Friday, April 15, 2016

Birthday fun at a sanctuary

This past weekend was my 30th birthday, and I wanted to do something memorable. I went through an endless list of ideas from my own mind, from the internet, and from friends, but nothing quite seemed right. Until I saw that some sanctuaries could be open to the public that weekend. The idea of going to a sanctuary for my birthday had crossed my mind before, but I assumed it was too early in the year for that, and that no sanctuaries would be open on my actual birthday.

However, I finally did a more thorough search of my options, and the choice was clear. Ralphy’s Retreat. It was the only sanctuary within 2 hours of Toronto that I hadn’t already been to, and that was open on my birthday. The more I read about it, the cooler it seemed. Ralphy’s is a farm sanctuary that focuses mostly on pigs. I had had a very minimal amount of pig-cuddling in my life pre-Ralphy’s, and was very excited to change that. 

I emailed the sanctuary asking to book a tour, terrified that they would say no. I mentioned that it was my birthday, hoping that that would get me to the front of any line that may have existed. Luckily, they responded promptly, telling me that I was booked for my tour on my birthday. I was thrilled.

The next morning I awoke to a snowstorm and briefly questioned my plans. That week ended up being miserable and very cold, and the weather for the weekend looked questionable. Luckily, the day of my trip was quite cold, but there was no rain or snow.
So on my birthday, I got up, had breakfast, and hit the road. 2 hours and some vegan snacks later, we arrived at Ralphy’s Retreat.
I have to say that whether you have been to one sanctuary or one hundred, I think Raphy’s is definitely worth the visit. Kara clearly loves the animals she takes care of, and many of the animals there really love people. There is time to pet the friendliest pigs, there are adorable cats and dogs around to pet, and you will learn so much about pigs, why they need a sanctuary, and how each animal at Ralphy’s came to live with Kara.  
I can’t wait to go back to Ralphy’s again, and to go to some more sanctuaries in the Toronto area. 


We were greeted in the driveway by Kara, our amazing tour guide, and the founder of Ralphy’s Retreat. Kara took us to meet the animals, and told us stories about every single one of them. 

The stories were quite heartbreaking, but the trip was far from depressing. When you see how happy and well taken care of the animals are now, you can’t help but feel uplifted. These animals had had rough lives, but now they are in a place where they are loved and cared for, and hopefully where they will inspire many other people to be more compassionate to animals.

I think that visiting sanctuaries is a great way for people to learn a little more about animal rescue work and why it is necessary. I love when I hear that people take their children to sanctuaries, since it can help teach them so much about compassion. I think that at any age, we can always use some more compassion and can learn valuable new information and lessons. Even as someone who spent most of their life as either a vegetarian or a vegan, who does animal rescue work, and who loves sanctuaries, there was a lot I didn’t know about why and how pigs could end up in a sanctuary. I had no idea the types of horrible situations pigs were living in just in the Toronto area, especially in private homes. I know about what happens to pigs on farms, but I didn’t realize how common it was for people to get pigs as pets, and then treat them absolutely horribly. I really wish that people who want a pet pig would go to this sanctuary first, and, sure, they would fall further in love with pigs, but they would also see why having a pig as a pet is not generally a good plan.

So, if you love pigs, please go to Ralphy’s Retreat. If you love animals in general, go to Ralphy’s Retreat. Cuddle with some pigs, and learn from Kara. Take some amazing photos, have a great time, and support a great cause. And then tell everyone you know about it, and enjoy the strange reactions you get when you tell people you just went to a pig sanctuary. I’m still thoroughly enjoying that. “What did you do for your birthday?!” “I went to a pig sanctuary!!” “….um… what?” and then I get to explain how amazing it was. It’s pretty fun. 


  1. Fine information, many thanks to the author. It is puzzling to me now, but in general, the usefulness and importance is overwhelming. Very much thanks again and best of luck!

  2. I know that you don't know me but, I just typed in. How can I change the world? Your story about you being 4 years old and seeing Maria and you feeling sad for her was like a sigh of relief. I know you don't know me but I felt the urge to let you know that you made me feel better with your story. I am a mother of five children and I'm so afraid of the world and what's slowly happening to it,but just reading that made me feel a little bit better about their future, knowing that there is still good people like you who are out there. So I'll take your tips and apply them myself and then teach the kids to do the same. It only takes one person to change history but I like the odds of five more people. So today just know that you have some more people to help you.