A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. I know... I'm late posting. But better 'late' than 'never'... and 'late' has given me more time to reflect!
The Catskill Animal Sanctuary is located in Saugerties, NY, just about an hour and 45 minutes from NYC! Close enough that you and your friends/loved ones could easily hop in a car and spend a few hours there.
This sanctuary has a lot of great visiting options. Not only can you take tours for a small fee, you can instead purchase a day pass which includes a tour, AND allows you to freely roam the farm from 11am to 3pm. In my opinion, the day pass is so worth it. Join in on an early tour (depending on availability), and learn about the farm, the work CAS is doing, and bond with some animals. After the tour, you can freely roam and spend some personal time observing the animals, taking photos, and reflecting.
Though with the day pass you cannot enter any of the animals spaces, that doesn't mean you won't have any animal interaction! CAS has what they call the "underfoot" family. While many of the animals on the farm are allowed to freely roam Monday through Friday, on days of tours, some are housed in pastures for their safety. However, that doesn't include the goats! This free-ranging herd of goats travels as a tight knit group and can be seen peacefully exploring the place they call home. The goats are very happy to have visitors walk up to them and show them some love while they graze along the paths, so don't forget to give them a pat or a scratch behind the ear when they pass you by!
While a regular public tour or day pass are both fantastic options, we decided to take CAS up on the opportunity to attend a Break All the Rules tour... and let me tell you, it was more than I could have ever asked for. The tour we took was lead by none other than the founder herself, Kathy Stevens! Kathy was friendly, personable, and you could really tell how passionate she was about all of the work that the sanctuary does! Not only do you get the pleasure to hear the stories straight from the person that started the whole operation, she takes you behind the scenes. She guided us through the main barn where many animals sleep, or recover from sickness/injuries. She took us into a few different pastures, where we got to meet 3 different cows (Blossom, Benjamin, and fan favorite , Tucker). We were allowed to go into the pig barn and meet a few different pigs, we met a few horses (special shout out to Buddy!) and last but not least we met some chickens and turkeys!
Now, Tucker is not someone that I can just mention once and then never mention again. Tucker is kind, gentle, affectionate, polite... need I say more? Kathy was waiting behind for the last few tour attendees to say goodbye to Blossom and Benjamin, and just told us to go ahead and meet Tucker. "Go on ahead, I don't need to be there with you guys. Tucker is a puppy dog" Kathy said. So on we went. She wasn't kidding! Tucker was curled up on the ground at the top of a hill overlooking the whole farm. He picked his head up as we approached, but once he spotted us, he remained lying down, relaxed. He welcomed the love, hugs, and pets that we all gave him. I have never in my life met a more gentle being, and I will remember that experience forever.
There were a few people on the tour with us that had never been around farm animals like this before - up close and personal. It was amazing hearing the joy in their voices and the amazement they felt when meeting these gentle giants. That feeling of petting an animal that is normally viewed of as food, and sensing the love and happiness they exude is what makes sanctuaries so special.
Sanctuaries are a space of comfort, safety, education, and a chance to start anew. Leaving CAS I felt at peace. Each time I leave an animal sanctuary, I reflect on the animals that were rescued and what they went through. In doing so, I'm filled with a new sense of pride, of determination, and of happiness. Those feelings are more than enough to help me continue on this life path I have chosen for myself and for that, I'm incredibly grateful to all of those that are putting in their time, love, and effort to saving lives of those that deserve it the most.