vaccines and hoof trims every two or three years. And if you can rescue two pigs, you are truly setting them up for happiness.
Chances are, if you're reading a blog post from an animal sanctuary, you just love a good rags-to-riches story. Well, I've got one for you, so settle in and let me tell you all about what went down this past weekend.
First, a little background...
A few weeks ago, I got an email about two sibling female pigs living in a bad situation in Jackson Springs, NC, about an hour and a half away from the sanctuary. I wasn't shocked. I mean, seriously, I've heard it all. But this struck me a little differently. These two pigs (one named "Pork" and the other one named "Chop") were enclosed in a dark pen in the back of a shed, living in urine-soaked mud. They had no access to sunlight, and their health was deteriorating at only three years of age. If we wanted them to survive, we had to do something.
The more I thought about these two pigs, the more my heart went out to them. And when I saw their photo, I knew the situation was critical.
As you can see, both of these pigs are overweight, but the one on the right is morbidly obsese. When pigs get this fat, they lose their mobility and even their eyesight. Yes, that's right. They lose their sight because the fat folds on their faces grow so large that they cover the eyes. Overfeeding pigs with unhealthy food and confining them to a small enclosure that doesn't allow for exercise is just heartbreaking. Imagine you get so big that you can't move around anymore, and then you can't even see the world around you. You just sit there day after day in misery and pain.
I decided I had to rescue these two beauties and get them to a safe home immediately. And I guess the stars just aligned when I made that decision because my fundraiser for a new quarantine space had just ended with 100% success, and my church buddy Randy Mapes was already busy getting the quarantine space all ready with new fencing and a piggie house. Check it out!
Early Saturday morning, Randy and I rented a U-haul trailer and filled it with two large crates, a ramp, and bags of treats. With coffee in hand and nervous butterflies in our guts, we started our journey to Jackson Springs, not knowing exactly what to expect when we reached our destination. We passed the time by making small talk and pointing out all the beautiful scenery we passed along the way.
When we finally arrived, we were greeted by the current owners and taken to the shed behind the house. And once we were directed to the pig pen, the reality of the situation hit us. This was the first picture I snapped.
The enclosure was dark and filthy, and it smelled horrible. Both pigs were very lethargic and scared. They had no fresh water to drink. And to make matters worse, I could already see the health problems caused by the excess weight. The larger pig was suffering from that awful fat blindness I mentioned earlier, and her breathing was raspy and labored. The smaller pig had a leg injury, and both pigs were suffering with skin problems, most likely from lying in their own urine. Pig skin is not supposed to be red and puffy like that. Honestly, they just looked completely hopeless.
The next step was to round up the girls and get them into crates so we could load them into the trailer. If you've ever witnesses a pig rescue, this part is NOT fun. The pigs are terrified. They have no idea who you are and what you're trying to do. They squeal and groan. It's incredibly traumatic for everyone involved. We were finally able to round them up, and thanks to Randy's ingenious idea to add more support to the crates, we were able to safely drag them through the sand over to the trailer intact, push them up a shaky ramp, and load them in.
Here's Randy taking a breather after getting the girls loaded...
As expected, the drive home was stressful. The weather was a little hotter than we anticipated, so we had to stop several times to air out the trailer and give the girls water to drink. They were absolutely terrified.
When we finally got home, we used a harness to walk each pig to their new pen. With the leg injury and the weight issues, this was not an easy task. Both of them were exhausted and collapsed on the ground to rest several times on the way, but we finally guided each girl into the pen.
We sighed with relief, knowing we had gotten these pigs home to safety. They were surrounded by the beautiful woods with their own house full of fresh straw and a heat lamp. They could finally feel a gentle breeze and the warmth of the sunshine. And the ground was now the forest floor, not urine-soaked mud.
So what's next? Well, as with all new rescues, they will need to be vetted to see just what we're dealing with healthwise. I'll also need to put them on a plan to lose weight. And of course, I'll have to work on gaining their trust. They've already starting meeting the other pigs through the fence, and I will monitor things to see if and when they might be able to join the herd in the next several weeks. Their weight is my main concern at this point, so I'm just taking it one day at a time.
See what I mean about the fat folds covering the eyes? This is just heartbreaking!
Oh, their new names? Randie Lou and Penny Lane! Randie Lou (the larger pig) is named after the man who made this whole rescue possible - Randy Mapes! And Penny Lane is named after his lovely wife Penny. I can't think of two more compassionate people to name them after.
I also have to thank all of you wonderful supporters. So many of you have already reached out to check on the girls, and I appreciate your concern more than you know. My promise to you is that I will do everything in my power to give these girls the best life possible so that they'll forget the hell they just came from. Thank you for your prayers! And stay tuned to our social media channels for updates and links to fundraisers!
October is my favorite time of year. The weather gets cooler, the leaves change colors, and the spiders! They spin the most amazing webs here at the sanctuary, espeically the ones that hang from tree to tree. So amazing those creatures. I especially love the barn spiders. Can you say Charlotte's Web?!?
And speaking of spiders, let's not forget about Halloween. Such a fun holiday! I love all the costumes and decorations. It seems like people were extra generous with their decorating this year, which makes me very happy. I'm like a little kid again!
Guess who else loves Halloween here at the sanctuary? You guessed it! The pigs! They just love it. For the last two or three weeks, they've been spending their days planning out their costumes and their nights telling ghost stories all snuggled up in the straw. If you stand outside, you can hear them snorting and oinking to the twists and turns of the stories. Bobby just loves a good scare, so he's been sneaking up on everyone and letting out a loud OINK, sending the pigs scrambliong out of the barn in a terrible fright, straw flying everywhere.
But not everyone is planning to celebrate Halloween this year. Pedro's been strutting around oinking a fuss about the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and how the pigs should celebrate it instead of Halloween. He says the pigs shouldn't focus on all that morbid and scary stuff but should instead plan a feast and celebration for the pigs we've lost over the years, just like they do in Mexico.
I started to wonder how Pedro even knew about Día de los Muertos. But I guess it makes sense, because he and his wife Petunia had moved around a lot in their early years together, and I'm sure they met lots of pigs along the way. And it makes sense that they probably met some Mexican pigs who oinked in Spanish and taught them about traditional Mexican holidays like Día de los Muertos.
I was in the barn the other day, and I happened to hear Pedro whispering to Phoenix the rooster about Día de los Muertos and how he wished the other pigs would show more interest. Phoenix admitted to Pedro that he had no idea what Día de los Muertos was, so Pedro gave the rooster a little lesson. I snuck a little closer to the stall, crouched out of site, and eavedropped on their conversation. If I remember correctly, this is how the conversation went...
"You can’t blame me for loving Día de los Muertos, Phoenix. When I lost my lovely Petunia a couple of years ago, I didn't think I would survive the hurt. But this holiday keeps me going, because it’s the one night of the year when I know my lovely Petunia will come back to visit me for an entire night. All I have to do is create my ofrenda with all her favorite things and beckon her back to Earth from Rainbow Bridge."
Well, Phoenix didn't know what an ofrenda was either, so Pedro had to explain that as well. "My ofrenda will be a magnificent altar of all of Petunia's favorite things. It'll have her pictures displayed in colorful frames, bowls of fresh water to quench her thirst after the long journey, yummy food for her sweet belly, and all the treats she used to love when she was here. I'll light tall candles and spread out all kinds of fragrant flower petals. I'll even burn incense to fill the air and keep it sacred just for her. Even the birds have agreed to sing the music for us. It will be absolutely perfect, Phoenix!"
I slowly stood up and peeked over the stall to get a better view. From my vantage point, I could see that Phoenix was completely hooked. His orange eyes were wide open, staring straight at the pig. Then he scooted his featherly body over a little closer to Pedro, who was starting to tear up as he talked about his beautiful Petunia.
Phoenix cocked his head to the side and said, "So it seems to me that Día de los Muertos is a time to celebrate and honor the ones we've lost, not a time to mourn over them. Is that right, Pedro?"
Pedro said, "That's exactly right, Phoenix. And the ofrendas are there for us to show how much we love them and give them a reason to come back and visit. You can think of an ofrenda as a way for those of us left behind to put our fond memories on display and make sure our loved ones aren't forgotten."
Pedro stood up and huffed an oink in excitement. "It'll be a whole night of music, fun, feasting, and celebration with my darling Petunia. She'll be all mine again for the entire night!"
Phoenix was very moved by all this talk about Día de los Muertos, and he could see just how determined Pedro was to make it a special night. He promised Pedro he would help him find items for his ofrenda, and with that, Pedro gave Phoenix a big smile and patted his scaly foot with his hoof.
It was such a beautiful moment that I decided I needed to sneak out of the barn before I also started tearing up and lost my cover. But I'm glad I stayed and listened, because now I know what the sneaking around and whispering is all about. And I also know why I'm starting to see the makings of a beautiful ofrenda in the corner of the woods with a clearing just big enough for two pigs to cuddle and dance the night away.
Boy what a week at the sanctuary. It started off busy as usual -- feeding, cleaning, scooping, watering -- just the normal activities. And then suddenly…
A speeding Dodge Ram truck had missed the curve in front of our property and flipped over in the front yard, taking down the utility pole, mail boxes, and trees. When I ran outside and saw the overturned truck, I thought for sure no one could still be alive in there, but thankfully I was wrong. There stood a scared teenager with a dazed look saying “I’m so sorry...I’m so sorry” over and over again. I was dazed as well, but I did manage to call 911.
As you can imagine, this wreck started a whole chain of events that I would witness first-hand for the next two days. The fire truck, ambulance, highway patrol officers, and first responders arrived within 10 minutes. They immediately checked the kid for injuries (his name is Michael), and they called his dad. To our surprise, he was not hurt at all, well, at least not physically. You would have never known he had just crawled out of that smooshed pile of smoking metal all wrapped up in power lines and cable cords. He was one lucky boy.
The first responders immediately blocked off the road to traffic and made way for Duke Energy to deal with the utility pole and live power lines that were laying all over the road. It took a few hours, but they eventually had electricity back to our entire neighborhood. We were thrilled to get our power back because the pigs need a lot of water refills this time of year, and we have no water if there’s no electricity to the well pump.
Later that day, the towing company came to remove the truck. Fortunately they were able to maneuver around the surviving trees to minimize damage. Once they removed the car, all that was left was small pieces of the truck and a ton of broken glass. A neighbor came over to help with the clean up, and we ended up with a big pile of car parts, mailbox fragments, and chunks of wood and splinters from the utility pole.
Over the next couple of days, AT&T worked on the cable lines and our internet fiber cord, which was severed in the accident. By the middle of the second afternoon, we were back in business with the internet, and things were getting back to normal.
I’m writing this blog post to let everyone know about the accident, but the real reason goes deeper than that. Obviously emotions were flying high this week (from all those involved), but despite the damage and the interruptions in service and all the mental aftermath, I have learned a valuable lesson -- people are kind and have a desire to help. This was certainly my experience in all this mess.
I want to give a huge shout out to the hardworking Duke Energy and AT&T workers dealing with the extreme heat, the considerate towing guys who worked around my trees, the neighbors who came out to help, the policemen who stood in my yard and chatted about how lucky the kid was, the 911 operator who handled my stuttered request for help, the mailman who delivered my mail to the front door when there was no mailbox, and the Amazon driver who parked the Prime truck down the road and walked to my house to deliver a package -- ALL OF YOU. Thank you all for restoring my faith in humanity and making me realize that, despite what the news wants me to believe, people are generally kind, sympathetic, caring, and supportive.
I talked to Michael’s dad last night. He let me know that his son was still not showing any physical signs of pain from the wreck (thank God), but he was worried about his mental state. He said, “You just don’t go through something like that without it really affecting you, you know?” Yes, I know. Anyone who’s been in a bad accident knows that feeling of wondering what could have happened. We’ve pictured our parents getting “that call” and how they would react. We’ve thought about our funerals and who would come and speak. It’s all just terrifying, and it’ll make you feel incredibly grateful to be alive.
Michael’s dad and I talked for a little while longer, and it felt so reassuring to learn about his loving family. They are planning to come visit the animals soon, and this makes me so happy.
So take my advice. I don’t wish this experience on others, but if you do happen to be involved in something similar, notice the folks who come to help. Look directly into their eyes and take note of their genuineness. And I’m not just talking about your friends, family, and neighbors. I’m talking about complete strangers who are called to assist. Their days get disrupted, too. Say thank you, and tell them how much you appreciate their service. And then do yourself a favor -- bask in that warm feeling for as long as you can, thank your lucky stars for your life, and then pay it forward. I sure am.
My name is Anna, but lots of people call me Jenna by mistake. Jenna was my beautiful white dog who passed away unexpectedly soon after starting the sanctuary. I named the sanctuary after her as a tribute to her honor and kindness. Her name serves as a constant reminder for me to treat animals as equals, as my friends, all worthy of living a life that's free of fear and suffering - on THEIR terms.
I’ve always loved animals. As a child, I had dogs, cats, goldfish, gerbils, and hamsters. I related to all of them, especially my cats. I would dress them up in baby doll clothes and roll them around the cul de sac in front of my house in a stroller listening to Simon and Garfunkel. I taught them multiplication tables and long division on a small chalkboard on the back porch, carefully explaining each step as I derived the answer. I read them Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries, role playing the characters and changing my voice and tone to match the level of suspense. My dad joked that we must have had the smartest cats on the block.
As a teenager, my interest in animals expanded into science. I enjoyed studying their behavior and habits, even documenting some of my pets’ oddities and reactions to their daily routines. My high school science teacher encouraged me to pursue my interest in science, and I knew that one day I would have a career as a veterinarian or animal researcher.
When I got to college in the late 80s, I quickly realized that being a scientist was far from what I wanted as a career. I didn’t like to see animals being used for testing, and the sight of blood was sickening. I am easily traumatized by suffering and sickness to this day, and these are obviously not good characteristics of a veterinarian or researcher. But I couldn’t deny that I had a deep connection with animals, and I wanted to help them.
Then I started learning about farm animals, especially pigs. When I learned about how they were mistreated in factories and bred for food, I knew I had to be part of a rescue mission. I visited sanctuaries, read books, and attended conferences to learn as much as I could about opening my own sanctuary. I discovered the Compassionate Living Festival led by Tom Regan, NC State professor and animal rights activist, and his wife Nancy. The speakers were always amazing - Dr. Michael Greger, Kim Stallwood, Ingrid Newkirk, and many others.
I yearned to be standing on that stage talking about all the animals I had rescued and how I had made such a difference. That crowd would surely give me a standing ovation!
I worked in Kanab, Utah at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for a few months to get my feet wet and help me understand the ins and outs of running a sanctuary. There I learned a lot about all the hard work required in the animal rescue business -- cleaning, feeding, watering, giving shots, keeping records -- all in the southern Utah heat. The stream of unwanted animals who came to live at the sanctuary was endless. It was one sad story after the next.
And the need for funding was overwhelming. That was a huge eye opener for me. How in the world would I start my sanctuary with no money?
Back in North Carolina, I continued researching sanctuaries, participating in local animal rights groups, and attending conferences. I started volunteering at local sanctuaries, including Pig Pals and Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge. I kept up with larger sanctuaries like Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, even getting an opportunity to meet its founder and my hero Gene Baur on two occasions.
I learned a lot from the larger sanctuaries, but Pig Pals was the game changer for me. Founder Penny introduced me to her 40 or so rescued potbellied pigs on her modest farm outside of Raleigh. She had created her own pig town, complete with little buildings labeled things like “bank,” “saloon,” and “grocery store.” It was like a small Old Western movie set for pigs.
And the pigs were mesmerizing. I just couldn't believe how much like dogs they were. They wagged their tails. Some knew their names. They were playful, even mischievous. They constantly grunted and squealed conversations with each other. Their personalities were incredibly strong. They looked directly into my eyes, as if looking through my very soul.
Years later, I fell in love with one particular pig at Penny’s sanctuary. Her name was Abigail, and she was blind. She walked on her front elbows from walking on hooves that had never been trimmed. I would sit with her while she munched on the carrots and apples I had brought for her. She would fall over for a belly rub, and I gave her plenty of those. Just spending time with Abigail made me feel honored to be in her presence.
What a majestic animal Abigail was. I knew at this point that I wanted to spend time with pigs every single day of my life. And I also knew that I would have my own Abigail one day, and I do.
As I started forming a clearer vision of my sanctuary, local friend and activist Justin Van Kleeck pioneered and championed the “Microsanctuary Movement.” The premise behind the movement is that basically any person, even someone with few resources and funding, can rescue and provide a loving home to at least one farm animal. The idea that every animal sanctuary requires a huge plot of land with several employees and an on-site veterinarian is just not true and, quite frankly, not feasible for most people. The underlying idea of the Microsancturary Movement is that anyone, with a little planning and a mindset that we are not to harm animals in any way, can rescue even a couple of farm animals and make a difference.
I knew I could be part of the Microsanctuary Movement. I didn’t have to be overwhelmed with land and money woes. And with a smaller operation, I could spend time with the animals on an intimate level, not hand off my farm duties to volunteers and other farm workers while I was doing paperwork or attending fundraising events.
I was ready to get started, and if I only rescued one animal the first year, that was just fine.
Now fast forward to 2015 when I bought my 2.73-acre property outside of Chapel Hill, NC. It had no farm animal restrictions and was very private with lots of woods. I bought a shelter and hired a nice man to convert it into a barn with stalls, doors, and ramps. I hired some folks to install fencing.
And then I rescued my first pig in the fall of 2015 - Miss Mandy. She was a tiny, scared girl back then, but you should see her today! What a beautiful pig.
As of today, I’ve rescued a total of 15 pigs (14 potbellied pigs and one farm pig). Three have passed away due to illness, but the rest are healthy and thriving as a herd of friends.
I always welcome visitors and volunteers to the sanctuary. There’s always poop to scoop and bellies to rub, but you don’t have to work if you prefer to come for pig therapy. I call it therapy because just spending time with the animals is good for the soul. Just grab a stool and sit in a stall with the animals as they walk up and start a conversation with you. Larry will inevitably flop over for a belly rub first, and Petey the farm pig will sniff every inch of you looking for morsels of food.
And if you’re a child, I especially welcome YOU to the sanctuary. The pigs love children, probably because they sense your innocence, playfulness, and curiosity about life. I guarantee you will connect with the animals, so ask your parents to schedule some time with me!
Welcome to Jenna and Friends Animal Sanctuary, where pigs live on THEIR terms, surrounded by love and companionship.
Just two weeks ago, Abigail was rescued in the nick of time. When found, she was literally lying in a pile of cans and trash behind a trailer, apparently abandoned by the former tenants. She had no shelter, clean water, or food. Abigail is 11 years old and has been living in squalor her whole life. Now, as a result, she is suffering a myriad of health and behavioral problems.
For starters, Abigail suffers from malnutrition and rapid weight loss. You can tell that she was extremely overweight at one time, most likely from eating a poor diet and getting no exercise. Her loose belly skin drags the ground when she walks, and she has no choice but to step on it. She also suffers from fat blindness, which occurs when folds on the face cover the eyes and block vision. She has to be led to her food and water.
All four of Abigail’s feet are extremely arthritic, and she grunts in pain when she walks. Her hooves are gnarly and crooked from years of neglect and lack of hoof trims. Sometimes she even walks on her wrists and elbows to avoid putting pressure on her front feet. Watching her move around is truly heartbreaking.
Abigail is extremely terrified of humans, which makes it even more difficult for caretakers to treat her. She must have been severely abused over the years to mistrust humans so much. Most pigs will eventually learn to trust again, but in her case, it’s hard to tell if she will overcome her past trauma. What pain and suffering she must have endured to react this way to the people who are trying to help her.
Abigail will need lots of medical attention and care to help her regain her health and mobility. She will need pain medication indefinitely and special housing to accommodate her disabilities. She will most likely face one or more surgeries in the coming months to help with her ailments. Right now, she needs constant attention and care. Years of neglect aren’t fixed overnight.
As Abigail’s rescuer and primary caretaker, I am sad to think about Abigail’s former life. What happened? Were her former owners misinformed about the size of potbellied pigs? Were the children scared of her? Did it cost too much to feed her properly? Was she too much work? What in the world could she have possibly done to deserve such neglect?
These questions haunt me, but I suppose their answers don’t matter anymore. That life is behind her now, and now she's suffering for it.
Now it’s time to focus on Abigail’s future. I can’t guarantee that she will ever completely recover from her past, but I can guarantee her a warm bed of straw, two healthy meals every day, proper medical care, and a loving hand. For however long she lives, Abigail will be treated with kindness, every day.
My promise to Abigail is to spread her story as a tool to educate people about pigs and what it takes to care for them properly. She will serve as ambassador for all neglected animals to remind us of our duty as humans to care for our fellow non-human inhabitants of the earth.
Lucy earned her wings just after midnight this morning. Her little body said it’s time, and we helped her on her way. Rest in peace, beautiful girl!
Lucy came to us as a rescue about four years ago. She was dropped off at Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge in Pittsboro one evening, and since they were not yet set up for pigs, we welcomed her to our family here at Jenna and Friends where she quickly bonded with her herd.
Lucy was a pensive pig who often spent time alone wandering through the trees, exploring, digging, and just experiencing life to the fullest. She always had a child-like wonder in her eyes, and I truly believe she was thankful to be a part of the wondrous world around her.
She had a way of looking at you that sent a wave of peace through your soul like nothing else. Her gentle nudges and grunts reassured me that she was happy and grateful to be here with her family.
At night, Lucy snuggled right in with her buddies in the straw. I could tell when she was dreaming. What adventures she must have had in her sleep!
My life will forever be changed by Lucy’s kind soul. I truly feel honored to have been given the opportunity to care for her, feed her, caress her, and especially love her. I know her energy and spirit will live on with every gentle breeze, melodious bird song, puffy white cloud, falling leaf, raindrop, sunrise, and sunset.
Lucy radiated beauty, and beauty will radiate Lucy for the rest of time.
Lucy, you run free, sweet girl! And don’t forget to visit us from time to time.
Wow! What a year! Not just for the animals but for the entire world. It’s truly been a transformative time for many, including me - Anna (that's me admiring Miss Gertie in the picture). I’m the proud founder of Jenna and Friends Animal Sanctuary, just west of Chapel Hill, NC. It’s my privilege to recount the year in detail and let you know where we are in our mission of rescue and peace.
First of all, let me preface this post with a little disclaimer. As you all know from our Facebook page, we just lost Lucy, our beautiful pig, only a few hours ago at the NC State Vet School. So, forgive me if I get a little emotional. I mean, gosh, this post was already destined to be emotional anyway, but now it’s a firm definite.
So, yes, we lost Lucy this year. We also lost two roosters (Frank and Rudy) and two guinea pigs (Linus and Willie). They are all living healthy and free at Rainbow Bridge now. Jenna gives me reports every now and then about what’s going on up there, and I must say, it sounds like a beautiful place - full of love and peace. This vision makes my heart full of joy.
OK, yes, we’ve lost a few animals this year, but what have we gained? Well let me get on my soapbox and turn up the volume, because we have a lot to share!
2020 brought us one new rooster (Phoenix), two guinea pigs (Walter and Nelson “aka Ninja”), and two new potbellied pigs (Maggie and Larry).
Maggie came to us from a sweet lady in Durham who had bought Maggie from a breeder but soon realized that her living situation was not suited for pigs. These breeder stories are way too common and are the main reason why so many potbellied pigs end up homeless and alone. But now, Maggie is safe and happy in her new home with her herd family. What a joy it is to watch her grow and discover the beautiful world around her. She will never know anything but joy, and that makes me smile from ear to ear.
Larry came to us from the Orange County Animal Shelter. He had been picked up a few times, and eventually the owner decided he wasn’t worth picking up anymore. Larry was truly abandoned by the very person who had committed to giving him a loving forever home. What a horrible thing to experience. And you better believe animals know when they’ve been abandoned. But now Larry is loved - no, he is cherished - and he is a happy boy in his loving herd.
What else can we share? A lot!
We received a $1500 grant from the Microsanctuary Resource Center to pay for vet bills that were incurred late last year when a bacterial infection passed through and took the lives of Stella and Petunia. Little Ellie spent almost a week at the NC State Vet School, but fortunately she fully recovered, and life is completely back to normal for her.
Our friend and supporter Jeannette Briggs ran a very successful Pampered Chef fundraiser that resulted in a nice donation of several hundred dollars for the animals. I even got a nice wok out of it. What a nice gesture of support from Jeannette and everyone who participated.
We expanded our fencing to almost double the size. Now the pigs have even more woods to explore and root around in. Pigs are natural explorers, so they are thrilled with the new area. A big fat oinkin’ thank you to Fortress Fencing in Carrboro for their handywork.
And speaking of Fortress Fencing, they also helped expand our fencing for the roosters and fixed the pig fencing from a downed tree. What a relief!
We received a whopping total of $7461.69 of donations from Facebook-generated fundraisers and general Facebook donations. Wow! Just wow! I knew we had some awesome supporters, but when I downloaded that donation report and scrolled through all the donations, I swear my heart just pounded with joy and gratitude.
We also received generous donations through Amazon Smile, our Amazon wish list, our website’s donation feature, cash gifts, and checks sent through the mail. Fortunately our supporters have lots of options for giving, and they ain’t scared to take action! Kindness is power!
Our animal sanctuary is now an official sponsor of the DMV’s Adopt-a-Highway program. If you see someone walking down our country road picking up trash, it’s probably me. I’m on a mission to keep our road free of garbage. It’s healthier for the environment, and it’s better on the eyes.
This 2020 reflection would certainly be incomplete without a big shoutout to Margaret’s Cantina in Chapel Hill. I can’t tell you how much food they’ve donated to the pigs over the months, even during the pandemic with limited service. Young, Laurie, Jessie, and the crew are amazing people, and if you want some awesome-sauce Tex Mex and award-winning margaritas, git yourself there - NOW!
We are fortunate to have lots of veterinary options around us. Dr. Shannon Swink from Hoof and Horn Mobile Vet Service is DA BOMB. What peace of mind she brings us, just knowing she’s just a call away. TriCounty Vet in Graham is also a lifesaver. They performed two neuters this year for us (Maggie and Larry) and other various services. What a kind crew.
Now, let me tell you about the N.C. State Veterinary Hospital. Just a sec while I do a little sniffing. This is where I get choked up, because I don’t even know where to start. The doctors and staff there are some of the nicest, most knowledgeable people on the planet Earth - actually, the entire universe. And I say that with 100% confidence. Amazing people. Seriously. Amazing.
Now let’s talk about pig therapy. What is pig therapy, you ask? Well, I’d like to think I coined the term, but I’m sure it’s been around a while.
Quite simply, pig therapy is the act of spending time with pigs to gain a sense of peace and hope in a world of stress and uncertainty. Pigs have a way of easing our minds and bringing calmness to our hearts. You can’t help but get a boost of love and happiness injected in your very soul when you’re with the pigs. I can’t explain it, but trust me. Pig therapy is a real thing, and you can find out for yourself. Just let me know when you're ready.
Now comes the time where I was planning to list all the volunteers and supporters who have brought joy to the animals this year. I’m happy to report that I don’t have enough room for even half of them.
My neighbors are always awesome and available when I need a helping hand (unfortunately I can’t load a pig into my car without some help!). Sara, John, Jess, Gordon, Susan, Traci, Brad, Jess, and Ian - I’m looking straight at you guys and sending you a whirling tornado full of love and gratitude.
OK, now for a really fun shoutout - UNC Vegans for Peace!! YOU GUYS ROCK!! Caroline, Sophia, Ruth - all of you! Thank you for visiting, giving belly rubs, spreading gravel, scooping poop, and getting some of that much-needed pig therapy. This whole group of students have given me so much hope for our future. Amazing people with big hearts and insights for a more peaceful world.
Other folks who deserve a mention (forgive me in advance if I have left out anyone) - Laura Jane (LJ), Lynne, Nancye, Sylvia, Sue, Mary Paul and Lewis, Jess and Ian, Lynwood and Brenda, Claire, Ashley, Kathy F., my dad, Megan, Naomi and Bill with grandchildren Cara and Calvin, Matt, Molly, Paula, my Ultimate Software buddies (Traci, Didier, Keith, and Kim), Rita, Jana, Deb, Theresa, Debbie, Young, Laurie, Jeremy, Miss, Chih-Wei, Kerry, Terry, Andrea the Chef, Jasmine, Silvia, Amy, Jody, Stephanie, Lorraine, Christine, Julie, Bridget, Mickie, Jennifer, Pat and Cheryl, Jude and Mel, Allison, Tonia, Katherine, Kristen, Mont, Dale, Polly, Emily, Kathy M., Helene, Andrea, Herb, Jeannette, Alice, Diana…
OK, OK, you get the point. A LOT of people. Too many to mention, actually. I love you all, and I could NOT do this alone. You should all be very proud of yourselves!
Now that your attention span is completely obliterated, let me close by saying THANK YOU to everyone. I adore our community of animal lovers, and I sincerely pray that good things will happen to each and every one of you and to our entire world in this coming year.
Peace and love to you all!