That’s right! We’ve been busy taking care of more than 60 animals we rescued last month from a horrifying case of extreme neglect in Western New York. Much to our surprise, two of the emaciated girls are actually pregnant and will soon give birth! As you can imagine, the excitement is building here as we prepare for these new arrivals. These soon-to-be-moms are in for the most pleasant surprise of their lives, because they will get to keep their babies!
What We Expect When We’re Expecting
It’s not uncommon for us to take in pregnant animals, especially from farms that are using the mothers to breed and then selling the babies for slaughter. Most rescued animals are initially fearful of people, and pregnancy can often increase this stress. Cows, pigs, sheep, and goats who have had baby after baby taken from them just after birth —often without ever being able to touch or comfort their young — are especially anxious when pregnant. Prior to their rescue, most of these animals have been locked in a constant cycle of pregnancy and birth to satisfy the demands of meat and milk consumers. This takes an emotional toll on the mothers.
When we rescued 60 pigs, most of them gestation sows, from the devastating Midwest floods of 2008, the mothers, many arriving in late-term pregnancy, were the most fearful. After the babies arrived and the mothers realized we were not removing the piglets but, in fact, were helping them, these girls became some of the sweetest pigs I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. To this day, Nikki, the sow who inspired so many by delivering and caring for her babies on a flood-ravaged levy, is one of the best mothers on our shelter. Four years later, she still prepares a nest for her brood each night, settling down with her 600-pound babies Chuck, Ellen, and Portia.
Nikki with her babies on the levee during the Midwest floods of 2008.
Safe at our New York Shelter, every night Nikki still cares for her children and carries straw to build a bed for her family to sleep in.
We witnessed something similar again last year when we rescued a group of goats who arrived at our sanctuary wary, emaciated, and soon to give birth. We watched over these expectant mothers 24/7 to help them through their complicated, high-risk deliveries. Marjorie, who was one of the sickest of this group, gave birth to her baby Gabriel within a few weeks of the rescue. Because Marjorie had been so neglected, Gabriel’s birth was difficult, and he too was sickly, underweight and premature.
A doting mother, Marjorie comforted Gabriel through his illnesses. Even now that he has grown into a strong, healthy adult, the two continue to sleep with their heads touching every night. Gabriel was the smallest of the kids born to the family herd, and he still hides behind his brave mom when another goat gets a little rough during play. Ever protective, Marjorie lets the ruffian know that no one messes with her little boy.
And then there’s Fanny. When we found her at a stockyard, this “spent” dairy cow was desperately ailing from a life of milk production and the effects of egregious neglect. Like all dairy cows in production, every calf Fanny had delivered had been taken from her. Fortunately, we were able to revive Fanny and bring her to our New York Shelter, where she later met Orlando, Arnold, Tweed, Conrad and Milbank.
Male dairy calves are deemed useless byproducts of the dairy industry, and these boys had been sold at auction for a few dollars each just after birth. Their buyer intended to raise a group of 11 calves for cheap beef, but when the youngsters contracted pneumonia, he decided to shoot them instead, killing six before authorities intervened. Though skinny, malnourished and sickly when rescued, with proper care, Orlando and his friends were soon thriving. And, when they met Fanny, they discovered a bond that had been denied to them from their first moments of life. The mother who had never known her calves and the calves who had never known their mothers claimed each other at once. Fanny is devoted to her adopted sons, and they bask in her affection!
Nikki, Marjorie, Fanny and many other mothers came to our sanctuary abused, neglected and terrified. By providing them with loving care, we have been rewarded with their friendship and with the joy of seeing the enduring relationships between these mothers and their children—natural and adopted. Witnessing these bonds only strengthens our resolve for rescuing these animals and our commitment to sharing their individual stories with the world. When given a chance, every animal can teach us about love and family.
Stay tuned for a more detailed introduction to our new mothers-to-be in an updated post next week!