Footprints in the snow – the Story of Smoky

In memory of Angela, and Smokey, who have left us during this difficult year 2013, here is an article that explains perhaps better than anything else the spirit that gave birth to Born Free and we would like to be able to carry on.

Footprints in the snow    by Angela Revel Chion


On arrival at the sanctuary the animals are provided with all the necessary care and attention and we then do our utmost to find them suitable homes.

Some animals however for various reasons need to remain at the sanctuary for life. I am sure that Smokey’s story will explain why we have kept her with us at the sanctuary and why we decided it would be unfair to transfer her to a new home.

On a cold and misty November evening  I was moving around the sanctuary settling the animals in for the night when I realised something was moving around in the forest close by. Whatever is was seemed to be following me from stable to stable but never coming in to view. I worried that it could be an injured animal searching for food so for the next few evenings I always left an extra dish of food on the edge of the forest.

One night we had a heavy snowfall and the next morning I awoke to find footprints in the snow leading from one stable to another, the footprints led to our huge stack of hay bales and under these bales I found Smokey, lying exhausted in a hole she had obviously dug out for herself during the night. I eased her out and to my horror found she had a length of barbed wire around her neck that had become embedded in her flesh, her eyes were blood red and her paws and pads badly damaged. She was terrified but too thin and weak to react.

I can remember how sad she looked and how sad I felt as we drove to the vet’s surgery and how we had already become friends on the return journey. Our Nata Libera vet was shocked, she did a full examination and immediately removed the barbed wire. Evidently Smokey had recently had or lost a litter of puppies, it seems she must have been tied to a tree and worn her lower teeth down cutting through the wire. I can only assume she staggered through the forest until luckily came across the sanctuary and decided to move in with us.

Smokey is in good health now, has befriended all the sanctuary animals, even our chubby little Shetland pony and enormous cart donkey in fact she spends many happy hours in and out of the enclosures.

Smokey’s problem – humans! In spite of years explaining that most of our visitors are animal lovers and pleasant kind humans Smokey is still not convinced.  She immediately disappears in to a stable gets close to the largest animal and sits there her eyes saying  “leave me alone I am safe and belong here”.

Both the vet and myself sincerely believe the best way to reach out to Smokey is to leave her in peace and the best we can offer for anyone who would like to help Smokey is say thank you and share her friendship with you via photographs and updates on her progress.

Bless you