A safe place for the ones who’ve always deserved it, but never had it.
Animal Haven of Asheville was by far my favorite stop we made on our trip wandering about Asheville, NC. When we were in the city, we saw a pop-up stand for an animal rescue. That’s where we learned, from a kind volunteer, about the sanctuary, what they do, and some of the animals that live happily, showered with love and surrounded by safety there.
The sanctuary is located in East Asheville, only 4 miles from downtown. Animal Haven of Asheville is a ten-acre sanctuary and a refuge for not only farm animals, but neglected and abused pets such as cats and dogs as well. I was set on paying a visit to the sanctuary the moment the volunteer at the pop-up station began speaking. Entrance to the sanctuary was absolutely free, though you can always give donations to support their mission.
When we first entered Animal Haven, we were met with some very excited geese who continuously honked at us, inquiring what our business was there, investigating our every move. They were curious and defensive. Typically on smaller farms, these geese are kept with ducks in order to ward off predators such as foxes because they are so aggressive, and I was happy to see that these geese were simply allowed to be themselves, take care of themselves, and do as they pleased.
We strolled carefully from where we encountered the geese to the goats that waited eagerly at the front stoop of a little shaded structure they were cooling off in. When we came up to them, they acted just the way my dog does. They rubbed their heads against us, eager for pets, and loved covering us in kisses.
Many of the animals in this sanctuary had pasts of abuse, neglect, or luckily were able to escape their lives as farmed animals.
When escaping, terrified animals sometimes leaped out of vehicles that were transporting them between farms or to a slaughterhouse.
One situation Animal Haven had was a mother pig and her piglets arriving at Animal Haven severely malnourished, barely alive. Animal Haven nursed the mother and her babies back to good health so they could be strong and live out their lives the way they are meant to, without counting down the days until their lives are stolen from them to be made into meat for humans.
As we walked deeper into the sanctuary, the goats and geese we had befriended at the entrance began to follow us. They continued walking joyfully beside us everywhere we went into the farm, and even tried to squeeze in through the gate that led us to the pigs. We learned that in addition to the rescued ones, some of the goats had grown up at the sanctuary. I saw what being treated with love, respect, and given the space a being needs for an full lifetime can do to an animal. These were the most friendly animals I had ever met and even after spending only 2 hours at the sanctuary, it was heartbreaking to say goodbye to them.
The potbelly pigs that currently live at the sanctuary were some of the happiest animals I’d ever seen. They had a ton of mud to roll about and cool off in, as pigs can’t sweat and cover themselves in mud to escape the heat. When we first walked close to where the pigs lived, we spotted a dark colored pig laying under the shade fast asleep. It really did look like that pig was smiling in their sleep, or at least just really enjoying living the life. They were basking in the sun and wore such a peaceful, happy, and comfortable look.
One of the other potbelly pigs strolled over and we got to watch as that one played in the mud, pushing it with their nose and finally immersing themselves in it. It was beautiful to watch these animals live their lives as they are supposed to, and know that they weren’t kept there for human beings to make profit off of them in any way, rather, to advocate for them.
The two cows that lived at the sanctuary when I visited were Lucy and Elsa. Lucy is an Angus cow who was rescued and Elsa, a blind Hereford cow, has lived at the sanctuary since she was very young. Watching her eat and interact with her surroundings was an emotional experience. I thought about how strong she was, watched her eat grass, somehow still feeling out her surroundings and doing her very best.
We gave Elsa her space, being gentle when petting her back so as to not frighten her too much.
Lucy was extremely friendly, and when we first walked up, her large, rough, black and pink tongue was licking her lips because she had just slurped up some water. She stood still for a while staring at us and licking her face, yet another animal reminding me of my dog at home. As we walked closer, she strutted over to the corner of the gate we were standing at, stationed herself right in front of us, as close as she could get, and stared into our eyes. It was a magical, tear-jerking moment. I saw pages of bravery and compassion shimmering in her eyes. I realized there’s nothing more magical than a cow’s eyes, they are so deep, vast, and large; they truly draw you in, and are absolutely filled with the universe. We reached out to stroke her and she was so gentle with us. She began to lick us with her tongue which tickled quite a bit, and moved in closer so we could reach her easier to give her more love.
Her hair was so soft and she had a little tuft, a mountain of more hair, seated on the center top of her head. If you watched her, you could tell she was really enjoying the pets we were covering her in. Lucy brought her head down lower to the ground as we pet her neck and head, and stayed frozen right there. She looked so serene, and I remembered that dogs do the same thing when they are enjoying being pet. She did not budge from the corner she was standing in, even as we waved goodbye, and had to begin walking away. Leaving was not what I wanted to do right then, and spending moments with Lucy the cow was one of the happiest times of my life, but I knew I couldn’t camp out and hang out there forever.
As we walked away, she continued to stand still, but slowly lifted her head up and turned to stare at us as we trudged, reluctant to go, along the path. She did not take her eyes off of us even as we opened the gate and left that area of the farm. I was enamored at how curious she was about us, and how she said goodbye in her own way too. I didn’t know I could form such a strong bond with someone I met for just a few moments, but it meant the world to me to be able to meet such a sweet, wise, and caring being.
These animals are in so many ways no different from and just as adorable as the pets we love and hold near at home. There is no reason in the world that they should be treated with anything less than all the love, praise, and kindness we shower upon our pets.
So grateful for farm animal sanctuaries like Animal Haven for being a glimmer of hope for the animals our society exploits the most.