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Greener Pastures Animal Sanctuary gives farm animals a new lease on life

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When Dinky the potbellied pig first came to Greener Pastures Farm Sanctuary, she had mechanical blindness—a condition that occurs when pigs are so obese, the fat on their face rolls over their eyes and leaves them without sight.

"She came from a shelter down in Los Angeles where she had been surrendered during a fire," said Diane Dieterich, executive director of Greener Pastures. "Someone reached out to us and we were like, 'Of course we'll take her.'"

After 16 months of providing Dinky with a healthy diet, she went from 270 pounds down to 110.

"We got her to UC Davis and they did a surgery called a facelift, actually, to enable her to see," Dieterich said. "Before, she just wanted to sit all day. Now she explores the barn and the pasture and lays in the sun. She's a completely different animal."

Dinky is just one of dozens of farm animals that Greener Pastures has rescued and provided a forever home for. Formerly located on a property in Santa Ynez, the sanctuary moved to Arroyo Grande a year and a half ago.

"We started in 2016 officially as a nonprofit," Dieterich said. "I recognized that we needed something in the area for farm animals. There's lots for dogs and cats, but there's very little help for farm animals in need. So we formed the nonprofit, and here we are all these years later."

Due to space, Greener Pastures is limited to animals whose lives are in danger, sick, or heading to slaughter. When they get the call about a new animal, Dieterich and her team of volunteers learn everything they can about the animal's past and any health issues it might have. Upon arrival, the animal is quarantined to ensure it's healthy before being introduced to the others.

"Then we gradually introduce it to our herd of animals," Dieterich said. "Right now we have horses, goats, donkeys, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, and turkeys."

Each animal comes with a unique story. Some of the sheep came from FFA students who had a change of heart right before their animals were set to be slaughtered. The chickens came from the infamously cruel egg-laying industry. The roosters were abandoned on the street. The pasture's horses came from a kill pen.

"They all have a story of forgiveness and resilience," Dieterich said. "They're pretty amazing."

Each animal also comes with a unique care routine. For Dinky the pig, it's sunscreen: When Greener Pastures first got her, she was severely sunburnt.

"We put sunscreen on her every day," Dieterich said. "In nature, pigs are black, gray, or brown. But they're bred to be light pink because people want to eat white meat. So there's a lot of fair pigs out there that do need sunscreen."

Volunteers and community donations are what keep Greener Pastures afloat.

"We have volunteers every morning to help us clean stalls and change water and brush the animals," Dieterich said. "We are purely run by donations, being a nonprofit organization. Our medical care is what costs the most, so the donations go toward feed, medical care, medicine, maintenance."

From April to December, Greener Pastures holds an open house on the first Sunday of each month to give the public a chance to meet the animals and see the work that the organization does.

"We have volunteers stationed at each of the pens, telling the animals' stories, where they came from, and how resilient and forgiving they are after their tortured past," Dieterich said. "People seem really responsive to that. They get to hear the stories and connect to the animal."

Fast fact

• If you're a skateboarder—or if you just like watching them—mark your calendars for a free Skate Day event in Cambria on March 12. Community group Skate Cambria will be hosting a lineup of professional skaters including X Games competitors Ryan Decenzo and Lazer Crawford, plus legendary skateboarding emcee and host Dave Duncan. All proceeds from the event will go toward rebuilding the Cambria skatepark. Learn more at skatecambria.com. Δ

Staff Writer Malea Martin can be reached at mmartin@newtimesslo.com.

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