My road to rescue started where most such things naturally begin: with a rat. At age 7, my mother told me I could finally have my first pet, a hamster. Ecstatic, I went to the pet store to pick out my hamster. But as I held a couple hamsters, who only wanted to pee on me, bite me, or run away from me, a young woman working at the pet store asked me if I had ever considered a rat. My mother and I exchanged looks. A rat? People have pet rats? The young woman explained that rats are wonderful little animals, but no one gives them a chance because they are unfairly judged to be bad and unworthy. I held the rat, and he was sweet. There was no biting, there was no running away. He did pee on me, though. Guess which animal I came home with?
That rat, named Templeton, taught me a lot about how society can treat very differently two species of animal who would seem to be very similar. See, most people did not like Templeton. At all. I had adults tell me they wanted to throw him away, or feed him to a snake. Not only did this hurt me, but it also confused me. They liked hamsters and gerbils, but wanted to kill my sweet rat? The only difference was the way they saw Templeton--and the fact that he was significantly less likely to bite or run away from them than most hamsters and gerbils I had met.
Erin snuggles with Sam.
Erin gets just the right spot on George Harrison Valentino, the world's biggest puppy.
As I got a little older, I noticed that this differential treatment extended to other animals. Why do we love horses but kill cows by the billions? Love dogs but feel nothing for pigs? Find eagles majestic and parakeets cute but see no beauty in chickens and turkeys? Have goldfish and koi as pets but happily suffocate other fish for a 10-minute meal? None of it made any sense to me, and by age 14 I had given up animal products.
Giving up animal products just didn't feel like enough, though. Too many animals were suffering, and someone needed to step up and help them. So, my ambitions grew (much to the frustration of my mother), and I started rescuing animals, mostly rats and mice.
When I graduated college in 1997 and married my husband Chris, my ambitions grew larger, and we took in more rats and mice, but also dogs, ferrets, and cats (cat allergies? What cat allergies? That's what Benadryl is for.) Still none of that felt like enough, so one day I developed even bigger ambitions and announced to Chris that, "We need to make a lot of money. I have to buy at least 100 acres, and it has to have a creek, because I want to open a rescue called Critter Creek Animal Sanctuary." To his credit, he took it in stride. Maybe he hoped I wasn't serious (I was), or that I would forget (I didn't).
Fast forward a few years. Both Chris and I have degrees, I have written a few books, and we are finally in a position where we can look for property. I think Chris mostly wanted a place to ride his mountain bike, but of course I was looking for my Critter Creek. While browsing properties one day, I found a 125-acre forest that even had a huge creek system. (And yes, some nice places for Chris' bike.) Abutting the forest was a farm that would be perfect for rescued animals, and it was for sale, too... for about a zillion dollars. We went ahead with the purchase of the forest, and waited on the farm, hoping the price would come down. Eventually, years later, the price did come down and we were able to buy the farm (more bike trails for Chris).
I now had a place for rescued animals! But... whom to rescue? Dogs? Cats? Exotics? The answer was staring me in the face. I bought a farm. Clearly, I should rescue those animals about whom we so often forget, those who are among the most abused and neglected on the planet: farmed animals. Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary was born. (Crazy hay allergy? What crazy hay allergy? We should buy shares in Benadryl.)
We rescued our first cows in 2016, and we haven't looked back. We now have two facilities totaling 400 acres and a fantastic team of sanctuary workers and volunteers. (We also have a network of bike trails for Chris so he can have some fun after taking care of animals and sanctuary business all day.)
I'm really thankful to my mother for being open-minded enough to allow me to bring home a rat instead of the expected hamster. Like me, she was charmed by sweet Templeton and found it sad how he was unfairly maligned. The lessons I learned from having Templeton in my life at such an early age helped foster compassion and empathy for all animals. These lessons are what would ultimately lead to Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary. So, thanks Mom, and thanks Templeton. (And thanks, Chris--I hope the bike trails, donkeys, and other cute critters make it all worth it. Especially the bike trails.)
Chris uses Lemmy as a big, wooly pillow.