|Story by Julia Steele
Photo by Sue Hudelson
Take a stroll with Veronica the deer, Kea the pig and Ella Fitzgerald the goat and you quickly realize that stepping in to Leilani Farm Sanctuary is a bit like stepping into a book you read as a child.. All three creatures, not just tame but friendly, walk the grounds of their home in their own ways: Veronica strides gracefully, Kea snuffles along the ground and Ella, celebrating her one-month birthday today, gambols about like the kid she is. As we walk, we pass dozens of other animals—rabbits, donkeys, tortoises, cats, ducks and even four “silky roosters,” a breed from India with outrageous tufts of feathers that evoke the opulence of their homeland. There are some 170 animals at Leilani, all living harmoniously in a place that would please both Dr. Doolittle and Noah: an eight-acre haven in Ha‘ikü designed to take any and all animals needing shelter and care. Both Veronica and Ella, for example, were infants brought after hunters shot their mothers. Kea was a tiny piglet smaller than a rabbit when she arrived a year ago, but now, having gained a pound a day since, she’s as big as a bathtub.
The mood at Leilani is calm and sweet. Gardens flourish with plants for the animals: lettuce and collards for the rabbits, kale and cilantro for the tortoises. Hand-painted signs carry messages like “Wings are for flying, not frying.” Founder Laurelee Blanchard calls the sanctuary “the realization of a great vision for me”; it’s a safe haven for animals that doubles as a place for people to do just what I’m doing: hang out with the Veronicas, Keas and Ellas of the world, all for the greater good of understanding that all animals are sentient, sensitive creatures with their own quirks and needs. The farm leads public tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays, “giving people a chance to meet the animals in their world,” says Blanchard. Of the larger task of caring for the farm and all who live upon it, “It’s a lot of work,” she admits. “But I love it. Every morning I wake up and I see happy animals in all directions.”