Zeya Wagner, Animal caregiver, Charlie's Acres Sanctuary. Sonoma, CA.
Sanctuary work is some of the most difficult, but also most rewarding work I've ever been a part of. Every day you see animals who have been abused, hurt, traumatized. Sometimes you are too late to help. What makes all this worth it, though, is the animals you can help. Being able to witness the transformation of animals who arrived fearful and sick, slowly gain confidence and health, that's what motivates me to work at a sanctuary.
When Bella, a potbelly pig, arrived at Charlie's Acres, she was about two years old and could barely walk. In her previous life as a pet, she had been overfed to the point that fat rolls covered her eyes, rendering her effectively blind. Her belly dragged on the ground, and she had developed joint problems due to the excess weight. Because she couldn't see, or move to defend herself, Bella was fearful of humans and other animals. For the first several months at Charlie's Acres, Bella refused to come out of her stall to join the other pigs outdoors. I spent a lot of time just sitting with Bella, talking to her, and gradually gaining her trust. In time, she learned to follow the sound of my voice (and the smell of her breakfast!) and we slowly made progress toward the door of her stall, then the barn aisle, and finally outside. Bella has lost a substantial amount of weight, and while she still can't see, she now navigates confidently between the barn and the outdoor yard she shares with two other pigs. Bella has a long way to go before her transformation is complete, but seeing the weight she's lost and the confidence she's gained so far has been incredibly rewarding.