Each month I will aim to feature one of the sanctuaries and their residents whom I have gotten to know, starting with the sanctuary that helped me formulate what would become the Yoga Animalia Project: Ching Farm Rescue and Sanctuary in Herriman, Utah.
A rather magical thing happened on a turkey transport to Salt Lake City: the possibility of photographing all the farmed animal sanctuaries settled into my brain.
Before RV Katie Kowhugger was a glimmer of an idea, my trusty Calypso Prius provided transport to numerous farmed animal friends. On what would be the first trip to Ching Farm Rescue and Sanctuary near Salt Lake City, three turkeys - Daphne, a young broad-breasted white hen saved from a factory farm, and Lincoln and Apollo, broad-breasted bronze boys rescued before Thanksgiving from shelters – were ferried by my best friend and transporter extraordinaire Alicia and myself on a ten-hour journey. It was just after Christmas and as the uber-intelligent and weather-spoiled Southern Californian I am, I showed up at the snow-bedecked sanctuary in my Vibram toe shoes. It was cold. This may very well have been the start of my terror of all things snow.
The following day, despite the slow creep of cold into my toes, Alicia and I followed sanctuary founder Faith around and met the residents of Ching. It was the first time I was moving and photographing amongst sanctuary residents with whom I was not intimately familiar. This trip started my love affair with Abbott and Costailo sheep (read more about them here) and Alicia was wooed by Clementine turkey (his handsomeness is here); however, it also laid the groundwork for my next visit the following May when I would circle around from Missouri to stop in at Ching.
That May 2014 trip saw me freshly on leave from my job as a caregiver. The snow had departed by then, and I remembered my boots this time. Arriving at Ching I spent more time not only with the residents, but also with Faith. The outlines of the Yoga Animalia Project were starting to come together, and I shared my thoughts with Faith to get her opinions about whether it was too much to ask to visit and photograph and learn the stories of the residents: her response was enthusiastic and convinced me I could and should use my lens as a vehicle to tell stories. Two days of sanctuary time gave me ample evidence that I could create portraits, coupled with stories from the residents’ caregivers, that would convey the personality of the sanctuary kids.
I visited Ching again early in 2015 - Calypso Prius and I transporting a vociferous old lady goose named Serendipity from Las Vegas to the sanctuary. By this point it felt like visiting family, highlighted for me when Faith remarked how amazing it was I remembered the names of so many of the residents. That stirred so much joy for me.
As family I grieve when individuals pass and celebrate when new individuals are rescued. With each sanctuary and each individual with whom I bond, my circle of compassion expands. Surely it encompasses heartbreak as individuals die, but I strive to live with an open heart, and my farmed animal friends inspire me to do so. My portraits become remembrances of those individuals who pass, and it keeps their stories alive. This has been a gift bestowed upon me by my visits to Ching. It is just one reason why I am honored to spotlight them.
For more information about Ching Farm Rescue and Sanctuary you can visit their newly designed website: chingsanctuary.org, find them on Facebook here, follow them on Instagram @chingsanctuary, and when you are in Salt Lake City schedule a visit to tour the sanctuary, and when you do, hug Abbott and Costailo for me, maybe flirt with Clementine, and make friends all your own.
May so much joy find you,