This spring brought two very special new residents — both of them blind — to our Northern California Shelter. On a commercial farm, blindness would be a death sentence for any farm animal. Fortunately, Marcia and Dan made it to Farm Sanctuary, where they will have the opportunity to live a life of love and peace.
Marcia was born blind. Birthing complications had caused the death of her twin brother, and her mother was unable to care for her. Her “owner,” who breeds and raises goats for meat, had no interest in spending the time and money required to provide for Marcia’s special needs, or even to keep her alive.
That view is typical of those who raise animals for profit; individualized care is simply not cost-effective. Countless impaired young animals like Marcia fall victim to the bottom line. But Marcia turned out to be very lucky: A compassionate woman named Jenni lived nearby, learned of Marcia’s plight and took her in.
Jenni and her family fell madly in love with Marcia, but they soon found they were not equipped to care for this special-needs baby. Jenni reached out to us, and Northern California Shelter Manager Kate Powell met Jenni at the University of California-Davis veterinary hospital to take over the care of the sweet four-week-old kid.
Marcia’s vision impairment is permanent, but she is otherwise healthy, despite having missed out on the immunity-bolstering colostrum her mother’s milk would have provided. The following week, she was able to leave the veterinary hospital and come home to our shelter in Orland. Naturally, the shelter staff was immediately smitten.
Meanwhile, a man named Will was discovering that something was wrong with one of his sheep. He had bought a flock of eight at a livestock auction several weeks before, intending for them to live the rest of their lives grazing his land. Then one of them began crashing into walls, trees, and fences. It became apparent that this sheep, Dan, is blind.
Will didn’t have the means to provide the sort of care Dan needed, so he began seeking help and found Farm Sanctuary. Guessing that the sudden onset of Dan’s blindness was likely caused by disease, we drove out the next day to pick him up, and he spent the night at Farm Sanctuary. We found that his eyes were severely infected and brought him to the UC-Davis veterinary hospital the next day. The probable diagnosis is a case of long-untreated pinkeye. The infection had caused so much scarring on Dan’s right eye that he will never see out of it again, but we are hopeful that he may regain some vision in his left eye.
Dan returned to the shelter in early June, staying in a private pen until he received a clean bill of health. Once he was cleared to be with other sheep, he was introduced to a new friend: Ferdinand. Dan and Ferdinand have since been integrated with the shelter’s main sheep flock, and Dan has stayed at Ferdinand’s side!
In a production setting, Dan would not have survived. Producers consider it too expensive and time-consuming to provide individualized care to an animal whose sole purpose, as far as they are concerned, is to grow meat to sell.
Dan and Marcia are among the lucky few: farm animals who live in a place where they’re seen for who they truly are and given the care they deserve. They — like all animals — are sensitive beings who have feelings and deserve to be treated with compassion. Thank you for recognizing that Dan and Marcia are each someone, not something; that the cost of caring for special-needs animals is worthy of investment; and that their lives, like all animals’ lives, count. Please share their stories and help us continue to open hearts and minds to a more compassionate way of life.
The power of friendship to connect an animal with her world is especially crucial for animals whose disabilities can make the world a scary place. We witnessed this power just last year when we introduced blind cows Sweety and Tricia and saw them both blossom. We knew we wanted to give that same gift to Marcia.
Since Marcia is both blind and small, it would have been too difficult for her to join any of our resident groups of goats. What she needed was a best friend who was young enough and small enough not to overwhelm her. Our search for such a companion led us to a goat rescue in Washington, which was seeking a home for Maurice, a 6-week-old Nubian goat rescued from an auction. Soon Maurice was on his way to our Northern California Shelter. Maurice and Marcia spent the days of his quarantine vocalizing to each other but not able to get too close. Finally, they are roommates and are already inseparable — best pals!
Thanks to our supporters we are able to respond quickly to intervene in the lives of these precious individuals. If you haven’t joined Farm Sanctuary yet, won’t you consider becoming a part of this compassionate community?