After looking at some options in Austin and near the San Antonio area, I emailed Tracy Frank, the founder of the SARA (Society for Animal Rescue and Adoption) Sanctuary, located in Seguin, Texas. This non-profit 501 (c)(3) corporation was established by Tracy in 1996 on her 380 acre property with the intention to rehabilitate animals that have been abused or abandoned in the area. The animals found at SARA include, but are not limited to cats, dogs, cows, horses, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and donkeys. There was a time when they even hosted a zebra. SARA is a no-kill shelter – only making euthanasia exceptions for animals that are terminally ill and in constant suffering with no hope for recovery. Any animal that is not adopted or cannot be rehabilitated due to the extent of the damage done by the cruelty they have suffered will live the rest of its life at the sanctuary in the company of other animals. When I worked at SARA, it was home to over 800 animals.
The infirmary was usually my first stop because it was critical to keep an eye on the animals (mostly cats) to make sure they had food and water and were not in desperate need for medical attention. I was instantly greeted by rubbing and purring the moment I walked through the infirmary door and it continued while I cleaned all of the kennels and provided food and water to everyone inside, which, for a while, also included 3 roosters and a duck. Some time was spent trying to socialize with the animals in the infirmary, especially the kittens, and I also learned how to administer some medication and hydrate the cats with an IV. Once I was done with the infirmary, I moved on to the cattery where I had to be perceptive to any signs of illness, in case any of them needed to be moved to the infirmary.
After a short lunch break, I made my way over to Tracy’s house to check up on the cats and clean the cattery in her home. Tracy transformed what used to be a walk-in closet into a smaller cattery to house about 12 cats. Also, about 8-12 of the older dogs essentially lived inside her house, mostly for health reasons (one of them had seizures often and it was too dangerous to be out in the yard with too many dogs), and I made sure they had food and water as well. If time permitted that day, I bathed some of the dogs and cleaned the dog infirmary behind Tracy’s house.
Every once in a while, Tracy would ask me to run errands in town but mostly I spent my day cleaning, organizing, and caring for the cats in the infirmary and in the two catteries. I also spent some time providing hay and horse feed to the horses, chicken feed to the chickens, and the appropriate food for whatever other animal may be in the extra enclosure.
Overall, my experience was rewarding; I learned a lot about the type of care and precautions needed when caring for animals in a sanctuary setting. Working at SARA Sanctuary also confirmed that I do want to continue to work with animals, preferably in the field of wildlife conservation. My hope to build a career with the balance of working directly with animals and talking with people to raise awareness of the issues and what can be done about them. My internship, though a bit unconventional in some ways, has helped me grow and understand that there is still much more to learn.