unnamed-2On Sunday, I volunteered at a Sanctuary nearby.  I had been invited by my friend Kristine to join her staff. ( She and I had worked together for the animal shelter in Illinois in the operating room. ) They were headed there to volunteer for the day. 

It was brutally hot and humid.  We worked hard, cleaning the cow barn, the alpaca and sheep pens and dozens of cat boxes (in the upstairs of the big barn) .  I quickly lost any desire I’ve had to raise cows.  This was dirty dirty work.  “Try to scrape up the cow pies and leave the mud if you can distinguish it” we were instructed.  

Let me say that the people who devote their time and money volunteering here are obviously animal lovers.  But I left feeling very sad.  

My little cell phone took some photos of the big cats.  They are in very small enclosures.  That was the hard part.  Several lions, tigers and a bear live there. There are also some wolf hybrids and wolves.  They live in areas not much  bigger than a dog kennel or two.  We were told there were 4 wolves in an enclosure  at one point. Mama, Papa and two daughters.  The daughters picked off the parents one by one. 

Over 200 feral cats roamed the property and barn.  They are fed, watered, and they have many many litter boxes.  They are all altered.  Their lives, void of human touch, seemed fair enough.  They were free to roam or form colonies and they had.  

When I arrived at the gate, a dead calf was lying on the deck.  Farmers are permitted to leave dead livestock there for the animals to consume.  Roadkill is also taken in.  We were told we could bring chicken drumsticks, raw, to offer the Big  cats.  Venison is welcome, frozen, even freezer burned.  

They have a huge pig that has had its eyes removed for pain and medical reasons.  .  It will gladly eat any dessert you bring. I had a pineapple pie in the freezer so I brought it along. The enormous pig  guzzled the pie up, and seemed to have no trouble finding it . 

The Sanctuary is on 9 acres of land.  As I mentioned, enclosures are very small.  There is a black bear that someone tried to raise and failed.  Apparently, it is legal to buy a bear cub in some states.  Most of these animals were exotics that failed at human hands.  

Although we had a great volunteer who could tell us all about these animals and their individual stories, my mind started tuning out her voice as I seemed to fall into the deep dull faces of these creatures.  One of them vocalized aggressively as we walked by.  Most just ignored us.  

I won’t be volunteering there again.  I have some tools and things on their wish list that I Can drop at the gate.  I just couldn’t handle it there.  Everyone else that I went with seemed to be eager to return and help more.  

I have my first non-fiction read for the summer.  Zoo STORY, Life in the Garden of Captives.  Zach read the book awhile back. He says it was a good read.  He said the issues are complicated for zoos.  I, for one, have always loved going to the zoo and seeing creatures I would never ever encounter in Chicago Illinois.  Now, I’m not as sure.  I’ll let you know what I think of the book.  

This was a tough post to write, but I always tell you what I’ve been up to.  Just look into that tiger’s eyes.  





Author: compassionknit

I've moved from to on Nov. 7 2016. It is still me! glad you found me

16 thoughts on “Conflicted”

  1. Those eyes say PLEASE GET ME OUT OF HERE. In my opinion, rescue organizations like that deserve to be shut down. Penning up animals in that small of an enclosure is animal cruelty and putting the animals down would be far more humane. Life is not life at any cost, in my opinion. If you can’t provide adequate living conditions tailored to the individual animals that you aren’t a rescue organization. You are feeding a human need, not an animal need.

    I’m deeply opposed to animal parks that exploit the animals for entertainment (Circuses,SeaWorld, Gatorland, etc…). Seeing animals perform “human” tricks denegrates the nature of the animal and makes it seem as though the animals are ONLY on earth at the whim of man as opposed to “their own” creatures. I am somewhat less opposed to zoos, knowing that the educational resource they provide give some an opportunity to connect with the animals they would not normally see and maybe SOME of those people will in turn, choose to help animal charities.

    However, petting zoos with non-domesticated animals and programs where you can “feed the seals” or have your photo taking while sitting astride a gator with his mouth electrical taped closed leads to unwise animal encounters in real life. We’ve all read about some yahoo that decided “petting” a baby bear in the wild seemed like a good idea and why don’t we take an Instagram photo of it.

    As you can see ……….I have a pretty strong opinion about what constitutes good animal welfare and penning them up in too small enclosures and feeding them sub-standard feed is not it.

    I totally understand WHY you could not go back there. It is simply heartbreaking.


  2. I could never volunteer there either. The conditions you describe are horrible. And those eyes. I think I would dream of those eyes. There’s a wonderful zoo in Omaha, the Henry Dorley Zoo. The animals there all have big enclosures to roam around and are very well taken care of. I’ve been to some zoos though that I would never go back to. Bless your heart for being so compassionate. Your blog is titled very aptly. Blessings, Betsy


  3. Whoa….what an experience. I am with you. I know it’s the probably the best existence for these poor displaced creatures but to see that on a regular basis would do me some damage as well. Wow.


  4. Remember Planet of the Apes? People seldom think about this issue because it’s easy to ignore; however, turn things around and it’s a totally different story.

    I wouldn’t volunteer at the refuge because I love animals too much to see them live like that.


  5. I agree with what everyone is saying. While I’m thankful these animals have a place to live and someone to care for them, it is sad that our society allows for these types of things to happen. I couldn’t go back either. Now I’m going to go hug some alpacas for you.


  6. I feel pretty much the same way about so-called no-kill shelters. While it is a lovely and lofty idea never to kill an animal, the practice often leads to horrible, overcrowded facilities like you experienced. Hard as it is, sometimes it is better to put the animal out of its misery if a better home cannot be found.


  7. I’m so sorry but I almost didn’t read your post. When I saw the look on the tiger’s face I knew this was not a happy post!! I’m that person who can’t watch the TV commercials about mistreated puppies shoved into kennels and forgotten. I skip past those commercials, but they do remind me to contribute to the local shelter–right after I hug my warm little fur-babies!! I wish I could fix this problem for every animal in the world that is hungry or cold or mistreated. I really wish I could!!


  8. Perhaps you are one who can advocate for better living conditions for the animals in the facility as your contribution to care for them. Standards for caring are challenging to establish, I think, whether caring for humans or animals. I remember my mom who was a nurse in Boston in the
    1930’s and trained to give backrubs as part of personal care for patients remarking later in her life how different patient care was expressed as the years rolled by.

    I have just scrolled back and enjoyed reading your posts I missed while camping last week. Yay for another pair of completed socks and more Twiddle Mitts! Happy Father’s Day to Fireman, and I hope you are enjoying knitting! 🤗


  9. I couldn’t volunteer there either; don’t think I’d have lasted as long as you did! That is a place where volunteering wouldn’t be fun and wouldn’t leave one with a feeling of doing something good.


  10. We have a big cat rescue near us that is wonderful. The animals have much bigger spaces and are able to roam. Not near what they would have in the wild but better than where they were abused and often terrified of humans. We don’t want them comfortable with humans but you know what I mean. The stories are horrible to hear but this place is wonderful. I understand why you would not want to go back. You are needed and loved at the stables, go there.


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