For Bianca Giolitto, Farm Sanctuary Life Means Helping, and Learning From, Rescued Farm Animals #AnimalRescue

When a farm animal in need comes to Farm Sanctuary, he or she is finally
viewed and treated as someone, not something

a unique individual with his or her own background, personality, and preferences. Farm Sanctuary life has a way of helping these animals come into their own, and the same is often true for the “humanimals” who work on their behalf.


Bianca with her buddy Hazelton when he was a baby.


Bianca snuggles with Archie goat.

“I was 19 when I moved out here, and I really
had no idea how to be an adult,”

caregiver Bianca Giolitto recalls. “This past year and a few
months have been crazy hard at times, but also unbelievably amazing. Since I was
16, I had been changing my mind over and over about what I wanted to do with my
life, and I was scared that I would never find something that I wasn’t going to
get tired of. Yet here I am, 21

best job in the world and absolutely in love
with my life.”

Bianca
says she’s grown a great deal since she first came to our New York Shelter last year for an internship that lasted from February through April. In fact, her vegan journey started here; prior to the internship, she was interested in animal
rescue, but thought that supporting what she thought were “humane” alternatives to factory-farming practices was the way to go. It wasn’t until she met our rescued
residents in person, and learned the facts about the way society treats the
animals we eat, that she realized the truth behind her misconceptions

and
found a way to help make the world a better place for farm animals.

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Bianca’s friend Lloyd sheep, who was rescued from a so-called “farm-to-table” operation where he endured horrific conditions.

Prior to the internship, “I was
pretty set on the small-farm, treating-the-animals-well, real free-range and
grass-fed idea,” Bianca remembers. “But my mind was completely changed after
only a week or two from working on the shelter and from all of the information
we got at our Intern Education Lunches. Watching the documentary Cowspiracy was a big wake-up call for me, because [producer-director Kip Andersen] goes into a whole part about how
‘sustainable’ and ‘grass-fed’ is actually not a sustainable way to feed the
world

also the fact that the animals are still slaughtered and sold.

“I
remember being told that when you become vegan, you get this feeling of peace
knowing that you’re working on excluding yourself from all of the violence. I
have found that to be completely true. I just feel so good about life and that
my purpose is to be a voice for these amazing beings that deserve so much
respect and love.” And now, through her work each day, Bianca extends that feeling of peace to the animals in her care, many of whom have come from situations of cruelty, neglect, or indifference. These days, she recognizes that there is great
power in knowledge

and that no matter hard it might be to acknowledge the cruelties that most farm animals routinely endure, we can apply this knowledge in working toward a kinder world for these animals.

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Bianca’s friend Truffles survived the meat industry and found a happy life at Farm Sanctuary.

Bianca
was in the middle of her second semester of college when she decided to take a
break and intern at Farm Sanctuary. “Like most young adults, I had no idea what
I wanted to do with my life, and I figured there was no use wasting money and
time continuing college if I couldn’t find a direction that got me excited for
the future.” So she made the decision to leave school and search for a
direction that appealed to her, figuring that she could always return to school
in the future if she felt so inclined.

Fortunately
for us, Bianca found the direction she was looking for at Farm Sanctuary. During her internship,
she eagerly met challenge after challenge. She was proud of the individual she
was becoming, and felt compelled to return in a few years to work with
Farm Sanctuary again. But after making a visit to the shelter several months after
the end of her internship, she decided to accept a temporary
position. Soon after, in September 2015, she joined us in a full-time role

and despite this
change in the timing of her plans, Bianca says she couldn’t be more grateful to
be here now. Working
at Farm Sanctuary, she says, has helped her grow into the advocate and person
she knew she had the potential to be.

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Bianca giving Bruce goat some affection during a health check following his rescue from a Hudson Valley backyard butcher.

Today, Bianca’s
work includes both morning and afternoon healthcare shifts, which allow her to
experience a wide range of responsibilities and rewards and help her get to
know our rescued residents on an individual level.

“A
typical day on a healthcare shift needs a lot of attention and focus,” she says. “I feel like I always have to be at 100% to be able to do my job well,
which is a part of it that I love. The a.m. shift is a pretty fast-paced shift.
You have to be ready for anything to surprise you and take your attention away
from what you’re doing, but also make sure you’re seeing and noticing
everything else that is going on.

“The a.m.
person goes around to all of the barns and has to get a look at every animal to
make sure they’re all happy, eating well, socializing, and overall looking
healthy,” she explains. “Being on this shift, especially, has been an
amazing learning experience for me because I am constantly updating my mental
checklist…I need to know each animal individually so I can know if they are
having an off day and what needs to happen to make sure they get back to
normal.

“The a.m.
person then records all of their observations in our healthcare binder, which has
a chart for all animals that are on medication, treatment, or any type of
monitor. We have a ‘mid-day list’ every day that has everything that needs to
get done that day, and it’s never the same. One day, we might have a couple of chickens
who aren’t eating and need to be tube-fed and given fluids. Another day, we
could have a bunch of animals who require NSAID or antibiotic injections, or we
may need to do some animal movements. We have so many treatments to keep track of, but that’s why we have the binder – so that everything gets recorded and
everything can be well organized.

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Working with fellow caregiver Abbie, Bianca dispenses medication to Hershel sheep.

“The p.m.
person’s day starts by making up all of the medications that need to be
administered that night and the next morning. We make sure the kits have
everything that we need and pack them so they’re ready to grab and go. After
the midday list is complete, the p.m. person is responsible for giving out all
of the p.m. meds and closing up all of the barns for the night. This can be a stressful
job. You need to make sure that all of the birds are in well before dark for
their safety. You need to make sure that you know the weather for the night so you
can adjust sliders and windows and turn on fans or heat lamps accordingly. … But it’s not always stressful. Sometimes
when everything is going right, the sunset is casting beautiful colors on the
mountains behind the sanctuary, and the animals are all happy and healthy, it’s
an amazing time to breathe and take all the beauty in

but you still have to
keep moving!”

Of
course, one of the greatest perks of the job is getting to know and befriend
the animals. Because our caregivers must diligently monitor each
resident to ensure they receive the care they need, they are well-versed in the
animals’ personalities and needs and have ample opportunities to get to know them.

Bianca
feels fortunate to share her life with these animals and to be able to share their stories of resilience and recovery, helping others to see them the way she does: as individuals who share much in common with our companion animals and even ourselves, and who have much to teach us.

She’s formed close relationships with many of these animals, from babies to seniors, small birds to huge bovines. She’s even known some of these friends from the very beginning of their lives.

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Baby Hazelton.

The birth of a very special lamb was especially memorable. “Hazelton was the first birth I have ever seen in person,” she says. “I was an intern at the time and right when I started, we were doing sleepovers at the hospital for pregnant Louise and Tracey sheep.

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Sheep sleepover (aka a sheepover).

“We would go down to the hospital at the end of the p.m. shift to take over the watch for the caregivers. There was a chair and a cot set up inside the pen with Tracey, Louise, and Jon. It was so cold because it was the middle of winter, and we had to make sure it didn’t get too hot in the pen for the sheep who were completely covered in wool. I, on the other hand, wore multiple layers of clothing tucked into multiple layers of socks and slept inside my hooded 20-degree sleeping bag!

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Curious Tracey and Louise investigating their overnight guest.

“It was so fun and strange to wake up in the middle of the night to Louise standing over me and breathing in my face! I really never got much sleep those nights; too much excitement about the possibility of a birth. Of course, all of the babies wound up being born during the day, but I was totally okay with that because they were just so cute! Baby Hazelton [Tracey’s son] came first and I couldn’t believe how small and soft he was. We had to put pajamas and coats on them that were so small to make sure they stayed very warm! Summer and Reuben [Louise’s twins] came shortly after, and that was a lot of cuteness. They all played together and it was so great to get to watch them all grow big together.“

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Bianca with Valentino.

Another tiny baby who made a big impression on Bianca during her internship: Valentino! “I remember the first day he came to the shelter. I had never really been around a newborn calf before, and here was this tiny little guy that had to be carried into his new pen in one of our pig barns,” she recalls. Bianca loved making daily visits to Valentino to clean his water unit. The youngster received lots of attention from sanctuary staff and even made some friends among our resident chickens. “But he wanted some bigger friends to play with,” Bianca says, “so we tried him in the sheep barn! I couldn’t believe how cute he was in there. He was just as big as all of the other sheep, but you would look into the crowd and he would stand right out! He had so much fun running around in that barn; there was so much more space for him! There was one day that I was on feeds and I was doing my last checks in sheep barn when I saw Valentino laying down right next to the hay rack. I sat down next to him and he put his head right in my lap and fell asleep while I was scratching his face. I sat for about 15 minutes until I really had to keep going on my shift, but that was one of the sweetest moments ever.” Valentino has since been able to join our special-needs cattle herd, but he and Bianca remain close.

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Gary calf

Another charming calf who’s won Bianca’s heart: new resident Gary, who, like Valentino, was rescued from the dairy industry. “Gary is such a spunky, awkward, nerdy little man,” says Bianca. “He jumps and flails his crazy long limbs around like he’s the happiest guy in the world. More than once we have found him cuddled up right in the middle of the hay pile napping with Valentino and [fellow herdmate] Adrienne snacking around him! He is so incredibly sweet and can be calm when it’s not mealtime. He loves scratches on his chest and massages on his face. He likes it when I brush him, and he has the cutest little circular part in the middle of his back. He just brings so much joy to my heart that I feel like I’m going to explode. I feel so lucky that I will get to see him grow up. I can’t wait to see where he is in 10 years, and I hope he remembers me bottle-feeding him on his first nights at the shelter. It’s special friends like him that make this job so incredible.”

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Bianca’s buddy Hank.

Many people who visit our shelters are particularly surprised to discover that turkeys have such distinct personalities, full of charm and curiosity. One of Bianca’s closest Farm Sanctuary friends is Hank, a turkey whose arrival at our New York Shelter coincided with her own. “I remember my first day as an intern, Hank had arrived only two nights before, and I kept hearing all this buzz about a handsome new turkey,” she recalls. “I had to go to the barn he was in with the other intern I was working with to clean out nest boxes, and we stood at his pen door and just looked at him for so long. He was so beautiful. He kept strutting around and puffing out his feathers. I had never been around turkeys before and I just couldn’t believe how beautiful he was. I love going into his barn to say hi to him and to tell him how handsome he is. His routine is too much to handle

another one of those moments where I feel like I’m going to explode with joy. He struts back and forth and puffs out his feathers and just gradually gets closer and closer to you until he’s right on top of you. He just wants to be right next to me, and even if I move, he starts his strutting back up again to get to my new spot. He has the most amazing eyes, and I really think he hears me when I tell him how handsome he is. I am so grateful that we were able to give him this amazing home that he loves.”

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Bianca’s pal Benedict.

Like Hank, another special favorite of Bianca’s just radiates with love of life: Benedict goat. “Benedict is just one of those friends that you can’t help but fall in love with,” says Bianca. “His personality is so huge for such a little guy. He came from the Hudson Valley rescue and was in such bad shape that he had to go straight to [the Nemo Farm Animal Hospital at Cornell University] for health care. It’s crazy to see pictures of him when he first came compared to now

he was so small and emaciated. He still has many health issues, but he is so happy. Benedict is one of the most determined animals I have met. … He always wants to have a good day, and we try to see what he needs to make that happen… whether it’s putting him in his wheeled cart right away so he can jet around and play with his best friend Chucky, or if it’s giving him a break for a day so he can spend time hanging out inside and staying warm. He always has the brightest look on his face. It’s filled with so much curiosity, happiness, and excitement. He’s just a little kid that wants to have fun!“

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Bianca’s buddy Farley in the barn.

Bianca also has a soft spot for a special pig named Farley. “He has the cutest face and such a great personality,” she says. “He is curious, intelligent, and sweet. Farley lives at Sheds, which is part of the farm that’s a little further up the road. He lives with his friends Ogar, Socks, Marge, and the newest addition, Roxy. At feeding time, we have to separate the group into certain areas, because some of the pigs are more dominant, and some eat more slowly than others. I always like to have Farley in his own space because he is one of the slow eaters. It’s so cute to watch him eat

he takes his time and feels no rush, because he’s by himself and he knows I won’t let anyone else in until he is all done! There was one day I had him in the main area, and I had already picked up three bowls from one group. He looked at me expectantly, so I put the stacked bowls in front of him. He ran his nose up and down the stack to count that there were three. He put his nose around in the top bowl to check for food and picked it up and put it to the side when he realized there was none. He did the same for the second bowl and put it to the other side to check out the last one. When he realized there was no food at all, he looked right back up at me with an adorable, sad face! I just remember bursting into tears and giving him scratches all over, because that was the cutest thing I had ever witnessed.”

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Bianca poses with her friend Faith cow.

Other residents Bianca is especially close to include Truffles pig, Rosemary duck, Liam sheep, Bruce goat, Lloyd sheep, and Twister and Faith cows. The deep relationships Bianca and other staffers form with the animals in their stead bring great joy and meaning to their lives,
demonstrating how a little compassion goes a long way in making a difference.

Unfortunately, the job also offers its share of heartbreak; there is great
pain in realizing that there are some animals we cannot save, or in saying
goodbye to a beloved friend. Even through these experiences, however, Bianca
and her coworkers learn important lessons about love and life and that when
we open our hearts, despite the promise of pain, we may also grow and heal in
ways we never thought possible.

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The late, great June Bug.

One animal who had much to teach us was June Bug goat, who, despite her short time with us, opened
Bianca’s heart in ways she never thought possible.

“June Bug was such an
incredible spirit and I feel so lucky to have gotten the chance to know her,”
Bianca says. “She came in with five other goats from a cruelty case in Connecticut. The conditions she came from
were horrid, and she and her friends were in terrible shape.” June Bug was the sickest of the group, suffering from both caseous lymphadenitis (CL) and caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE), both illnesses we frequently see in rescued goats. Eventually, June Bug needed to be moved from the enclosure she’d shared with her friends to a pen in our onsite hospital.

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“This was when I really started to get to know her. … Her favorite time and my
favorite time was mealtime. I would slide open the door and tell her, ‘Time for
dinner!’ Her eyes would widen, her ears would stick right up at attention, and
she would ease herself off her straw bale to come get some food,” Bianca recalls. “As her condition
worsened, she would need to walk slower and more carefully, but her excitement
never faded. In her better days, she would walk all the way to the fridge and
stick her head in to pick out what she wanted. I would put out buckets of her
favorite grains

sweet feed and shepherd 16

a bowl of peppermint goat
treats, and a bowl of all of her favorite fruits and veggies. She would dunk
her head in one, take a few bites, and move on to the next. It was so good to
see her happy.

“All
of her issues eventually got the best of June Bug, and we had to let her go. I
still think of her a lot, and I’m so sad that we had to lose such a good friend.
It was an experience I had never had before

getting to know and love someone
that you knew was going to die. It didn’t make it any easier to let her go, because it was impossible not to love her.”

Despite
the pain of losing her beloved friend, Bianca’s relationship with June Bug
helped her understand what compassionate living is all about

the importance
of being there for others in good times and in bad, and the enrichment we can add to our own lives by letting others in.

Bianca’s
experiences demonstrate the importance of community, and how we may enact
positive change by working together to make a difference. “I am incredibly
grateful to have such an amazing group of coworkers that are so good at their
jobs. I have so many people that are so much more experienced
than I am that I can ask any question I may have,” she says.

“I
never knew what it is to completely and totally believe in the work that I am
doing,” Bianca notes of her role at Farm Sanctuary. Her strong, compassionate spirit inspires those she meets to greet the world with joy, and to value the
beauty that life has to offer. When we align our actions with our values, we
may build beautiful lives that we are proud of

and together, we may grow as
individuals while helping all beings enjoy the happy lives we all
deserve.

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