We have been referred to as a Petting Zoo by some, and it would not be too far an assumption based on the types of services we see offered by many other farm animal sanctuaries and rescues. However, that is not what we are. We do not go to birthday parties (we have been asked). We do not do goat yoga classes (no goats). We definitely do not offer sheep cuddling sessions, although some of the shepherds have to spend a lot of time giving out scratches to some very demanding sheep.
Our sheep are sheep, and we do everything we can to give them full and rewarding lives as sheep. Part of that life is to bond to a couple of shepherds that they know well, and learn to trust. This is a natural and healthy relationship for sheep. Occasionally, some visitors want to feed the sheep treats. We allow that, but all interactions are based on the comfort level of the sheep. Honestly, there are a few that will come forward to a stranger with treats, if their shepherd is there, but many will hang back unsure of a stranger. Sheep instinctively understand that their relationship with humans in general is… well… Complicated.
We have had day outings, where a couple select sheep are able to meet the public in public parks, or at informational events like the Boise Pet Extravaganza. The sheep are selected for their comfort around strangers, and the ability to handle new and strange places. We work them into these things slowly. New places, sounds, and people can be stressful for sheep, and natural confidence has to be a deciding factor in who can participate in these type of events. There are other considerations that have to be met as well. How many shepherds are there going to be? We have found 3 is the minimum for events. How about the dogs on and off leash in the area. It has taken a bit of trial and error, but we have developed a good idea of what goes into a successful low stress outing.
So how much does it cost to come out to watch, learn about or work with the sheep? The answer is simple… Nothing. We are a public charity, and a major part of our mission is education. The public has paid for this by giving us, and our donors a tax break. Our benefactors have been generous to us as well, sharing their blessings with us. Combined with this, our volunteers receive no pay for their work. They do it for the joy of being a part of our mission, the love of sheep, and the experience they receive. Put all this together, and we do not have to charge for serving the public.
Some people have noticed that we do not actively solicit donations, to the point it may seem we don’t even want them. It has confused quite a few people. Believe me, for almost a year the board has been considering whether or not we should add a “Donate” button to our website and Facebook pages. We are very thankful for the donations we receive, but the truth is, we only want donations that are given freely, and bring joy to the donor. If it has been put into your heart to give, or to volunteer, please do so. Otherwise don’t worry about it. Come out and enjoy the sheep, learn to shepherd, or build holistic pastures with us. We will continue to be here, having faith that our needs will be met. They always have been.
“Let every man give according to the purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7