A Day in the Life of an Animal Caregiver
It’s 6:30 am on a Sunday morning. The sun starts to break through the haze of the night sky and the birds in the trees awaken from their slumber. As the sanctuary springs to life with the sounds of animals waking, Rachel is already one step ahead of them. Rachel is a full-time animal caregiver and has been with Animal Place for seven months. Unlike others, Rachel doesn’t rely upon caffeine to help her get out of bed in the morning. Instead, her passion and drive to help the animals is the only motivation she needs to start her day.
When I met up with Rachel, she was already getting ready for the morning feedings. We started our day in the pig feed-yard to give the pigs their breakfast. Needless to say, I was VERY excited to see them eat their first meal of the day! The pigs were behind their gate while Rachel and I lined up bowl after bowl after bowl until there was a bowl for each pig. We then divided three buckets of pig food between all the bowls, so each pig had their own meal to feast upon. When the time came for them to eat, I exited the area and watched in awe as Rachel rang a cowbell to summon the pigs and opened the gate. In that moment, all the pigs came barreling down past the gate toward their bowls and began to devour their morning meal. What an amazing sight to see, and the day was only beginning!
The next stop was a visit to the goats and sheep. Each of the goats who needed it received their medication and we observed 14-yr-old Opal’s limp, which she is being medically monitored for. Rachel explained to me that animal care rates the severity of the limp in order to keep accurate track of her progress. Today, her limp was showing some improvement. After visiting with the goats, we ventured to the sheep barn to monitor their nasal discharge. Springtime is not only allergy season for people, but our animals also show signs of allergies, with nasal discharge being a common symptom. Rachel kept accurate notes on each of the sheep in order to document in each animal’s medical record.
After our visit with the sheep was complete, we stopped at the rabbit barn to open their outside door and allow them access to the fresh grass in the yard. We also lifted the curtains to maintain temperature regulation within the barn. Each of the bunnies were so excited to go outside and I watched their tails bounce up and down as they hopped toward the yard. Before heading to the chicken barn, we headed to our second pig barn for some more feeding action with resident pigs Aly, Bert, and Rock.
Since our chickens are currently in quarantine due to the outbreak of Newcastle disease in Southern California, we at Animal Place are taking special care to ensure that there is no risk of contamination with our birds. I watched Rachel from a distance as she put on a Tyvek isolation suit and soaked her boots in disinfectant. She then proceeded to prep the medications for the birds. Rachel then administered electrolytes to the birds receiving medical treatment and documented all of her actions in detailed notes before removing her suit and exiting the barn. It’s a tough job, but Rachel does it all with a smile!
Next, we visited resident celebrity Wilbur the pig to administer his daily pain medication, which he took very well! After giving Wilbur a lot of love, we headed back to the Animal Care Room (ACR) to record our notes for each of the tended animals before heading back out to feed the cows. We fed the male cows first, then the female cows, and lastly, our special herd of five growing teenage cows. Everyone was so happy to receive their breakfast and it was such a delight to watch them munch on the fresh, crunchy grass hay.
After all of our morning feeding and med checks were complete, we began cleaning! Our first area to clean was the potbelly barn, followed by the donkey yard. After cleaning, we stopped by to say hello again to Wilbur and provide him with his morning meal. When we left Wilbur’s barn, I was told that we were going to trim some of the pig’s feet, which I couldn’t wait to see! Rachel and I then walked back to the pig barn where I watched her carefully trim Hazel, Angi, Cleo, Hedy, and Mishka’s feet. We then traveled back to our second pig barn to give Aly, Bert, and Rock their daily pedicures.
Our day came to a close when we went to give Wilbur one more round of snuggles before trimming his feet, then reported to the ACR to document the remainder of our notes. For Rachel, this day was different from the rest, as each day holds new and exciting tasks for animal care staff. This is one of the things Rachel reported liking most about her job – the fact that no day is the same as the one before. Rachel also values the connections she makes with not only the animals, but with all of the staff, volunteers, and guests who visit the sanctuary. It’s because of people like Rachel that our animals receive the best care possible and our sanctuary operations run smoothly.
Thank you for your dedication, passion, and hard work Rachel! You are amazing! 😊
– Brenda Rynders, volunteer coordinator