Alice the rooster has a guardian angel in Alice Keith.
The volunteer at Ralphy’s Retreat Animal Sanctuary near Waverley has started a fundraising campaign to help the not-for-profit operation that’s been hard hit by increasing, “above and beyond normal” medical expenses for Alice and some of the other animals in its care.
“Since 2023 (began), we have lost a goat, an alpaca, a turkey and last week a donkey,” says Keith, who lives in Orillia.
“The bills are beyond climbing and today we ask for help to save Alice the Rooster. The bill for his care has already surpassed $2,000 and is climbing.”
Ralphy's Retreat Animal Sanctuary is committed to providing long-term sanctuary to pot-bellied pigs and farm animals who have been abandoned, abused or neglected. The sanctuary was featured in a MidlandToday article last July titled Local sanctuary helps mistreated animals, nourishes the soul.
As for Alice, Keith says he was initially seen by a veterinarian for what appeared to be a leg wound, but has since undergone additional care over concerns of sepsis.
And while some might scoff at the costs of ensuring Alice's continued good health, Keith says he’s like no other rooster.
“He is one of the first residents to greet visitors,” she says. “He is our honourary tour guide and is often found in visitors’ arms asleep or perched on their shoulder. He needs to be involved in activity around the sanctuary and is the ultimate photo-bomber.
Keith says Alice has helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people learn that chickens are sentient beings with personalities, feelings and desires.
“He has helped people overcome their fear of birds and befriends everyone that visits Ralphy’s. I am quite certain, he is also the only rooster with a flair for fashion.”
But it isn’t just Alice whose care the sanctuary benefits.
“No one has done a gofundme for the sanctuary so I thought I would try, they deserve help, even $1 makes a huge difference,” Keith tells MidlandToday.
Keith says the sanctuary truly is just that for the volunteers and visitors who drop by to meet and care for its menagerie of animals.
“This sanctuary popped up on my radar last spring, while I was dealing with a mental health breakdown,” Keith says, noting she was desperately seeking some therapy and also a way to get out of the house once in a while.”
After reaching out to the sanctuary and explaining that she is on a treatment plan for bipolar disorder and PTSD, the shelter manager suggested she might enjoy volunteering to help all the animals, but mainly the pot-bellied pigs.
“Over time, I learned to pick up poop, muck a stall, feed and water all the animals,” she says. “I volunteer four hours a week now, but have received much more than I thought possible.
“This sanctuary has become a lifeline for me and hundreds of others. Ralphy's Retreat doesn’t just rehabilitate the animals, they teach them social skills and allow people to bond with an animal, which is great for those suffering from many illnesses.”
The sanctuary also takes animals for outings to seniors’ homes.
“They took Charlie the pig and Franklin the goat to the Spencer House long-term care facility (in Orillia), and allowed all residents and staff to interact with them. The smiles were just precious.”
The shelter also takes the animals to schools to educate students about what animals need and what they bring into our lives.
“This summer, they will even do summer camp to teach kids compassion, empathy, care and bond with an animal of (their) choice,” Keith says, noting the sanctuary relies fully on donations, animal sponsorships and fundraising efforts.
“They really use every cent for the animals and their necessities. The land was not set up for a sanctuary so costs were above normal and they are so lucky to have found some dedicated volunteers to assist in farm chores and come together on a weekend project like insulating some of the pigs houses, make more pens as the need is so great.
“I love the compassion of those associated with the sanctuary and know many who consider the sanctuary a blessing in their life. I know first hand it has greatly helped me and my well-being.”