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A Year of Tough Goodbyes; Two Decades of Second Chances

When Catskill Animal Sanctuary opened in 2001, we couldn’t have known how many lives, both human and non-human, would change forever. Our organization started with mighty aspirations, high hopes, and an unyielding desire to change the world for animals. Now, looking back after two decades full of rescue and education, we’re humbled by the love we’ve experienced, witnessed, and nurtured for twenty years. 

This year, though, has tested us immensely. We’ve always known that the time would come when our aging population of rescued farmed animals—some of whom had been with us for more than fifteen years—would begin to leave us in rapid succession. And while loss is an inevitable part of Sanctuary life, nothing can fully prepare one’s heart to endure the passing of so many of our dear friends in the course of a single year. Yes, we take comfort in knowing that every heartbreak represents a heart saved, that every single animal we lose has lived a life of love and peace—against all odds in a world that views them as a commodity or a meal. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that each and every one of their lives has value. We see the proof in our grief, and in the memories you’ve shared with us.

At the end of each year, we remember and acknowledge every loss. By doing so, the grief we shoulder gets a little lighter as we share our memories and reflect on the impact each animal had. From the smallest hen to the biggest cow, each one will live on in our hearts.

In January, we lost Julius, our dear floppy-lipped, mushy-faced horse, to cancer. Shortly after, we said goodbye to Cerberus the goat, who lived to be 18 years old. We lost Nancy, a beautiful black and white hen, who had lived with us for six years. Chickens Stevie and Maisie also left us after having the wonderful opportunity to know what love feels like.

In February, it felt like time stopped when we lost Amos, our Giver Of One Million Kisses. Losing him, only ten months after losing his best friend, Jesse, was devastating. Amos had been with us for fifteen beautiful years, during which he taught us many lessons about life, love, and friendship.

In March, we lost Bruce the duck, whose enthusiasm for life, wagging tail, and love of being held made him something of a Sanctuary celebrity for nearly a decade. We also bid farewell to Dolly the goat, who was rescued from the notorious Backyard Butcher case in 2015. 

In April, Lyle the rooster left behind his long-time partner, Sanchez the hen. Lyle and Sanchez were a couple to be admired—often caught snuggling together, their love for each other was plainly evident, especially when Sanchez got jealous after the pair moved in with other hens! 

We were rattled again in May when much beloved big-man goat, Tigger, passed away at sixteen, leaving our Underfoot Herd suddenly feeling a lot smaller. We also said goodbye to Colleen the hen, and sassypants Lola the duck, who’s happy quacks seem to still echo across the Sanctuary, even in her absence. 

In June, Laverne, mama extraordinaire, who gave birth at Catskill Animal Sanctuary shortly after being rescued from the largest rescue in the history of the Northeast, left us peacefully. We see her in her son, Davey, every day. Kida the turkey, who was rescued from an animal hoarder, also passed. We bid farewell to Bay Callie the horse, who survived cancer and hoof issues before finally succumbing to her illnesses. We also lost Yogi the chicken.

July was when we lost Christopher the sheep, who lived his entire life on his own terms after being born here in the wee hours of Christmas Day in 2006. We said tearful goodbyes to Rocky and Roxane, two hens. 

In August, we lost Passion the horse, another multiple cancer survivor. Shortly after, we wished Ava the cow a farewell as she passed on, leaving behind many broken hearts, including Zsa Zsa’s, who was rescued with her from a defunct dairy farm in 2006. We said goodbyes to Coretta and Vinny, two chickens. 

Another major loss came in September, when Michael the turkey passed away suddenly, never knowing a single day of pain. Michael captivated everyone she met with her big heart, her willingness to snuggle into the laps of strangers, purr, and fall asleep, and her infectious joie de vivre.. The loss was felt by her friends across the whole world. We also lost Kate the turkey, and Joy, Audre, and Speedracer, three lovely chickens. 

November marked the loss of larger-than-life Sister Mary Frances, whose big heart, big voice, and even bigger personality are permanently etched in our hearts. Not long after, we said goodbye to Patsy the hen, Valentina the duck, Dorothy the chicken, and Nellie the goat. 

In December, we lost Billie and Alix, two of the hens we rescued in June. When they first arrived, they were emaciated and missing feathers. In the short time they were with us, they flourished and got to experience what life feels like on their own terms. We also lost Bobby the rabbit, who loved snuggles and digging in the snow.

All this loss, particularly of those who were with us for so many years, was at times as much as we could bear: Amos. Christopher. Julius. Lola. Passion. Michael. Bruce. Tigger. Nancy. Sister Mary Frances: they were our friends, teachers, and constant companions, and they were also mighty vegan makers. Not only do we miss them as friends–we also miss the impact they made on unsuspecting, “not yet vegan” animal lovers who came undone when Amos licked their faces over and over again, or Tigger leaned in for a hug, or Bruce or Michael settled happily into any lap offered them. Godspeed, good ones.

While we are still raw from the losses, each heartwarming hello, each new face was a welcome  reminder that even through heartbreak, our work continues. As we look back on our 20th year, we reflect on the lessons each animal has taught us, and we look ahead to the next decades of Catskill Animal Sanctuary as we build upon our legacy of second chances, and our foundation of love and respect for all beings. We see these plans, and  the memories of the animals who in many ways were the heart of our organization, in the faces of our newest ambassadors.

This year, we said an excited “hello” to Abram and Izzy, two sheep who were saved from a religious sacrifice. Izzy’s sweet and shy demeanor is contrasted by big and bold Abram, named after Stacey Abrams. These two spend their days playing together and grazing alongside steers Rudy and Dozer, and horses Callie and Cricket. Through our exceptional care, Izzy recovered from a horn that was broken on arrival, and our team went above and beyond when it was discovered that Abram, who had already been neutered, had a third testicle that required surgery. 

The arrival of  Rose Willow on February 14th was the best Valentine’s gift ever! Rose Willow was loved dearly by her family, but she tested positive for CAE—a disease that is normally a death sentence. Because our staff is familiar with caring for animals with this chronic condition, Rose Willow was saved. She moved into our quarantine field with other CAE and CL positive goats before moving in with Ollie and Sandy, two of our gentlest goats, who welcomed Rose Willow with snuggles and playful excitement.

Barney the duck was rescued after he was the sole survivor of a predator attack in Woodstock, where he had been living with a flock of chickens. He sustained an injury to one of his legs and walks with a limp, but Barney thoroughly enjoys splashing around during water therapy in his kiddie pool! He’s shy around humans, but thoroughly enjoys living life on his own terms.

In the spring, we welcomed 13 hens who were part of a group of 500 who were spared from an egg-laying facility. All 500 were considered “spent,” meaning their egg production had declined to a point where keeping them alive was no longer profitable. Had they not been rescued, they would have been killed. Upon arrival, all 13 were given the lowest possible body score: their bodies were emaciated and many were missing feathers—a sign of tremendous stress. Each hen was given the name of women activists we admire: Zazu, Billie, Roxane, Patsy, Marsha, Zora, Edie, Maya, Coretta, Alix, Gloria, Audre, and Simone. In only a few short months, they began to thrive.

Immediately after, we worked with Farm Sanctuary and said “hello” again to turkeys Cecilia and Kate, named after two local vegan activists and friends to the sanctuary. The pair proved to be close friends, and full of personality. They moved in with our sassy girl, Lady, where they enjoyed loudly greeting all passersby. 

June was a big month for us—we welcomed Darwin home, a one-year-old cow who had been purchased from a dairy farm as a companion for a young girl. Once her family learned that Darwin was lonely for the companionship of her kind, they began trying to find a home for her. Her choices were to be returned to the dairy farm, to go to a beef farm, or to live out her days at Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Once the girl learned what Darwin’s fate would be with each placement, she chose CAS. Today, Darwin lives with Daisy, and will grow up knowing only a life of love. When we see her grazing beside some of our older cows, like Zsa Zsa who was abandoned on a defunct dairy farm, or Patty who is nearing 19 years old, we see a heartwarming future of changed hearts and vegan-making through real animal connection. 

Also in June, on the very day he was scheduled to be euthanized, we rescued our fourth blind horse named Buddy. His rescue in our 20th year is remarkably significant, as we remember our first blind Buddy, rescued in 2001, Buddy II, and Buddy III—still with us today at 35 years old! Buddy IV’s story (which was covered in People!) struck a chord with millions all over the world, as a video detailing his arrival went viral on social media. Like the blind horses, cows, ducks, and others who came before him, Buddy IV has learned to thrive in his new home and much to our delight, has befriended  Buddy III. The two old boys share a field during the day and bed down each night in our main barn, where their adjoining stalls share a window so they can touch if they choose. 

This month, we’re excited to introduce Dwayne, a personable hen who was placed with us with help from our friends at Farm Sanctuary. Dwayne spent the beginning of her life at a petting zoo, which is unusual for a Cornish Cross chicken—a breed usually raised for their flesh. Because of the number of health issues that often plague them, the petting zoo felt they were in over their head and didn’t want to care for her any longer. Thankfully, our experience caring for Cornish Cross chickens into their senior years enabled us to say “Yes…you have a home with us.” Dwayne is already looking forward to giving you a hug the next time you visit! This girl will steal your heart.

In this grueling year, our hearts are lifted and lightened by blind Buddy IV’s amazing progress navigating his new home, by Darwin growing up so fast knowing only love and kindness, by Abram and Izzy running and playing in the field with horses and cows, by witnessing each of the 13 Pennsylvania hens grow into more healthy bodies, by Dwayne falling asleep in our laps, and by YOU, wherever you are, no matter how long you’ve been with us, because without you, there would be no Catskill Animal Sanctuary. 

This year, we’re choosing to see the Light in the world, even after such a remarkably difficult year.  We look forward to making, growing, and sharing that Light—one second chance and one rescue at a time…next year, and for years to come.

Thank you for taking the journey with us.

Love Spoken Here.



Love Spoken Here


4 replies on “A Year of Tough Goodbyes; Two Decades of Second Chances”

    1. From all of us at CAS, thank you! We appreciate your support through such a challenging year (and for many, many more before it)

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