ROY, Wash. — In the nearly six years she's spent rescuing them, Kate Tsyrklevich has learned a lot about pigs.
"They're very social," she said. "They're like humans. They like contact and comfort. They breathe their hot breath on you and let you know what they had for breakfast."
Ethel, who enjoys belly rubs and burying herself in hay, apparently had pig pellets, some grass, some hay, and maybe some mangos this morning.
"They solve issues within a society the same way humans do," Tsyrklevich said as we watched two pigs loudly snorting at each other in a face off. "So they're just humans in a pig suit."
At Heartwood Haven, a 45 acre farm animal sanctuary, Tsyrklevich and her wife Hope work long hours to ease the lives of animals that have suffered from abuse and neglect.
"Heartwood Haven is about spreading compassion in this world," Tsyrklevich said. "It's about leaving the world a more compassionate place."
It was striking to us how much Tsyrklevich seemed to be working for the animals she rescued. She fed them, medicated them, and comforted them.
"They're like cats," she agreed. "And we're just doing stuff for them."
All that stuff is making a difference. They've rescued 14-hundred farmed animals from horrible circumstances.
Juno, a pig with a reddish hue in her coat, was starving and dehydrated when she arrived from a Clark County cruelty case with four of her sisters. Today she and her sisters are the picture of good health.
"It's always good to see the impact we've made and how far these animals have come," Tsyrklevich said.
The original owners of Ethel and Lucy were arrested on drug and murder charges. Now they're getting belly rubs. Tsyrklevich said she doesn't linger on the animals' pasts. She wants them all to enjoy a fresh start.
And it's not just pigs. There are turkeys that have survived bobcat attacks, ducks and chickens that were abandoned. They're all here, all survivors. All living their best lives.
"It's definitely hard work and we definitely want to throw in the towel sometimes because it is such a difficult work," Tsyrklevich said. "But ultimately we know that we are leaving the world a better place."
As a non-profit always trying funds while everything seems to be getting more expensive, Heartwood Haven is selling a 2023 calendar. The sanctuary also takes donations and offers sponsorships of each animal.