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!