BIGLOVEBALL was recently invited by Paws for Hope director, Kathy Powelson, to visit the Hearts on Noses Sanctuary, in Mission, BC. Run by a woman named Janice Gillett, Hearts on Noses is a “mini-pig” sanctuary. The pigs are not mini anymore, nor is the love shown to these animals by Janice and her volunteers.

Kathy and I were joined by my daughter, Rachael, and Tamsen Ogden, a shining photographer who offered to document the excursion. We set out early in the morning with rubber boots, raspberry muffins and no idea where we were headed. While winding our way to Mission, Kathy gave us the ins and outs of animal rescue. It moved us all to hear her raw and candid account of the pain that comes with her position. During the hour and a half, we bonded over bios, while the backdrop moved from grey to green.

I held Rachael’s hand as we approached the sanctuary, not sure of the temperature. Pigs propelled by their own tails, zoomed to and fro, like a happy cartoon. There were dogs, horses, a cat and of course Janice who stood smiling, hands in pockets on the other side of an expansive wire gate. Within seconds we were waved in like friends. I immediately loved it there. Janice explained that potbellied, or “mini pigs”, were trendy in the ’80”s. People were either confused, misinformed or short sighted when wrapping these beings in boxes with bows and taking them home like toys. Many were left abused and abandoned upon realizing the commitment of caring for them into adulthood. While she spoke of the cruelty, neglect and torment of her friends, her angst was palpable.

hearts on noses pig sanctuary

Still, Janice was warm and trusting. The thing is, open hearted folks tend to be o p e n hearted, full time, no matter what they have endured. She allowed us to get close to her and her pigs, exposing endearing details about them, and in turn, herself. Janice affectionately touched and addressed each one, catering to their specific personalities. She fed them fig newtons and clucked away, engaging all of her barnyard babies, from those in the yard to those nestled on blankets inside her warm house. Tamsen snapped away while we hung on fences, encouraging the pigs to find their light and to smile for the camera. Our feet in rich mud and our hearts in fresh air, we scrambled after Janice while she tossed out funny stories from her deep, warm pockets. But with every clever anecdote, Janice also made sure that we understood her message. Hearts On Noses is a 100% non-profit society and every bit of goodwill toward these animals is important. Donations, grants, volunteered time and respect for the animals is what is required.

After an hour or two, we packed our things and said goodbye. It never ceases to amaze me how certain individuals spend every ounce of energy caring for someone they love. My permanent picture of Janice will be of her, hand in one pocket, and the other gently lifting a wiry chin in her palm, to proudly show us a plump, pink heart shaped nose.

We would like to thank Janice Gillett, for her hospitality and endless commitment to her animal friends . We’d like to thank Tamsen Ogden for donating her own time to capture these images to share and to Kathy Powelson, from Paws For Hope for her relentless effort to educate us and facilitate the humane treatment of animals, of every kind. I also want to thank my daughter Rachael Watt for her love and dedication to animals, and for showing up for what matters.

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