MEDINA, Ohio — Thinking of branching out from your traditional household pet?
Chickens? A goat? Pot-bellied pig? Many people did during the COVID pandemic, and now, unfortunately, sanctuaries are seeing a spike in surrendered farm animals. But, if you are still looking to spend time with a barnyard companion, we've got the place you can go.
At Whispering Acres Farm Animal Sanctuary in Medina, the rooster crows early and often. Think of it as your alarm clock on steroids.
"We probably have about 45 to 50 roosters here right now," explains Janine Smalley, who is the director of the non-profit organization she founded in 2020.
Smalley wanted to become a veterinarian, but ended up going into nursing. That desire to help animals in need never went away.
In the fenced pastures on her property you will find no shortage of chickens, horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, turkeys, pigs and even a mule.
Whispering Acres is a haven for farm animals that have fallen on hard times.
"Being abandoned, neglected, injured. Some of them are victims of domestic violence, where the partner was being abused and the animals in turn were being abused as well. So we have taken them in to help," Smalley explained.
These animals are her passion.
"They'll hug you, they'll cuddle. They'll be completely in your face and just providing unconditional love and support to everybody."
Some of the abuse cases are too awful to fathom. She's just grateful that someone intervened, and that animal now has another chance at a peaceful life.
Neglect can take all forms. From well-meaning people who got in over their heads, to those who can no longer meet the physical demands it takes to care for them, as well as owners who suffer from mental health issues.
Lately, she's seeing more people surrender animals because of financial hardships.
"Unfortunately with downsizing of corporations, they lose their positions. And again, animals are very expensive to take care of and they just can no longer do it. So they'll reach out to us to see if it'll take their animals in," Smalley said.
Whispering Acres does adopt some animals out, but only if it's a good fit for human and beast.
The best way to see if you have what it takes -- is to spend time at the farm volunteering.
Crystal Klooz started earlier this year. She enjoys doing the chores and just being around the animals, some of which are still reluctant to interact with humans, to those that won't leave you alone. Klooz says she's not sure who gets more out of the attention: the animals or her.
"I fill up water, you know, hug all the animals, whatever I need to do. But it also is a little bit for me, too. Kind of to decompress," Klooz said.
Running an animal sanctuary not only takes a lot of money -- the feed and veterinarian bills are staggering -- but manpower, too.
"The volunteers, we couldn't do it without them, because it is exhausting," shared Smalley. "Every farm sanctuary that I know is overwhelmed."
The worries never really go away, but they lessen as she gives in to the nurturing and the attention with the time she spends in the pastures.
Smalley can't help but marvel at all the animals that arrived at Whispering Acres broken but are now becoming whole again.
"You're not gonna get the perfect pet. You can make the perfect pet, but you're not gonna get the perfect pet, but for a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of love," Smalley said.
Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in a previous pets story on July 13, 2022.