Sunday, December 26, 2010

in the Free Lance-Star


 Rikki's Refuge animal sanctuary hosts a Christmas Day tour and feeding for the critters


As you chow down on your Christmas sweet potatoes, don't forget to set aside a tater or two for Petunia the pig.

Rikki's Refuge, an animal sanctuary based in Orange County that protects and feeds nearly 1,200 animals, will host a Christmas Day tour and feeding from noon to 2:30 p.m.

The tour will feature a briefing on the sanctuary's diverse creatures--and the opportunity to hand-feed pigs, emus, rabbits and more friendly animals in their living spaces.

The event will be solely outside, so make sure to dress for the weather and wear an appropriate pair of shoes.

"Each of our animals have certain foods that they really like," said Jan Chetnik, director of education and public relations for Rikki's Refuge.

"The emus absolutely love broccoli--you hold onto the stalk really tight and they like to pick off the florets.

"And the pigs really like sweet potatoes. In fact, they'll eat anything but onions."

Rikki's Refuge, now celebrating its 12th year, is a serene 367-acre plantation situated in rural Orange County.

The rolling grounds feature nearly 80 acres of space devoted to feeding and caring for cats, dogs, pygmy goats, llamas, chickens and many more creatures with wings, hooves and tails. Among its assorted habitats are pigpens and rabbit rotundas.

Saturday's tour provides the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with the creatures, all while helping Rikki's Refuge sustain its efforts.

"We are asking that guests bring two cans of cat or dog food, per person," said Chetnik. "We really need canned food. Also if guests would like to bring some veggies and fruit, a number of animals love it."

There is one piece of produce that really gets Rikki's animals barking and snorting for more.
"Pumpkins--they all seem to love pumpkins," said Chetnik. "All of our animals really can't get enough of it, except the cats. In fact, we've had a handful of churches donate some pumpkins for us recently."

And apparently, the pygmy goats will eat just about anything, so make sure to hold on tight to your hat and mittens.

"Our goats love vanilla wafers--but if you're holding a piece of paper in your hand, the pygmy goats will eat it," said Chetnik. "They are mischievous little guys."

In addition to providing an often simple yet nourishing meal, Rikki's provides a second or third chance at living for many of the animals.

"I really do feel like I'm making a difference in their lives," said Chetnik. "When you look in their eyes and hear their stories from people, you step back, as a human being, and realize that you can really make a difference."

And what better day to make a difference than on Christmas Day?

"It's an opportunity to share the love of Christmas and Christmas joy with these animals," said Chetnik.

"Most of them didn't have a lot of joy in their lives--and this is one way to bring some into their lives."
Jesse Scott is a Fredericksburg writer.

What: Rikki's Refuge Christmas Day Tour Where: Rikki's Refuge, 10910 Barr Lane, Rapidan When: Dec. 25, Noon-2:30 p.m. Cost: Free. (Food donations requested: two cans of dog or cat food) Info: 540/854-0870;

Date published: 12/23/2010

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