With less than two weeks to go in the Animal Sanctuary Compassion Tour, we traced the outskirts of Portland, Oregon to head to Washougal, Washington. Our eleventh stop on the tour was Odd Man Inn, home to Josh and Wendy Smith and nearly 100 rescued farm animals.
Wendy and their dog Roswell greet us at the gate. In a lot of ways, Roswell was the inspiration for the Odd Man Inn being a home and refuge for otherwise unwanted animals. The Smiths adopted Roswell from a no-kill shelter. He had a serious bite history and fear-based aggression but the Smiths wanted to give him the home he deserved, so they bought a piece of property where he could be rehabilitated. That property quickly became a refuge for farm animals, and in 2015 the Odd Man Inn became a registered non-profit.
Wendy’s smile is infectious and she seems so genuinely happy to welcome us to the sanctuary. Wendy had to spend her day off from being a full-time nurse to tend to the sanctuary’s daily chores while Josh, who is the sanctuary’s full-time (unpaid) groundskeeper and animal handler, was at an emergency vet appointment.
We meet Jazz, one of the volunteers, who would show us around the sanctuary and guide us through our chores for the day.
Jazz takes us past the Smith’s house to our first workstation. On the way, we pass the volunteers’ whiteboard, which proudly displays the number of animals that have been adopted out at 239 and counting. We catch a glimpse of our tasklist for the day, which reads “boxes, poops, sort food/make dinners.”
Our first task is to crush the empty cardboard boxes that have piled up next to the garage. The boxes were from fresh produce pick ups or donations, and it takes thirty minutes between the three of us just to flatten them out and pile them into stacks ready for recycling. Tedious as the task may be, it gives us a real taste of some of the daily work requirements needed to keep a sanctuary running safely, smoothly and sustainably.
“Poops” is exactly what it sounds like: walking around picking up poop. Because most of the animals roam free, their droppings are spread across the sanctuary’s four acres. The three of us fan out in rows, with scoopers, rakes and wheelbarrows in tow. Picking up poop is another daily task that helps keep the sanctuary life clean and safe. It also gives us a chance to meet all the animals and learn some of their stories.
The Odd Man Inn believes everyone deserves a forever home. Their mission is to take in farm animals that have been neglected, who have behavioural issues, who are destined for slaughter or who have outgrown their previous homes.
The clever play on words in the sanctuary’s name is demonstrated by the sweet and quirky animals we meet during our visit. From Lucy, the goose who squawked the entire time we were crushing boxes to Hooper the once-blind pig with a biting habit, it’s clear there’s no animal too challenging for Wendy, Josh and the volunteers at Odd Man Inn.
We pass Popcorn and Goose, two cows who were by-products of a dairy milk farm, are lovingly referred to as “grass puppies” because of how playful they are. We stop outside of the quarantine pen – a private space for animals who for behaviour or health reasons aren’t quite ready to be socialized with the other residents – to say hello to Hopper and his pig pals Alligator and Boogeyman from a respectful distance.
Lounging in the sun we find mama and kid goat Esmeralda and Toby. Esmeralda arrived at Odd Man Inn 30 lbs overweight. Her previous owner thought she was too old and had decided to have her euthanized, while at the same time fattening Toby up for slaughter. Thankfully, the owner had a change of heart and contacted Odd Man Inn for help, who showed up at the same time that the vet was on scene to euthanize Esmeralda. The previous owner agreed to surrender them both so they could live out their lives together and that’s what they continue to do. Toby roams nearby as Esmeralda, who was put on a healthy diet to lose the weight, and is given arthritis medication to improve her mobility, has plenty of years left in her.
In addition to the green pastures and manicured grounds, Odd Man Inn’s quirky upcycled structures are designed to make the animals feel right at home, even though as a non-profit, every structure has to be removable. The chicken coops and rooster quarantines even have vintage chandeliers lighting the spaces. The fencing around the property was built by hand from recycled palettes.
Part-way through poop patrol, we pass through the big pig pasture, where most of the sanctuary’s meat industry pigs roam free. We stop to meet Jolene, an orange-haired pig who gently leans in for a back rub. She was named after the Dolly Parton song in recognition of her attention-seeking nature. In no time at all, she lays down for a belly rub and contentedly accepts Nicole’s steady strokes. They spend several moments in silence, but Nicole can’t help but feel that Jolene is thanking her for more than the attention. The experiencing is deeply healing and Nicole is moved to tears by Jolene’s soft and loving demeanor.
Jazz tells us they’ve been volunteering with Odd Man Inn for the past 8 months. Previously a volunteer activist with the Cube of Truth, Jazz wanted to connect with rescued animals directly. They say vegan activists visit the sanctuary as a place of refuge, to restore their faith in the tireless and sometimes traumatizing work that they do. Spending time with animals that have been rescued from slaughter is therapeutic and a much-needed reminder of how even changing one animal’s life is worth the effort of activism.
Wendy returns from her errands and we learn about their adoption program. Odd Man Inn has a wide network of foster homes, potential adoptees, and a rigorous adoption process. When they first started as a sanctuary, they hadn’t considered creating an adoption program. At a seminar on animal sanctuaries, Wendy and Josh’s perspective changed when they learned about the work of Best Friends Animal Society.
“Basically what we heard was ‘If you don’t have an adoption program, you’re doing nothing for the (animal welfare) movement’,” recalled Wendy.
“We realized that we can help so many more animals if we find homes for them— we can’t have 350 animals here, but we can help 350 animals with an adoption program.”
Shortly after, they became proud members of Best Friends’ partner network, and base their adoption program on their standards and guidelines. Wendy and Josh spend hours with potential adoptees reviewing application forms and performing home visits to make sure an animal’s future home will be the right fit.
Wendy believes firmly that farmed animals are worthy of being cared for like any pet. “A dog is a goose is a pig is a cow,” she says.
“You can adopt any animal as long as you have the right space for them.”
Even with all that due diligence, sometimes adoptions don’t work out. That’s why The Odd Man Inn has a no-fail policy built into their contracts, requiring adoptees to return the animals if they can no longer care for them.
“Our overall goal is to place as many animals as we can, if we can get them to be rehabilitated,” says Wendy. “If they can’t be rehabilitated for adoption, Odd Man Inn becomes their forever home.”
Odd Man Inn also strives to be a place where non-vegans can come and make a connection with the animals without being judged, without feeling attacked, and where they can ask questions openly and be respected.
“The animals are a better advocate for their own kind than humans could ever be,” she adds.
We end our rounds with meal prep in the garage. Boxes of fresh produce are stacked floor-to-ceiling, and we sort everything into categories. Food that is rotten is thrown away, as are any foods that can be harmful to the animals (when it comes to accepting donations from grocery stores, Odd Man Inn takes whatever they’re offered). Fruits and vegetables then get grouped into categories before we assemble them into healthy portions for each kind of animal.
The irony that the animals thrive on a vegan diet isn’t lost on us.
The sick, the “feral”, and the forgotten makeup many of the furry and feathered residents of Odd Man Inn. We left with dirty hands and happy hearts knowing that every bit of effort is worth the reward of saving a life.
Odd Man Inn is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit farm animal shelter located in Washougal, Washington. Visit their website to support their work or adopt an animal.
This article is part of a series from The Animal Sanctuary Compassion Tour; The Seva Life’s 10,000-kilometer road trip across Canada and the United States to visit and volunteer at animal sanctuaries and raise awareness about compassionate living.