Sometimes when a beloved pet dies a child might be told they went off to live at a farm where it's a virtual eden and they have lots of room to run and frolic.
In the case of Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, that idyllic spot for farm animals is very much real.
Located on the outskirts of Stockton and bordered by the Delta, blueberry bushes and almond orchards, farm animals have found a place where they can live out the remainder of their lives, or in some cases recuperate and rest before the sojourn to their forever home.
"This is a safe haven for animals that are often forgotten," said Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary Executive Director Christine Morrissey.
Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary was founded in 2004 by Karen Courtemanche and Annemarie Engelhardt, both longtime animal protection advocates. The sanctuary's first day of operations was on Thanksgiving of that year, but ironically enough the first animals to benefit from the sanctuary were not turkeys, but rather rabbits. It wasn't long before the menagerie of animals started to grow to include other farm animals like goats, small pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and a few dogs and cats.
"Our work brings us animals both near and far," Morrissey said. "We get animals from factory farms, cockfighting rings and sometimes from people who can no longer afford to keep them or have the space."
With two-and-a-half acres of space and barns for everyone, the animals will either remain at Harvest Home Sanctuary or they will reside there until someone adopts them for a life spent on another peaceful farm.
"We have saved the lives of thousands of animals and they all have a name and story to share," Morrissey said. "We provide a platform to share that story."
One of Morrissey's favorite animal companions at Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary is Sadie, a 2-year-old turkey who has grown up on the farm.
"She's kind of like a dog in that she is very connected with us and follows us around," Morrissey said. "She is one of our best ambassadors. She has an Instagram account — @turkeylife — and she has 'written' her autobiography. We went out on a book tour to all the libraries in San Joaquin County and she would do 'readings.' It was very eye-opening for all the kids."
The role of ambassador is not one taken lightly at Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary. Besides being a place of respite for often abused and mistreated farm animals, Harvest Home Sanctuary works to prevent further cruelty to these animals by educating the public on caring for companion animals as well as on issues concerning farmed animals.
"It is a real labor of love," Morrissey said.
Typically, the public outreach would include visits to libraries and schools and tours at the farm, but the statewide stay-at-home order to help stop the spread of coronavirus has curtailed all of those activities. Instead, Harvest Home Sanctuary has turned to the digital world to keep the community connected to the farm.
"People can plug in with us on social media," Morrissey said. "We do livestreams and TikTok videos. It's just something to brighten the days."
The fundraising efforts to meet the operation costs of the organization also have gone online. The Summer Pignic is an annual event that lets people enjoy an afternoon with the little pigs will be done online this year on July 18.
To follow the animals at Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary and to learn more about their volunteer and donor opportunities, visit http://harvesthomesanctuary.org or visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/harvesthome.