Beyond Your Backyard: "Free To Be Me" Animal Sanctuary.

Kimberly J. Epp

Last Saturday, a few of us were able to visit the "Free To Be Me" Animal Sanctuary in Moose Jaw, ahead of their opening for the season. I had a chance to visit last Spring as well, and just like last year this is a tour that never disappoints.

  Kim with Spot the bull, photobombed by a goat looking for some attention as well!

Kim with Spot the bull, photobombed by a goat looking for some attention as well!

This wonderful place was created by owner Louanne Shropshire and her daughter Melissa Pierce to provide a home for unwanted, abused, rescued and surrendered farm animals. It is run entirely by donation. It is located just on the outskirts of Moose Jaw.

This labour of love began just over a decade ago. Although it was not initially meant to be a site where tours were provided to. As more and more animals were brought to the site, it was suggested that perhaps they could offer educational tours to help cover the costs. A 'win -win' for the animals, the owners and the visitors!

  Louanne with Hope the pgymy goat, now around one year of age.

Louanne with Hope the pgymy goat, now around one year of age.

The sanctuary is a place for animals to heal at, to feel the love, freedom and compassion they may not have ever felt before in their lives. These animals include abused ponies from the circus, animals saved from slaughter and bought at auction, animals considered to be "defective", animals purchased then no longer wanted, and sadly even animals dumped at the site. All animals are loved - and don't know that they are any different.

Dory, the pot-bellied pig is quite a sweetheart, but her owners did not expect her to get so big. If you decide to get an exotic pet, you need to do your homework first. Thankfully, Dory fits right in at the sanctuary and as the 5th most intelligent creature on the planet, her and the other pot-bellied and domestic pigs always show their intelligence to the owners and sanctuary visitors.

Last year, Mikey the 1,200 pound pig was laying in a pool of mud. Everytime I brought out my phone to video him, he flung mud at me. I know he was laughing to himself. He waited until just the opportune time each time I tried. Just remember to wear boots and old clothing if you visit. Many of the animals do love to get hugs and kisses!

Animals are no different than you and I. They feel love, happiness, anxiety, fear and sadness. They want to live. They want to be loved. Cows, for example are just like large puppies. They are loveable, inquisitive and playful. They are usually not given the chance to be free to be themselves. At the sanctuary, they are free to play and get all of the love they desire.

 Kim with April the Alpaca, these animals sure do love to get hugged.

Kim with April the Alpaca, these animals sure do love to get hugged.

The sanctuary has a wide variety of animals which include horses, ponies, llamas, alpacas, sheep, ostrich, emus, geese, ducks, turkeys, chickens, rabbits, cats, dogs, cows, pigs, goats - and more. Even the odd wild Canada Goose or other wild bird can be found amongst these unlikely friends. They all seem to get along, and many unusual friendships have developed.

  Dale Jelinski with the oldest sanctuary cat, a real sweety as you can see!

Dale Jelinski with the oldest sanctuary cat, a real sweety as you can see!

The site will soon be opened for the season, but tours are by prior arrangement only. A minimum donation of $10 to $20 per person is advised. Additional donations could include gift cards to the Co-op for feed. Hay and straw is also always welcome, if anyone can donate. Even items like cat food, fruit, and veggies are always appreciated.

You can call (306) 684-2231 to arrange a tour. Soon there will be Spring babies added to the mix. If you'd like to visit a site where you can interact with the animals and help them at the same time with your donation, this is a place to visit. More and more sanctuaries (for both wild and domestic animals) are opening up as we are learning to be more compassionate towards the other living beings we share this earth with.

This Sunday is Earth Day. One of the greatest contributors to global warming is the meat industry. Consider going green for the earth, and at the very least know where you food comes from. Are the animals treated humanely? Consider that we don't require meat in our diets. We can live healthier lives without meat and dairy. Think about other changes you can make to help save our planet. It's up to every individual to make a difference.

Consider the quote from Dr. Jane Goodall; "We as individuals matter, and we do make a difference. We just have to decide what that difference will be."

Kimberly Epp is an Environmental Educator and writer, and is also the President of the Moose Jaw Nature Society. She can be reached at kepp@shaw.ca.