Animal sanctuary a labor of love
There is an aura of contentment among the donkeys, cows, pigs, goats, horses, rabbits and cats at Rosia Kennedy’s Rainbow End Farm.
Kennedy rescued all of the 45 animals who live at the 8-acre farm from abuse, neglect or slaughter. Today they live in stalls and cages kept spick-and-span by Kennedy, a wiry 4-foot-11 woman with short, curly hair flecked with gray.
As Kennedy shows a visitor around, she greets each animal by name. At a stall with a brass label on the door engraved “Joseph Rosia Kennedy,” she stops and asks a brown-eyed, 1,300-pound Swiss Jersey steer for a kiss.
He gives her a nuzzle and fastens his bulging brown eyes on the visitor. He seems to listen as Kennedy explains that she rescued Joseph when he was 5 days old. He had been born with crippled front legs and was destined to become veal. It took six months of hard work by Kennedy and her friends, bottle-feeding him and teaching him to walk, to save him.
Seven years later, “he is my gentle giant,” Kennedy says.
Kennedy is not naive about the need for animals to be used as food. She grew up on a farm in Maine where chickens, cows and pigs were raised to be eaten. But as a child, she recoiled when her father slaughtered her favorite animals for dinner.
“We were poor, and that’s what you did,” says Kennedy, grateful that none of the animals in her care die of anything but sickness or old age. “Now you can understand why I’m a vegetarian.”
It has taken Kennedy -- with the help of her husband, John, and close friends Kris and Dave Strain and Bobby Hazen -- eight years to turn a ramshackle farm abandoned by its previous owners into a showpiece refuge for rescued animals.
It is a labor of love accomplished while Kennedy’s three children were in college. Kennedy also works as a manager at McDonald’s, a job she has held for 28 years.
Kennedy says she rises every morning at 2 a.m. to tend to the animals. She gets ready for work at 4 a.m., and after her shift, returns home at 1 p.m. to tend to the animals again.
“Everybody has to have something in life besides just living,” Kennedy says as she steps into a stall to pet Charlotte, a 900-pound pig. Lying next to Charlotte, 800-pound Harriet is snoring loudly. Kennedy has cared for the two pigs since they were piglets, found running through the woods, perilously close to a busy road.
There is virtually no animal smell in the pig stall. The white-pink animals look scrubbed-clean -- because they are. Kennedy bathes them twice a week with baby shampoo.
“It doesn’t hurt their eyes,” she says.
The pigs are so gentle that her grandchildren ride them.
In hot weather, Kennedy hoses down most of her animals so they don’t suffer. The bunnies, however, have individual fans pointed at each cage.
“I lost one bunny last month to cancer,” she says. “I’m not an easy loser [of animals], but I know God’s in charge.”
One of the bunnies was given to her by a young woman who was living in her car.
“She was brokenhearted, but she put the pet first,” Kennedy says. “I have the highest respect for people like her.”
Kennedy says she only takes 45 animals at a time so she can give them the care they need. She is quick to point out that she couldn’t manage without her husband -- who pays the bills -- and her friends, who help clean the stalls, put in fences and watch the farm when she visits her grandchildren.
Taped to a wall in one of her barns is a snapshot of a palomino and a nameplate that reads “Goldie Rosia Kennedy” with a halter hanging on a nail nearby. (Yes, all of her animals share her name.) As Kennedy looks at the photo, her eyes tear up.
Goldie died in November at age 34.
“She was the love of my life,” Kennedy says. “And my first horse.” Goldie is buried in a back field at the farm.
Twenty of Kennedy’s rescues are cats, who live on a porch built on the side of her house. The cats have plenty of climbing equipment in the spacious rooms. She keeps the cats inside, she explains, because barn cats are vulnerable to predators.
“A lot of people rescue and go beyond what they can afford,” says Kennedy, who does not accept donations. Her barns are full now.
“The saddest part is when I have to say no.”
Kennedy’s spacious ranch home is immaculate. But most of her time is spent outdoors.
“I could dress in the finest clothes and have diamonds, but that doesn’t make me happy,” says Kennedy.
” . . . This is my dream. I get up in the morning and I’m grateful for life.”