Taking It In
Our eyes let us see the world differently from the way humans see it. Look at Cupid’s eyes. See how our pupils are rectangular, not round like yours? That’s so we can have peripheral vision, which humans might call seeing more widely.
Like Cupid’s, my eyes are golden, unlike those of any human. But don’t worry about the differences in our eyes. Like goats, the humans here have seen the same sad sights—animals being treated badly. One day, a few Octobers ago, they couldn’t believe their eyes.
It was after breakfast on an ordinary day, and my arthritis was really bothering me. My joints are in bad shape; you can hear them clicking when I walk! I had tasted turmeric (a mustard-orange spice) and ground black pepper in my extra food pellets. Eating those spices helps me walk more easily, making me not so stiff and rigid in my hind end. The humans try spices before they give me the more serious drugs.
In the kitchen area next to our stall, the staff and volunteers were chopping up big crimson pomegranates and bright orange mandarins—special treats for the ducks and geese. (What about the turkeys, you ask? Don’t worry about them; they would be eating especially well very soon, because the staff had just invited a bunch of humans to a Thanksgiving party called “How to Serve a Turkey,” where the turkeys are served their very own vegetarian dinner! The humans who work here don’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs. To them, animals aren’t food.)
On the floor of the kitchen, a volunteer squatted and used two fingers to rub JR the rooster’s wattle in gentle circles. As JR relaxed his feathery body against her jeans, his lentil-size orange eyes closed slightly. It was such a peaceful morning!
But all of a sudden, things changed. The humans started rushing around. The crackling and blaring of their walkie-talkies startled poor, shy Hannah the sheep. They moved fast, and then they all disappeared. Later, I heard about why they’d left.
They drove an hour north, where they met a few police officers who were waiting for them at the edge of an overgrown field. On that field stood a small, shabby barn made of rotting wood. Together they went inside, their round pupils widening in the dark. As their eyes adjusted, they took in a scene they wished they’d be able to forget (and still haven’t).
Two hundred sick goats, cows, and pigs were crammed into the filthy barn. All were starving, weak, and terrified. Twenty more were dead. And there was a lot of poop on the cement floor.
A person known as a “backyard butcher” was responsible for this mess. He had been raising the animals behind his home, selling the female cows’ and goats’ milk, and slaughtering the cows and pigs so he could sell their meat. Obviously, he hadn’t been caring for them.
It was a house of horrors. “The smell alone will give me nightmares,” I heard a human say late that night.
The police had found out about this place three weeks earlier, when a sheep escaped and was hit by a car. The police returned the sheep to the farm and went to check on her the next day. They saw the barn only from the outside, but they didn’t like what little they saw. They called the Hudson Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to help investigate, and the SPCA had to work fast to find a safe home for the animals.
Because the man had not been providing food, water, or medical care, the police arrested him for animal neglect.
The SPCA called our sanctuary and three others in New York State, and staff from all four sanctuaries rushed to help. It was the largest-ever animal rescue in the area!
Four truckloads of animals were taken straight to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s Hospital for Animals in Ithaca, New York. And the humans here at Catskill Animal Sanctuary said they would make room for twenty-seven of the goats—nine males, eighteen females. All the animals were led (or carried) out of that barn into metal trailers attached to trucks, and the journey began.
When they arrived here, some goats were carried from the trailers; some stumbled out on their own. The goats weren’t used to light, and their pupils got small. Some seemed calm and relieved, others stayed skittish and terrified. They were all covered in sores, and many had clumps of hair missing.
None of them had ever known anyplace other than that tiny barn, and they had no way of knowing that good things were coming soon. Many of them must have thought that all humans were even meaner than that troll from the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” story, the one who wouldn’t let the three little goats cross his bridge.
The backyard butcher was the only human they’d ever known, so to them all humans were trolls. I don’t like to speak badly of humans, as all the humans I’ve known have been very good to me. But dare I say that any human who treats animals that way is certainly behaving as a troll would!