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Heaven on Earth

There is a Heaven on Earth, and it is called Skylands Animal Sanctuary and Rescue in Wantage, NJ. Yes! New Jersey! From the moment you pull into the parking area, you just know that you are safe. In fact, unlike other farms, every being is safe. The air is filled with love and caring; the energy is elevated to a higher level which actually results in a calmness that you cannot ignore.

The owner and founder, Mike Stura is a contradiction of himself. He is the kindest and most gentle of men; he is also a badass biker that will stop at nothing to save an animal. His significant other is a lovely woman whose heart and determination match his. They are a perfect match and the animals clearly approve.

I went to Skylands yesterday for what was called a "Cow Safari"! The weather was perfect and my drive there was pleasant enough for NJ on a Saturday! When I got there, there was a group of people in one of the areas waiting for the safari to begin. I joined them and began interacting with the animals. The first to receive some petting were two pigs. One of them clearly loved being scratched behind the ears. I moved on to the animals that were behind a gate. Don't misunderstand the gates as being like a zoo enclosure. It is nothing of the sort. I was amazed at the size of the sanctuary and the gates are there only to ensure no one gets out and gets into trouble. I walked over to the goats and to my immense pleasure, one beautiful white boy put his head between the rails and rested his head on my chest. He stayed there for several minutes while I pet his face and head. Someone behind me said, "I never saw a goat go in for a hug like that!". It really did feel like a hug, and I felt so much tension leave my body. I did not want to leave my new friend, but the safari was about to begin.

We all climbed into the wagon, with Mike sitting in the tractor ready to start our adventure. Over the next 3 hours or so, we drove through all the nooks and crannies of Skyland while Mike pointed out several famous cows to us. Freddie, the cow that escaped a Queens slaughterhouse and ran through the streets until Mike was able to get him. Brianna, the brave girl who jumped off the top of a transport truck moments before reaching a slaughterhouse. A day or so after being in Mike's care, Brianna gave birth to baby Winter. Walter, who was rescued from an industry that does not value male calves. At a day old, Walter was brought home to Skylands and has lived his life in freedom and love. Walter is huge now. He is a big boy and loves to give kisses. He went from person to person licking them, similar to how a dog would lick people he loves. Mike shared stories of many of these animals. He knows everyone by name. To him, they are his family.

In one of the pastures, we met Baron, the retired Police Horse, and his three donkey companions. Hazel came up to me and stayed by my side for quite a few minutes while I spoke to Mike. She was either protecting Mike or just loving on me. I prefer to think it was the latter. We saw chickens, geese, ducks, and roosters. There was an assortment of goats and a shaggy red cow who was adorable! Suffice it to say, each new animal was declared the cutest or sweetest or funniest. We all loved them all!

If you have never been to Skylands, I highly recommend a visit. Mike's experiences are amazing and the education received in the animal industry is life-changing. For me, a day spent with the animals and the good people who care for them was the reboot my system needed. I cannot thank them enough but will thank them with donations when I can. Below is just one of the areas at the Sanctuary. Visit their website for more information and to make donations:

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