On a -35° winter night, packed in the back of a pickup truck, two hearty Finngoats made their way to a new home, a new sanctuary. A pot bellied pig who was left behind on the farm where she had been boarded, after her owner couldn’t, or wouldn’t, maintain her care. One hundred and fifty pounds overweight, the scared pig had no trust for those humans around her.
Cows who were supposed to provide enrichment at a middle school could find no safe harbor at the institute themselves. The multitude of roosters, who come in the same box as the new egg-laying hens but can’t stay on the farm.
Where do animals who have no home left for them go? For some lucky critters, the answer is they find themselves in the loving care of Patrick, at Cloa’s Ark Animal Sanctuary.
An animal sanctuary is a place where injured, left behind, or otherwise displaced animals can go to live out the rest of their lives in relative peace. Where they are sheltered, and allowed to just be normal critters. That being said, taking care of animals is no small project, as Patrick can attest. It takes time, money, and a selfless devotion to the wellbeing of other living creatures. For so very many reasons, people take on animals they can’t continue to care for. Some come from hard or abusive situations and others from incredibly loving homes. From families who know they can’t do right by their furry friends, but want them to have the best life they can. That’s where Animal Sanctuaries come in, it’s not a new idea, but the need is ever present.
Patrick, and his wife Cloa, weren’t always in this “business”. It found them. In 2002, a year after they met, they were given a cockatiel to babysit. When they took him home and opened the cage the 17 year old bird was so excited to be flying around that Patrick promised never to make them live in a small cage again. Their first charge passed away not long after, but the experience changed Patrick, he followed his wife’s footsteps and went vegan. That started the rescue, first parrots in their condo then soon followed by hens and rabbits.
In 2007 they then went on to get a job at a private middle school, and worked there for 2 years. But after witnessing the hardships upon the animals, they found it hard to deal with. They were given some of the animals and left with them, and in 2009 their non-profit was born to support their work. Their sanctuary started in Eastern MA, only landed in Hadly 5 years ago. For the interim decade they moved upwards of seven times, with their beloved animals.
Now, finally finding a slice of land in Hadley, the pair have continued their work. Here they’ve built a peaceful place for their charges to explore and enjoy. The sanctuary is divided into different sections where the animals who get along best can socialize together while avoiding any conflicts. There is the wide open space for the oldest and youngest goats, they love people and interacting together, there is a section for those loner skittish goats who like to eat separately, and an area that houses the teen goats who enjoy some more active forms of play.
There are spaces for the roosters, together they can be happy and comfortable but too many in the wrong spaces and they can be overbearing and aggressive. Knowing how and where animals can be safe and comfortable is all a part of the job.
But the Sanctuary is a non-profit, a sector that struggles without help and support from their community. Unfortunately, money isn’t going to fall from the sky.
They have to do a lot of work to keep things moving, and with all the donations they put the animals first. Which means they don’t really spend a lot of money on themselves. They get everything they can from donations, even human food (including state issued food stamps), but they have no tv, Patrick uses a free phone, there is no traveling, no credit cards, everything possible comes from the generosity of other people. It’s hard to believe it can work, but as Patrick says: “If you do it one year and it works out that’s an accident, but when it’s worked for a decade it’s not a coincidence.”
When other sanctuaries, like those from Boston, are full they send animals around to other sanctuaries. Luckily they also come with donation money to help, this is an important element to the process.
As he’s settled into this new home he knows more people, and where to get a little better price on hay or feed, and though it seems like a little it really adds up when every dollar counts and goes so far. And with the new land, the sanctuary has taken on up to about 100 new creatures in the last year. He has set a cap at 300 animals, and they are edging that line at around 287. Five or six years ago he wouldn’t have believed he could handle the influx. As it stands he has full confidence that everyone will get the attention they need at that cap, without a dedicated volunteer crew though he is unwilling to exceed it.
Even now Patrick makes the trip across the bridge, from their apartment, multiple times a day. They don’t have the 50 ft of roadside access they would need to build a permanent residence. But for now, that is alright. They would need capital to build on the land, and a few more barriers would need to shift before they could even take advantage. But that doesn’t stop them from dreaming. If they could find the way forward then living on the land would help immensely, but for now the next project in sight is a Pet Cafe!
One of the most common calls he receives, especially since Dakin in Leverett closed, is for cats (and household pets). Currently they have two kitties who live with them in their home, but there are so many more looking for a home or even simple interaction. The imagined space would combine socializing with the animals with food, drink, art (Patrick’s previous occupation was framing and selling art), and music in a community maintained space. The hardest part of this vision being the physical space to house the Cafe, as brick and mortar locations are always upkeep intensive. But the idea is about showing love to those who need it, on both sides of the equation.
Patrick has been asked if he’s worried that he’s getting too old, and too tired to keep this up. But for him the animals give an incredible energy “I’m not tired!” He says they love him so much that he gets energy from their love. It makes him want to get up in the morning. They changed how he experiences the world, he would never have seen himself getting up like this. It’s that love that he wants to share, through his sanctuary and through the idea of the Cafe.
When the animals are feeling safe they aren’t aggressive or afraid, they don’t care who you are. It doesn’t matter your shape, it’s what you have inside. Patrick says the rest is all labels, but inside we experience connections, we have the same origin, and it can be exceptionally sweet to create these connections with animals.
If you’d like to contact Patrick or visit Cloa’s Ark you can call him or email:
Cloa’s Ark Animal Sanctuary
23 Lawrence plain rd
Hadley, MA 01035
To find more information check out their Website: Here
*If you think you know of animals in need or even just a place to stay, the Sanctuary does some animal boarding. As long as there is some money for food and boarding then he is happy to board for a period of time. They can’t take a ton of additional animals at this point but he knows many people who can help, take them in or know where there is space for them.