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Animal sanctuary optimistic about 2022 despite tough past year

Free To Be Me Sanctuary is located on the outskirts of Moose Jaw and dedicated to the humane treatment of unwanted and abandoned farm animals.

It was a tough year for Free To Be Me Animal Sanctuary, as some beloved animals died and holding fundraisers was difficult, but new opportunities could be on the horizon.

“We’re doing OK. We’re hanging in there. Everybody’s doing OK,” said Luanne Shropshire, owner and operator of the sanctuary. “We have a few more volunteers, so that’s helped us a lot. … I think we’ve got enough hay for the season.”

Pandemic restrictions forced the organization to shut down tours — its primary source of income — early in the year, while hosting the usual fundraising activities was impossible. Shropshire and her family dipped into their pockets to keep the sanctuary afloat.

Tours finally resumed — the hot weather kept many people away — while Shropshire and her team worked through the issues and have turned their faces to 2022.

The sanctuary — located on the outskirts of Moose Jaw and dedicated to the humane treatment of unwanted and abandoned farm animals — is currently selling calendars. Anyone interested in purchasing one can phone 306-684-2231.

Several well-loved animals died this year, such as Bell the llama, 16, and Willis the goat, 14. Both died in their sleep and were normal healthy animals. 

The organization has about 75 animals, such as pigs, horses, llamas, ostriches, and cows. Each has a special name, while about 10 have physical disabilities. 

Two notable acquisitions this year were a calf born with no eyes and a healthy sheep whose mother abandoned it at birth. 

“We couldn’t take in too many animals this year because of a shortage of hay. We have to make sure that our animals are all taken care of, the ones we have,” said Shropshire, who was unhappy to turn away animals this year. “And we have to make sure we can keep our commitment to them (and pay the vet bills).”

A few well-known animals are doing well even if they are getting up there in age, she continued.

Bugsy is a 53-year-old donkey and is as healthy as can be. However, the sanctuary staff is keeping an eye on him since he’s “not as bouncy as he once was.” Meanwhile, several big pigs keep visitors entertained, such as Gracie, who can open gates on her own.

The porcine recently opened a gate into the paddock, which allowed a bull to enter and cause mischief, forcing staff to pull him out again. Shropshire noted that they would have to wrap the chain around the fence better next time to prevent that from happening.

“Yes, (Gracie is) very crafty,” she chuckled. 

The organization also struggled to find volunteers this year, mainly because many were forced to stay home because of pandemic restrictions. Some weekend volunteers returned throughout the year, while several more stepped forward in December after learning about the need for help.

“We’ve got some good volunteers now. That really helped us a lot because of the handicapped animals — they take extra care,” said Shropshire. “But you still have to do your chores and cleaning and all the fun stuff that needs to be done.”

The sanctuary owner hoped that the organization could hold more fundraisers in 2022 and acquire more valuable hay feed for the animals.