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Five Survivors who beat long odds with us

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Once again, the Sakonnet Times dropped in to catch-up and see how our rescues we're doing. And not only do they report on it, but they put us on the front page of the paper. We LOVE when they do that. The original article can be seen here (with subscription) and the full content is below.

Five survivors who beat long odds at West Place Animal Sanctuary


TIVERTON — All five had demonstrated a “failure to thrive,” of one degree or other — rescuers and veterinarians use the term to describe animals for whom the ailments are overwhelming and the prognosis is bleak at best.

But all five found their way to Tiverton’s West Place Animal Sanctuary and, against all odds, are alive and well today.

Here are their updates ...


Peepers the turkey turned nine last week and has now almost surely outlived all of her siblings (wild turkeys typically live three to five years; domestic turkeys can survive to age six to ten).

That she lived one week is astounding.

Golfers in Bristol found the bird out on the links alone and barely able to move at two or three days old.

West Place Animal Sanctuary Executive Director Wendy Taylor said that, “to their credit,” the men put the “duckling, that’s what they thought it was,” in a lunch pailwith water and delivered it to West Place. “They were so proud.”

Ms. Taylor said it’s likely that the mother wild turkey abandoned this youngster for the sake of the rest of the brood. “Mothers have a tuned-in sense for which of their young can survive and they must use their time and energy on those that have a chance.”

This mother knew what she was

doing. Tiny as she was — about an inch and a half — it was clear that this turkey was in trouble.

“All of her toes were completely distorted — her feet looked more like mangled claws, her toes pointed to the side and curled inward.” Surely she could never walk on these.

In hopes of straightening things out, they made tiny cardboard shoes for Peepers to which they tightly taped her feet.

“But every time we took the tape off her feet would curl back up again.”

Somehow, though, as she grew, she figured out how to walk in a way unique to her, and “she walks

to this day.”

Destined to walk on the sides of her feet, she developed callouses in all the necessary places.

“Today she follows us about, she even runs.”

Those feet were only the start of Peepers’ medical woes.

One day, while still very young, she broke a leg. A veterinarian fitted her “with a great big hot dog of

a cast.” At first she had to be placed within a blow up baby “donut” to keep her upright, even while she


Six weeks later, the leg had mended and Peepers could walk once more.

Then she broke a wing. “She was crying and dragging her wing on the ground.” Ms. Taylor stretched

the wing out and wrapped it tightly to her body. A veterinarian diagnosed the obvious — Peepers is


Not long after that they noticed that her other leg had started to “migrate” and was soon pointing behind her. “When she walked, she dragged the leg behind her like a crab.”

A veterinarian was reluctant to operate. Peepers’ chance of surviving the surgery was no better

than 10 percent, he said. And birds don’t do anesthesia well. Perhaps now was the time to

euthanize, it was suggested —

“She has seen death many times over the years ... she’d had a good run.” But Ms. Taylor refused.

“I was more attached to Peepers than I should have been — maybe it was the lawyer in me but I had to win this.

Reluctantly, the veterinarian performed the surgery. Hours after the hospital had closed for

the night, Ms. Taylor’s phone rang.

“When I heard who it was I knew it was all over.” Except that the night attendant

who had called said, “You can come in and pick your bird up." And not for burial, as she

assumed. Peepers was in recovery.

Ms. Taylor sometimes wonders whether she would go to such lengths today, knowing what she does now about animal rescue.“ Would I go through all that work to save a handicapped turkey for nine years?” It’s a hard question.

“Our mission is to save as many as we can,” and devoting extraodinary resources to one creature

limits to some degree what can be done for others.

“But I wouldn’t trade Peepers for anything.”

And how does Peepers show her gratitude for West Place’s heroics on her behalf?

“Let’s just say she has a turkey personality — especially with me. They are feisty, they chase you

around, they peck you, but she saves most of that for me.”

“With others she is a little more stand-offish.” though she likes to follow tour crowds at a short distance.

Visitors “all know that curious turkey with the funny feet. She is a

great ambassador."

Just Johnny

Just Johnny the 33-year-old horse, made headlines last January when he slipped in the snow

and ice and couldn’t get up.

Leaving his stall, he slid down a hill and wound up wedged against a fence. West Place staff and volunteers couldn’t budge him and he was getting dangerously cold, so Ms. Taylor called the Tiverton

Fire Department. Using fire hose slings and muscle power, they managed to hoist him up and safely back into the barn.

Since then, getting stuck has been a regular thing for Johnny.

“He did it yesterday,” Ms. Taylor said Thursday. “Sometimes he does it twice a day. He doesn’t so

much fall as he lies down to rest and can’t get up again.”

The second time it happened last January, Ms. Taylor and her husband managed to get him up

but the effort left both with bad backs. So when Johnny got himself stuck a day later, “I called our

landscaper, Tiger Tree — Jim Pelletier. I asked him, ‘Do you have a crew that can help me lift a


Minutes later Mr. Pelletier and a couple of brawny employees arrived to gently help the heavy

horse back to his feet.

None of this sounded promising to the veterinarian who predicted that Johnny wouldn’t live to see

spring. But that was before a change of medications and what “all of our volunteers now know as the ‘Johnny protocol,’” for positioning Johnny with feet downhill so that he’s able to get himself back on his feet by himself.

“This summer he looks better than he has in years, walks several miles a day — we make him go out

of the stall and walk since he can get lazy.”

Jack and Diane

To say that pigs Jack and Diane were overweight was to be kind. Seized by the RISPCA from a

cruelty case in Johnston (their former owner was arrested), they were literally blinded by fat when

they arrived at West Place.

“The fat on their foreheads pushed their eyes shut — there was no way they could open

them,” Ms. Taylor said. What’s more, they couldn’t stand.

A diet of nothing but stale doughnuts, refuse from a local shop, “will do that to you. They

were overfed and under-nourished."

Life in Tiverton in Tiverton brought abrupt changes. First off, “No more doughnuts.”

“Now it’s fruits and vegetables. It took a bit to figure out what they liked — for some reason they won’t

eat broccoli,” but they are taking to most of the healthy fare.

Then came exercise. Getting pigs that can’t see to

work out was a challenge.

“But pigs like human interaction and they listen to the sound of our voices.”

They figured out that if they talked to the pigs, the pigs would follow the sound. “So now we talk to

them and walk backwards and, sure enough, the pigs follow right along.”

Since their arrival, the weight has fallen off fast. “I can see the wrinkles in their faces now ... Just

the other day I could see their eye lids for the first time” — bit by bit they are regaining their sight.

And not only can they get up on their own but “they are running and even jumping up on stumps.”

Barnaby — A new arrival

New to West Place this spring is a lucky-to-be-alive lamb from East Providence.

East Providence Police were investigating a property “when they heard a lamb crying.” They found the creature outside — “no shelter, no mother, no food, no water ...”

“These kind officers brought the lamb (which they named Barnaby) back to the station,” and put in

a call to West Place to see if the sanctuary had room for a lamb.

When they delivered Barnaby, they told Ms. Taylor that the owner had actually called police to get his

lamb back.

“He told them, ‘I didn’t need to feed it because I was going to slaughter it for Easter.’”

“Just amazing,” Ms. Taylor said.

Barnaby will be fed well from now on and needn’t fear a trip to the slaughterhouse, she added.

Sanctuary, not adoption center

Visitors often ask whether they can adopt some of the West Place Animal Sanctuary residents, Ms.

Taylor said. Several sheep rescued from the Westport cruelty case drew lots of adoption interest.

“They mean well and we appreciate the offers but the answer is no — we don’t turn them back to

the public." While those inquiries come from well-meaning people who might do a fine job, many of the

animals in their care have medical or behavioral issues that might prove overwhelming (West Place

has a 75-member corps of volunteers and assistance from veterinarians, grocers, donors and others), she said.

And if caring for an adopted animal proved too difficult, “we would really have no control over what

might happen to that animal next,” she said.

Places that have helped West Place with feeding the pigs include:

• Tom’s Market in Tiverton (through Alexis, in produce)

• Roger Williams University, Bayside (through Chef Nate)

• “A” Market in Newport (through one of West Place’s volunteers, Dawn).

How to help

For information on how you can help, visit the West Place Animal Sanctuary website or email west


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