The Covid 19 virus has been financially devastating to us as well as many non-profits with so many unable to work and bills to pay.
Many donations have disappeared and our largest fund raiser, the Lavender Festival, has been cancelled. Due to responsible social distancing, we cannot schedule needed volunteer work parties for regular maintenance and repairs to animal enclosures from last winter. Further, we are receiving an increase in desperate calls from people who have lost their jobs and have no money to feed and care for their animals.
We have the usual large feed expenses to maintain the quality of care for our rabbits, pigs, sheep, turkeys, roosters, ducks, burros, cows, cats and dogs.
Any donations would be greatly appreciated in this time of need as we can't continue totally financing PLAS indefinitely. Those of you who have visited us realize what a special large place it is for not only our farm and companion animals but a safe home for all our seasonal wildlife that includes bear, bobcat, cougar, coyote, deer, wild ducks and others.
We have included a story of a small animal which is easily overlooked to brighten your day who has made a lasting impact on us at Precious Life Animal Sanctuary.
It is late August, 2018, as I make my weekly stop at a feed store that carries a brand of wet cob the rescued cows prefer. As I drive into the feed store parking lot, I pass a small grocery store, a row of customer vehicles and back up to the entrance of the feed store to be loaded.
It never fails, every time I am here I am overcome with sadness and helplessness seeing the small number of farm animals in cruel confinement simply to amuse store customers.
On one side of the loading area is a small shaded pen that holds a beautiful male ringtail pheasant and two mature uniquely-colored turkeys, The pheasant has been imprisoned here for a long time and spends all of its time frantically pacing back and forth along the woven wire searching to be free. The two turkeys have been enslaved for years in their small confinement and rarely move about.
On the other side is a small pen that houses two goats that have been here for years. Their sole activity is begging for treats from customers. Next to them is a young female pig suffering physically and emotionally by being stuck by herself in a mud-filled 12x12 foot pen.
Next to her is a row of partially hidden rabbit hutches. Inside one of the cages is a grey rabbit that has been living in solitary confinement for years and is always unresponsive, unmoving as its life slowly slips away.
As I wait, I close my eyes, shut my ears, overcome in deep thought “I am not here”. All my innocent prisoners are with me as we land at Precious Life Animal Sanctuary to experience a sense of freedom.
The wild pheasant is set free and flies away over fields and disappears in a wooded edging to find a mate and begin life anew.
The turkeys, goats, pig and rabbits are let loose in large hillside enclosures never again to hear the clamor of vehicles, the smell of exhaust and constant human chatter. Now there is nature’s familiar silence broken up by calls and cries from wild fowl in nearby ponds and the chorus of frogs at night.
At dawn, with no prison walls, they are all reborn into lives of wonder and joy, free to run, play, root, explore and lie under the rays of the sun. At dusk they can choose to sleep in their man-made structures shaded by tall firs or in their own made beds of grass under the stars and the moon.
Instantly there is a loud bang, my van door is slammed shut and with it the wings that carried us away comes crashing down.
I am handed the bill, enter the store to pay and return to the parking lot unable to look at my animal friends and their unnatural lives that do not extend beyond their prison walls.
I walk to my van and notice in the corner of the parking lot a group of young children standing around a cardboard box, giggling and become curious and uneasy knowing it has to be some kind of newborns.
I approach and wonder if it will be a batch of kittens, rabbits or baby chicks. I see tiny clumps of feathers in the hands of the kids desperately trying to escape and falling back into the box only to be picked up again. To my surprise it is four newly-hatched ducklings, one white and the others uniformly black with streaks of metallic green.
I find the person in charge and ask “what’s the story on the ducks?” He states a customer who raises meat ducks brought them here as they are an unwanted litter. He explains they are Muscovy ducks who do not fly far and prefer to roost in trees. I ask, “where is their mother? “She didn’t come with her litter?” I look at the hatchlings huddled in fear on top of each other in the beginning of their lives as nothing more than playthings for the kids.
I think of all the reasons not to take them: predators, feed, constant cleanup, providing continual clean water, no time.
I start to walk away and blurt out, “how much are they?” He replies $5.00 apiece. Unthinking, I hand him a $20 bill and leave as a replacement mother with four clumps of feathers and peeps. Now they will experience care, kindness and know their individual lives matter to someone.
I arrive at the sanctuary and am met by Ken Harada, our long-time, dedicated volunteer, who is as excited at I am seeing the motherless newborns.
We immediately prepare the inside of our tiny house next to the barn that has a small outdoor fence and gate in front of it. This house has a history of restoring the health and lives of baby turkeys, day-old calves, rescued piglets, week-old fawns and rabbits.
We lay down new shavings, fresh water and reposition two heat lamps to keep the hatchlings warm day and night. We stock a variety of feed any duck would savor: meal worms, duck feed, game bird feed and different kinds of bagged greens.
We let them loose and the terrified four run to a corner as we shut the door.
For the first week, upon hearing us open the door, the only sign of them appears to be a feather duster fallen off the shelf. The second week there is less fear as they scatter in all directions.
A large shallow plastic cement mixing tray filled with water, with a few bricks in front of it as steps is put in their house. The excited ducklings immediately enter the water, splash around and spend hours in it before tiring. It does not take long for the water to become dirty and the shavings around the water to become wet which requires continual cleanup. Their growth and size living under the conditions is phenomenal.
Soon the gate is opened and all four venture out close by to explore, nibble on grass and weeds. At the end of the day, they return to the inside of their house and the door is closed until morning.
Every day they hear and look up to see flocks of ducks flying overhead and are unaware that a large pond lies behind them at the bottom of a hillside only 200 feet away. The pond at this time of year is filled with over 100 mallards and widgeons under the watchful eyes of two bald eagles perched in tall alders next to the pond. The eagles have become accustomed to all the human activity close by leaving and entering the barn throughout the day.
As the weeks pass by all four ducks continue to rotate their wings, building up strength until the whirl becomes a blur as they lift off and propel themselves over the gate. One of the ducks remains behind while the three fly up, spot the pond and can be seen swimming among the flocks of wild ducks.
Weeks pass by, it is early October and the best of times for the three ducks. Their blissful existence is leaving their home at dawn and flying to the pond eagerly to join the company of the wild water fowl. At dusk they fly back to their house to be greeted by their littermate who can fly but chooses to be a “stay at home” fixture inside their secure and protected home. The three quickly eat plates of gourmet food and nod off with their heads buried in clumps of back feathers.
One late afternoon in October only two ducks return and the next day the last one is gone. We are deeply saddened by the loss of the three who experienced such a happy but short life. We are puzzled as we know they didn’t simply fly away. We are unsure of what might have killed them due to the short distance of flight from the pond to their house. On the property, there are coyotes, cougars, bobcats, raccoons and weasels, but never once did we ever see any of the three on the banks of the pond. On walking around the pond, we find no remains or piles of feathers. The two bald eagles have never showed any aggression in our presence.
It is late October and the remaining duck rarely ventures out from the house and simply lies in one spot inside of the house. Ducks are like humans extremely social creatures and he or she is visibly depressed being alone.
Ken, who has cared for the ducks from the beginning on an almost daily basis is deeply affected by the loss of the three and the remaining survivor in such a depressed state. Ken states he has found two duck farms a distance away who raise Muscovy ducks and other species of ducks for slaughter and plans on purchasing two as companions to our lone survivor.
A few days pass and Ken returns to the sanctuary with two purchased Muscovy ducks. Both are not fully grown and we are unsure of their gender. One is buff-colored white and, due to its larger size, believed to be a male. The smaller one is dark black with streaks of iridescent green.
Ken describes the ducks as lucky to leave behind two dirty, over-crowded water fowl operations. Most of the ducks are slaughtered at 8 to 10 weeks. Neither location provides any water outlet such as a pond, kiddie pool, livestock tanks they could swim in which is so vital for their health and well-being.
Both ducks are escorted to their house and meet the lonely “stay at home” duck. Immediately all three crowd around each other, touch each other with their bills in instant acceptance and friendship.
The two curious new arrivals walk by the large plastic tray and discover it’s full of water. Excitedly they hop in and are able to swim for the first time. The love of water is a joyous sight as they splash, dunk their heads, flap their wings, drink, and preen their feathers. Finally, after hours exhausted, they climb out.
The “stay at home” duck is once again active, content, with new companionship and all are let out of the gate to nibble on green grass and return to their house.
Upon returning from town in late October, we notice the “stay at home” duck is in the house and the other two are gone. We immediately view the pond and easily spot the only white duck next to the dark one amongst all the other wild ducks.
As the days pass, we become concerned as the two become accustomed to spending days and nights on the pond and only return now and then to the house to feed and visit “stay at home”.
We then become alarmed one day when the white duck flies to the house alone. The dark-colored duck has once again vanished from some kind of predator. We realize that this death ends any future rescues as our sanctuary is simply not a safe place for domestic ducks.
It is early November and a transformation of the white duck’s behavior begins to emerge as he chooses to spend more time with Ken, Caryl (co-founder) and myself. It remains a mystery as he was raised without any individual attention to bond, never handled and yet has developed a blind trust toward all three of us. There are times when all three of us are sitting in the barn together, tired from all the chores and look up to see the angelic white wings fly in and land at our feet elevating our spirits by the oneness of the moment.
A pattern develops where every morning he flies from the pond to be next to me as I open the barn doors to start the tractor unconcerned with the noise and exhaust. We walk, I look down and talk to him in a soft voice. He stops, cocks his head to look me in the eye enjoying the praise and adulation.
As I head out to the fields with the tractor, he follows Caryl step by step into the upper barn to start her chores. He stays next to her as she fills the feral cat dishes with wet and dry food and water. He nibbles a little in the presence of the feral cats who intuitively know he is not to be touched.
After all the chores are complete and we go our separate ways, our constant companion returns to his house to eat or spend time with “stay at home” and returns to the pond at dusk.
One afternoon on the tractor, I pass Caryl next to the upper barn doors overlooking the pond while putting the tractor away at the other end of the barn. Suddenly I hear a scream and race to the front of the barn. Through her tears she tells me a Bald Eagle swept down at the edge of the pond, landed on top of the white duck tearing chunks of flesh from his body and began to carry him away, but drops him over her screaming.
Ken who was in the barn ran down to the white duck who is trying to walk away from the pond. Now we finally know the predator who has killed the other ducks and possibly hawks and owls who reside on the property.
Ken and I look at all the blood-stained feathers and are shocked at the extent of injuries. On the left side below the head the entire column of vertebrae is visible with all the flesh removed. Directly below the neck there is a hole the size of an upright human fist through the body with no flesh. We are sickened at the sight knowing hardly any animal could survive losing so much flesh and muscle in proportion to its small body,
Ken places paper towels around the wounds to stop the bleeding and we put the white duck in the rescue house on shavings in the presence of the “stay at home” duck.
Due to the massive injuries, Ken asks me, “do you want to euthanize him”. I tell him I just can’t kill him. I ask Ken if he can do it and he says he can’t do it either.
I can see how emotional Ken is and the close bond that developed with all the ducks, especially the white one with all the tasks of cleaning, feeding and caring for them. I think to myself, I am going all out to save the white duck even though it’s a lost cause.
I tell Ken to get a dog carrier and we will take the duck to the veterinary clinic in Sequim. We walk into the vet clinic on the east of town and explain the situation and injuries of the duck. We are informed they can’t provide any assistance but if we bring the duck in they will euthanize him. We reply “no thanks”.
We then travel to the second vet clinic in town and explain the situation once again. We are told no one can help us. We then travel to a wildlife rehab center that has closed down. As we approach the house, a man opens the door and informs us they cannot offer any help.
After striking out, I tell Ken we will go to a pharmacist as a last resort. We enter Walgreens, explain the situation and are led to the sales floor at a section that has a variety of first aid and antibiotic ointments. I select a large tube and we head back to the sanctuary. Ken holds our duck while I squeeze the entire tube which disappears in the hole, some sticking to the sides and some coming out at the bottom of his body.
We set him down inside the house and shut the door. We decide the spot to bury him the next morning. For so many injured rescues the first night is like an transplanted fragile flower that is lifeless by the first light of day. We all feel blessed that while we could never pick him up or handle him without a struggle, the look of trust in his eyes knowing how much he is valued as a part of us.
Upon opening the door the next morning, I am shocked to see him standing, alive. I lay down on the shavings with him the next two mornings. He stands in the same place on one leg with the other leg tucked under his body and does not eat or drink.
Silently, I ask myself, “why won’t you die?” not wanting him to be alone.
On the third day, I open the door and see both feet on the ground and he is nibbling on some of the cracked corn. I am in tears seeing the miracle before my eyes and the will to live against all odds. He has been nameless for far too long and the word Marvel comes to mind and I call out his name.
Marvelous Marvel’s recovery is slow and somehow the formation of connecting tissue and muscle closes the hole under new back feathers. Soon he is confidently walking around the inside of his house with “stay at home” but afraid to venture far from the gate. I know it’s just a matter of time until he ventures farther from the gate and is killed by a predator.
There is only one option for Marvel and “Stay at Home” to live out their natural lives and that is to move them into the predator-proof rabbit enclosure. We know it will require an incredible amount of extra work as all the water for the 140 rabbits has to be filled at the barn in 5-gallon jugs and transported in our ATV a good distance to the entrance of the rabbit enclosure.
The reality is both ducks will swim in many of the three-gallon plastic water containers for the rabbits dirtying their drinking water. There doesn’t seem to be any other alternative for their future and it remains to be seen how the four roosters will accept them.
Amazingly, the rabbits and roosters accept the new guests and they all get along even at feeding time.
As the months pass by Marvel and Stay at Home adjust to their new surroundings. There is plenty of room to roam and space to fly inside the predator-proof high netting. However, for Marvel nothing can replace the freedom of the spacious sky, the large pond below and the closeness with all three of us throughout the day.
Marvel develops more of an independent, reclusive behavior away from us and one day he has climbed up the steep ladder into the rooster house and is laying on the floor on top of a number of eggs! Another surprise, Marvel, thought to be a male, is a female and has built a nest to hatch her unfertilized eggs. Underneath several enclosures away Stay at Home also turns out to be a female and is sitting on a nest of unfertilized eggs, not knowing they will never hatch.
Marvel lives on through the last two severe snow-laden winters and to the unknowing appears to be an ordinary white duck, but to the three of us she is our rare white lily that bonded us all together at a special point in time.
We are so grateful for all those who donate because without your support, it would be impossible to continue and allow so many rescued farm animals to live out their natural lives free from misery and neglect. If you would like to donate you can do so here:
Your Generosity Makes a Difference!