The Animal Sanctuary Compassion Tour has officially begun!
Not only was today the first day of the road trip, but it was also the first of more than a dozen sanctuary stops that we have mapped out across Canada and the US.
As soon as we pulled through the gates of the Wishing Well Sanctuary in Bradford, Ontario, the accumulated exhaustion from the weeks of preparation that went into the Tour were instantly replaced with excitement and nervous butterflies.
The visitor’s parking lot is adjacent to the horse paddock, where we saw three beauties happily grazing in the sun. We walked the gravel path to the welcome centre, passing friendly and bright signs that marked the way, and reminded you that chickens were at play.
Art McDonald, Executive Director of Wishing Well Sanctuary, greeted us with a firm handshake and a warm smile. Although he’s only held the title for the past few months, him and his wife had spent the last several years volunteering at Wishing Well and he knows the farm well.
Dumbledore the rooster — one of the two “Wizards of the Well” — struts over to inspect our arrival.
Art gently picks him up to reassure him with a loving stroke of his feathers that we are welcome here.
The sanctuary is home to more than 60 rescued farm animals; animals who arrive here from a variety of situations of neglect, pain or suffering, never leave. Those that arrive to live out their best lives here are cared for through to their natural end and are buried in the cemetery onsite.
On our tour we meet many of the residents. Animals like Lightning the llama who was rescued from a local petting zoo that was selling him for slaughter (petting zoos sell off many of their animals at the end of each season, either because they have grown out of their cuteness, or because the zoo doesn’t want to spend money to feed and shelter them in the off-season).
We also met Butter and Jam, two sweet sheep, who were scheduled to be euthanized after being used by veterinary students for training purposes. And Bali and Kai, two young calfs who were chained in their enclosures destined for slaughter. We spent some time with them at Wishing Well and the two were inseparable — moving between us to nudge for neck rubs all the while lovingly licking one another with kisses (Art tells us that a cow’s tongue is just like a cat’s tongue, except for it being about 20 pounds heavier!).
Among all the animals it was perhaps Gaston (or “Big”) the potbelly pig who stole the show for us. Gaston lives in the goats’ play yard. When he arrived at Wishing Well he was “fat blind”; a blindness that occurs as result of being overweight from a poor diet. Because of his blindness, and because he had never spent time with pigs before, he was unable to pick up on the subtle social cues of the other pigs in the pen, which meant that he was bullied.
Thankfully, Sadie, Patchouli, Ricky and Jinx didn’t mind sharing their yard, which is where he strolled through to greet us with chatty snorts. After Chris offered some friendly pats on the side, Biggie relaxed into a heavy heap on the grass — a not-so-subtle request for a belly rub. To our surprise, Biggie joyfully began purring just like a kitten with each stroke of his belly!
On top of being a rescue centre, Wishing Well Sanctuary is also striving to become a centre for excellence in humane education.
Providing humane education is one of the most important parts of Wishing Well’s work. As a farm with limited space, there are only so many animals they could possibly take in (they are currently unable to accept new animals but have an extensive network with other rescues who all work together to find homes for animals in need).
As an education centre, the hope is that they can empower people to make more humane choices about how animals and humans can live together in peace and harmony.
Their programming gives people from all walks of life information to make informed choices when it comes to how humans relate to animals. They tailor the programs and tours to meet you exactly where you’re at, in a way that is kind and compassionate, so that there is no fear of judgment around asking any questions.
Humane education is as much about how to treat animals with respect as it is to be respectful and compassionate towards humans.
Wishing Well Sanctuary is set in a wonderfully peaceful and serene environment, with lush green pastures, meandering gravel walkways and shady trees. Art hopes that you leave Wishing Well feeling really good about yourself, and inspired about the things you can do in your own environment to help others. “The impact will come from the connection that you have with the animals,” he says.
We ended our tour where it began: at the sanctuary’s peace pole.
Raised at their inaugural open house in 2012, the peace pole represents our interconnectedness on this planet and is inscribed with the the words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in several languages (including paw prints)!
We left Wishing Well feeling a sense of peace and tranquility; a feeling that would serve us well for the next 10,000kms of our journey.
Wishing Well Sanctuary is located in Bradford, Ontario. You can visit during their public tour hours, arrange for a humane education session, and even rent the space for private events like corporate retreats and weddings. Their next public event is the Fabulous Fall Festival open house on October 13.
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.