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Free to Be Me in need of volunteers to help care for beloved animals

Tours have finally resumed, but there is lots of work to be done at the sanctuary

Although the dozens of vulnerable animals living at Free to Be Me Animal Sanctuary are blissfully unaware that anything is amiss, the humans who care for them have been working tirelessly to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The last couple years were really hard on us,” said Louanne Shropshire, owner and operator of Free to be Me, an animal sanctuary dedicated to the humane treatment of unwanted and abandoned farm animals.

The sanctuary, located on the outskirts of Moose Jaw, is highly dependent on the help of regular volunteers, many of whom were forced to stay home for a number of months due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The pandemic restrictions also forced them to shut down their tours, their primary source of income, and made their usual fundraising events next to impossible, forcing Shropshire and her family to dip into their own pockets just to keep the sanctuary afloat. 

Tours have finally resumed but there is still a long way to go to get things back to the way they were prior to the pandemic. 

“It was really difficult but we made it through, day by day, week by week,” Shropshire said.

Her daughter, son, and husband pitched in to help as much as they could, between their day jobs and other duties.

“Otherwise, I don’t know what we would have done.”

Some weekend volunteers have returned to help out, although more volunteers are needed to handle some of the huge workload, which never stops.

Shropshire is particularly hoping to find more volunteers willing to perform the less glamorous tasks around the property.

“There are lots of fun times with the animals, but we need people here that really want to work, to get down and get dirty,” she stressed.

Volunteers are needed to clean pens, feed and water the animals, as well as keep an eye out for any animals who are sick or injured.

For those unable to perform the more physically demanding tasks, there are plenty of other ways they can help out at Free to Be Me. 

“We need people who will groom them, brush them, spend time with some of them so that they get used to other people besides myself,” Shropshire explained.

There are also plenty of options for potential volunteers who are only able to commit to small tasks here and there, for example picking up produce from the Moose Jaw Co-op. 

“We pick that up just about 365 days of the year, so that would be nice to have somebody do that once in a while,” Shropshire said.

Dropping off extra produce from their gardens is another way to help out, as well as unwrapping and chopping produce in the mornings to get it ready for the animals.

There are currently around 100 animals living at Free to be Me, all of whom with their own special needs and requirements.

Ella the calf, who has no eyeballs, requires almost constant care. She is still bottle-fed and is too afraid to be introduced to the paddock area just yet, so she needs someone to stay with her while she continues to get used to her surroundings.

Another notable resident is a 52-year-old donkey. Shropshire had no idea he was so long in the tooth until she was contacted by the grandchildren of the original owners. They themselves owned the donkey for 35 years prior to his move to Free to be Me. 

“He could be the world’s oldest living donkey!” Shropshire laughed.

Ben the cow is new this year and is quickly becoming a crowd favourite. Shropshire lovingly compares him to The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Ben loves to be hugged and snuggled by visitors. 

As difficult as the last couple of years have been, financially, Shropshire acknowledges that the social aspect of the pandemic hasn’t affected her in the same way as it has so many others.

“I don’t go to town very often — I’ve got all this to keep me busy, so it hasn’t affected me in that way. I felt sorry for people, especially the elderly, who couldn’t get out to see friends and family.” 

Anyone wishing to help out or to book a tour can contact Free to be Me at 306-684-2231. 

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