Jacobs Ridge – Day Six (23.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

We begun the day at a slightly later time of 7:30am, to which the (always exciting) morning dog walk commenced.

Upon return, after another enjoyable dog walk with the canine companions, I prepared the animals’ feeds according to the feeding rota in the shed and headed down to the field to issue the morning feed to the animals. I then changed their waters.

Jade and I then gave a mud bath to Ben. Ben is the largest pig at the sanctuary and his brother Bill tragically passed away during the beginning of 2018. The life he fulfilled at the sanctuary was bliss in comparison to the fate he was otherwise destined to have.

I then changed the waters of the animals, which would then be changed again in the evening during feeding time.

In the afternoon, I relaxed in the pool and spent my time playing with the animals. Barney (one of the resident dogs) had quickly stolen my heart, and so a large proportion of my time was spent with him and playing his favourite game of fetch.

We then prepared the evening feed and gave it out before heading on an evening dog walk with the pack.

Jacobs Ridge – Day Five (22.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

We headed for the morning dog walk at 7am. One of my favourite parts of the day, I loved being surrounded with multiple fur babies. The surroundings were stunning, as always, and I felt truly comforted due to the lack of noise and the absence of people.

The sunrise was coming up and the views were simply gorgeous.

We then came back and changed the animals’ waters. Before feeding time commenced.

Jade and I gave Ben another mud bath. He was becoming sunburnt and we were working hard to prevent this from worsening, we wanted to keep him free from pain and discomfort. His enclosure did have pool within it as an attempt to keep him cool throughout the warmer days, but as previously stated in a prior blog post, he cannot bathe himself effectively.

We then refilled the animals’ waters for the afternoon before relaxing during siesta.

Flora and I went lemon picking in the forested area surrounding the tents. I felt as though I was reliving my character on Animal Crossing (DS game) as I pondered for fruit up high. We reached up and grabbed those that looked the most appealing, before heading back to the house with a tray filled with fresh lemons, which would later be used to infuse cold, fresh drinking water.

We prepared the animals’ evening feed and refilled their waters. I hugely enjoyed witnessing them rushing to get the best pick at their food, which was scatter fed for the majority of the animals, placed in a basket for Ben and in food bowls for the cats and dogs. Scatter feeding helps to encourage natural feeding behaviours, alongside mental and physical stimulation, and works to eliminate boredom through motivating the animals to work for their food.

In the evening Flora, Amy, Jade and I spent time at a local (30-minutes away) spa. It was wonderful. However, it wasn’t like a typical spa where you’re rubbed down or relaxing with a face full of guacamole and cucumber. It had different components such as jacuzzis, a lazy river, and hot “springs” which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Following this, we returned home to the ridge. The evening feeds had been carried out whilst we were at the spa, and after playing with the kittens, it was soon time for bed.

Jacobs Ridge – Day Four (21.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

I woke up at the usual time of 6:20am, eager to start yet another fulfilling day. I got dressed and came out of my tent, welcomed to a stunning pink sunrise in the near distance.

I then headed to the house to apply suncream and to brush my teeth.

Amy and I headed on the morning dog walk, today it was just the two of us because Flora was helping with the morning feeds. It was lovely! I walked Marley, whilst Amy walked Goaty and Eyebrows. We chatted about all kinds of things – Uni, movies and just general life.

We returned from the dog walk an hour later (8am) and I headed down to the field to change the animals’ waters. This was completed quickly by Flora and I.

I then cleaned out the pig’s enclosures, before proceeding to give Ben (largest pig at the sanctuary) a mud bath. Mud baths are essential to reduce the risk of sunburn, and they’re also a very good moisturiser, and so I gladly learned!

Unfortunately, Ben is unable to bathe himself as he cannot turn over unaided, due to his large size. The meat industry genetically modify animals and aim to speed up their growth rate to move animals straight into a transport truck without considering the health and welfare implications of the individuals, so they can reach a certain weight and body condition before being sent away to slaughter.

Ben arrived at the sanctuary after luckily being saved from slaughter. As Jacobs Ridge is entirely Vegan, they aim to provide Ben with the longest, healthiest and happiest life possible. I’d never seen a pig so large, but this is because they often only live a few weeks of their lives before they’re tragically cut short.

Ben arrived at the sanctuary with his brother, Bill. But sadly, he passed away at the beginning of 2018 after living an incredible, mud-filled time at the sanctuary.

I then proceed to change the waters for the second time of the day. This was after they were disinfected and rinsed accordingly.

It was 40°c. I cuddled the goats for a while and then headed for a walk around the local area. It was secluded, peaceful and not a soul was in sight! I loved being able to relax with such mesmerising scenery around me.

Amy and I then headed on another dog walk in the evening. We took Goaty, Marly, Daisy, Django And Eyebrows along with us before heading back to the sanctuary for evening feed and watering.

Jacobs Ridge – Day Three (20.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

I woke up at precisely 6:30am after an excellent nights’ sleep, despite try significantly loud, yet joyful, Spanish music playing within close proximity and the horses’ vocalisations adding to that.

I got dressed quickly and headed to the house to freshen up before venturing on a morning dog walk.

We walked the dogs at 7am, around the local picturesque area and arrived back at the ridge at approximately 8am. I loved walking the dogs, it amazed me to witness ranges in their behaviours and their distinct walking patterns. Marley walked slowly, but could be incredibly strong if she felt threatened or if she became distracted by a sight or noise. Goaty on the other hand had a tendency to get tangled in the lead due to his noted inability to walk in a straight line.

After returning from the dog walk, I quickly changed out of my muddy, wet socks and shoes before heading down to the lower field to participate in the morning feeding and watering. The animals wandered around and vocalised eagerly as they awaited corn being scattered around their large, open enclosures.

Jade, Flora and I then cleaned the donkey’s enclosure. In the process, the donkeys wandered up to us curiously and sneakily tipped over the wheelbarrows which were situated at the other side of the fence. We completed this relatively quickly with the help of our trusty tools and many trips to the waste pile, which was scheduled to be taken away at some point.

Flora and I were kindly driven to a nearby, isolated lake by Amy. The drive took approximately 20 minutes, and we were soon mesmerised by our stunning, picturesque surroundings. I was in awe of the stunning crystal blue waters and the gorgeous surrounding cliff and greenery landscape. There wasn’t another person in sight, which made the experience increasingly more special.

The views were spectacular and the sun was blazing down on us heavily.

After spending time at the lake together, we drove to Murcia Castle, which was within close proximity of our current location at the lake. This was after quickly stopping at the pet shop in the town to collect extra dog food.

Unfortunately, the castle was closed off a short while ago due to a tragic accident involving a young girl. The castle could stay open to the public if somebody opted to live there to care for it, but instead, it was closed and is now surrounded by a tall, secure fence.

The views, however, were truly stunning! We could see a vast amount of different buildings ranging from older and newer, which could be distinguished by the roofing style. From the castle, we could also see a glimpse of Jacobs Ridge in the far distance.

We returned back to the ridge and it was time for siesta. Unsurprisingly, mine was spent with the resident goats.

I then had, always greatly appreciated, cuddles with Barney before heading for a solo walk to catch another glimpse of the beautiful surroundings close by.

The views were stunning. This was before almost landing my way in a prohibited area. Luckily, I gained more from my 2 years of Spanish at GCSE than I anticipated, and quickly moved away from the area to avoid unwanted trouble…

We then changed the animals’ waters and did the evening feeds for the final time of the day, before heading for an evening dog walk.

Following this, we sat outside on the sun loungers with pillows and blankets to avoid the slight winds and settled down with a film. We were all surrounded with fairy lights, the sound of nature and the fantastic company of each other. This was done by a projector connected to Netflix, where we watched a movie about a boy who’s life was filmed from the day he was born, and one day he found out and escaped the world that had been created for him. (The Truman Show).

Jacobs Ridge – Day Two (19.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

I awoke at approximately 6:20am to the distinctive ringing of my iPhone alarm. It was time for my first full day at Jacobs Ridge, and I was excited about what the day would bring. I enjoyed my first night of tent living, it was extremely cosy and spacious.

I soon got dressed and headed to the house, after applying suncream as the weather was expected to reach conditions of up to 40°c.

Amy, Flora and I headed to the local secluded area to walk some of the gorgeous resident dogs. I opted to walk Goaty – a charismatic young being who was rescued from a terrible fate. His eyes were golden brown and his fur a pasty white. I’d been warned that he was a puller, but I appeared to have no issues with walking him around tall hills and through the murky surrounding waters.

Goaty was rescued from the side of the road by Julian around a year ago. He was in an incredibly bad condition and Julian stated “it’s the worst state I’ve seen an animal in before”. He’s now living a happier, and healthier, life at the sanctuary where he is constantly showered with love and affection.

The walk lasted for approximately an hour before we headed back to the sanctuary and went on to do the following jobs after putting the dogs away. Throughout the walking process, we also walked: Marley and Eyebrows, whilst Daisy and Django followed us all the way without the need of a lead.

We then changed the animals waters. This task is typically carried out 3 times a day at the sanctuary, since it easily evaporated due to the hot weather conditions, and to simply ensure that the animals have plenty of fresh water to drink throughout the duration of the day.

Then commenced the goat cleaning. I couldn’t wait to meet the resident goats, being a goat fanatic and all. Jacobs Ridge has 14 goats in total, who arrived at the sanctuary after being dropped off by a lady. The story being, she hoarded many animals and was forced by the local authorities to give them away, otherwise they ran the risk of being destroyed. In total, the lady had approximately 80 goats. Julian took 7, who quickly went on to reproduce.

I believe it’s incredibly easy to hoard animals. You can start off with the intentions of saving many different species, whilst focusing solely on the love aspect and not so much the costs and the commitment.

We cleaned our Star’s enclosure, walking in protected with sturdy helmets. Star wasn’t a known aggressive horse, but there stood a possibility that she may head butt us whilst we cleaned, which would’ve caused a serious injury. Prior to this, I had no experience with horses, so I was quite apprehensive about being surrounded by one for the first time. However, she had a calming nature and would only approach us for butt scratches, or curiosity.

Following this, we changed the animals waters for the second time. The animals’ waters were changed and refilled 3 times a day.

The dogs were then taken to the nearby river In the afternoon for a cool off. They loved it, and Marley stood in deep. This is an essential component of animal care, as animals can heat up extremely quickly and can become unwell, or start to show signs of heatstroke. Goaty remained hopeful as he searched eagerly for a toad he spotted over 3 weeks ago…

After the evening feed/water was carried out, we took the dogs on their regular evening dog walk. Again, in the local secluded area with lots of stunning scenery. The dogs were very well behaved.

The kittens (the sanctuary has 5) were let out in the evening for a run around, and we played with them as they climbed on our heads and clawed at our legs. They were adorable, and very mischievous!

Autism spectrum – First solo travel experience & tips!

Autism

On the 18th July 2019, I travelled abroad alone for the first time to partake in more overseas work experience at an Animal Sanctuary in Murcia, Spain. And I plan to return home on Thursday 25th July.

Being Autistic, this can be challenging – Dissimilar surroundings, new people, loudness. Nightmare.

I used to be unable to use public transport alone. I walked miles to and back from college every day to save myself the unnecessary distress of stepping foot on a bus. I can now use buses easily, given lots of additional planning, and I have grown to love peaceful, delay-free train journeys!

Still, being on the spectrum shouldn’t be a barrier between our fears and what we wish to achieve. I simply refuse to be restricted by my Autism. My diagnosis has encouraged me to believe in myself more and to push myself beyond my comfort zone. (It’s worth it!) I believe it should push us even further, given lots of self care is followed too, as it’s all about finding a balance and recognising when we’ve reached our personal limits.

My Experience:

Overall, I loved my first experience as a solo flier and I cannot wait to plan future adventures. The staff at the airport were incredibly supportive and alert, and measures were put in place to help those in need. I was very anxious, but that’s understandable. The most important thing is that I managed to keep things under control and I made it to my destination. I believe informing the airport about my Autism made a significant difference, especially with regards to the risen anxiety levels I feel through airport security.

TIPS:

Understandably, the coping mechanisms I applied are personal to me and may be subject between those on the spectrum. Ie: What works for me may not work for others, and vice versa.

Don’t be afraid to approach the disability services available to you. Their purpose is to help and to assist you should you require it. There’s no shame in needing support, or a quiet place away from all the airport chaos.

Take note of what makes you anxious. I notice changes in myself, my thoughts and my actions when I’m anxious. I become quiet and withdrawn and will tend to feel as though I’m not “there” in the situation. Understanding your anxiety triggers is useful to enable you to put precautions in place to relieve the symptoms you experience. 

Lots of planning. Don’t be afraid to use a diary, or the notes app on your phone. Try to estimate where you expect yourself to be at given times. Ie: “I plan to be on the plane at 6pm, and I should land at approximately 8:15pm”. This helps with the fear of the unknown, and reduces anxiety levels. Try to make the estimates flexible, as it can cause distress if plans don’t go accordingly – Ie: unexpected delays, and luggage hold ups.

Take a familiar person to the airport with you. For me, this was extremely comforting and reassuring as I had somebody to confide in when I felt anxious/overwhelmed. My Mum got me through check in and then I was again a Lone Ranger, sailing through security.

Check in online. This helps to speed up the initial process slightly, and it helped to reduce anxiety for me, as you then have the barcode scanned and wait patiently for your luggage to enter the conveyer behind the desk. I checked in via the Jet2 app by filling in my details.

Inform the airline/airport staff of your Autism. Again, this is optional, and I understand that some people prefer to keep their Autism private. I opted to tell the staff about my condition to allow others to realise the reasons behind me appearing anxious, because I usually get stopped through security as I probably look “suspicious” when in reality I’m just extremely anxious about the process. I was handed with a lanyard which staff are trained to recognise, and it enables extra assistance if it’s required. I also had my pocket sized “Autism Alert” card.

Take plenty of distractions on the plane. If you’re alone, this gives you more time to dwell on your anxiety, and distractions can help to keep you occupied and give you an alternative focus. I like to take books, magazines and something digital (such as music or my Nintendo DS). Playing animal crossing thousands of miles in the air? Yes please.

If it’s possible, arrange for somebody familiar to meet you in the country you’re travelling to. The animal sanctuary owners kindly collected me, and dropped me off at the airport. This helped to reduce my anxiety, as I knew who to expect. This meant I could also avoid using an unfamiliar public transport service.

Keep in touch with family/friends. If you start to feel anxious, speak to somebody you know and trust. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed or that you’re weak, it simply means that you’ve recognised that you’re in need of support/a distraction and that takes a considerate level of strength. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone (or to text) somebody if you feel the need to.

Remember to breathe and to be patient with yourself. If things don’t work out, or you need a little extra time to get yourself together, that’s perfectly okay too!

08.07.2019 – Woodlands

Woodlands Animal Sanctuary, Work experience/volunteering

With the sun blazing through my bedroom window and following the distinguished ringing of my alarm, it was time to wake up.

The time was 6:00am.

I got out of bed leisurely, in preparation for a long (yet enthralling) day ahead. Today was to commence the beginning of my work placement at Woodlands Animal Sanctuary. I had been pining to volunteer at the sanctuary for quite some time, but had always encountered problems along the way, including sudden transport alterations and exam commitments.

I was soon washed and ready, rearing to go. Dressed in my casual green t-shirt and black shorts, gladly ready to match my work (or hiking) shoes alongside.

I headed to the bus stop and approached Bolton ready for my first train to Preston at 8:25am. The journey lasted approximately 30 minutes, and I then caught a train to Rufford. A brisk 30 minute walk, where I was faced with extremely narrow pavements, from the station lead me to the animal sanctuary.

I was directed to the reception area, I rang the bell (which turned out to be louder than anticipated) And was welcomed by Louise – An animal career at the sanctuary. We had spoken a few times prior, she was even lovelier in person! I was guided to sign in and to hang up my limited belongings before heading back outside to meet the animals.

I began with cleaning out the stables, which house the resident goats and equines overnight. Throughout the day, the animals spend time outdoors – a necessary freedom to express natural behaviours.

This was a simple process of removing the old substrate, which was placed into large troughs and placed into the skip, and replacing it for new.

The afternoon feeds were then arranged, with the hay being placed into designated hay nets which were then placed outside the enclosure doors. Hay nets are an excellent way of encouraging natural feeding behaviours, they also help to enhance both mental and physical stimulation as the individuals have to work for their food.

The stables and their surroundings were cleaned. Alongside the stock room, which rooms a collection of tools, food and bedding materials. And situated on the wall was a feeding and medical rota tailored for each individual at the sanctuary. I was then tasked with cleaning out the resident hedgehogs. Woodlands take in injured hedgehogs throughout the year and nurse them back to health to enable them to be released back into the wild. Hedgehogs encounter all kinds of medical conditions, from weight loss, to dehydration and a loss of appetite. They’re housed in large plastic drawers (the most convenient material to disinfect) which are then filled with newspaper and hay, alongside food and water.

Rescue, Rehabilitate & Release.

Two of the larger, healthier hedgehogs were chosen and carried away into carriers ready to be released. All available drawers were prepared ready to house future hedgehogs, and the current hedgehogs underwent a full clean – The removal of wet newspaper in replacement for dry, and the providing of fresh hay, food and water.

I weighed and recorded the hedgehogs weights before placing them back into their temporary enclosures. This is essential to monitor any signs of drastic weight loss/gain to enable further measures to be implemented if necessary, to ensure that the individuals remain in good overall health.

Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal animals, and are therefore increasingly more active during nighttime hours. Some of the individuals were curiously wandering around the enclosures, while some opted to stay cornered into a tight, compacted “ball”. Fascinatingly, this behaviours helps to fend off predators in the wild as it acts as a protective armour. It also allows the individuals to feel safe.

I then cleaned the small chicken coop, refilled it with fresh substrate and replaced the old food and water for fresher alternatives. The sanctuary has a vast selection of resident poultry, ducks and a stunning, flamboyant peacock.

The rabbit enclosures were then cleaned to house current and future sanctuary residents and the underneath area was swept for general upkeep.

The goats (Bert, Ernie, Chips and Isaac) were then fed and fussed over admirably. They were highly inquisitive and played alongside Dolly the sheep.

The Goats are commonly taken around Rufford to aid fundraising efforts and have previously been taken into local schools to teach the children about animal care, welfare and management.

Woodlands Animal Sanctuary (08.07.2019)

Woodlands Animal Sanctuary, Work experience/volunteering

Monday 8th July will commence the start of my 4 day placement at Woodlands Animal Sanctuary, Ormskirk. Where I plan to be involved in all aspects of animal care and husbandry.

Woodlands is an incredible sanctuary home to a vast collection of animal species. Including: Goats, donkeys, horses, hedgehogs and birds. They are a non-profit charitable organisation who work under the clock, with the hard work and dedicated volunteer and staff members, to enhance the lives of each individual in their care. I’m honoured to have an opportunity to help out, whilst expanding on my knowledge and currently evolving experience.

Journey planning is well underway. 1 bus and 2 trains which will land me in Rufford, followed by a short brisk walk to the sanctuary. With the assistance of Google maps and my rusty navigation skills.

Here I will be documenting my time at the sanctuary alongside the information I gladly learn along the way. Stay tuned!