An animal sanctuary near Moose Jaw is finding it difficult to recruit volunteers in the winter months after releasing them early in the pandemic.
Louanne Shropshire started Free To Be Me Animal Sanctuary about 17 years ago with a single horse and opened it to the public roughly a decade ago.
Now, it's grown to hold about 75 animals including pigs, horses, llamas, ostriches, cows and more, each with a unique name and some with disabilities — Shropshire estimates fewer than 10.
But the hands they once had to help care for the animals just aren't there anymore and it's become "really hard" to find people interested in the work, Shropshire said.
"Especially with winter coming up because it's not glamorous. It's lots of work, there's lots of lifting, there's lots of shoveling," she told Shauna Powers, host of Saskatchewan Weekend.
She said she had about six volunteers before she released them because of pandemic restrictions. There are about five volunteers at the sanctuary now, but the mingling of winter conditions and the number of animals with special needs means she needs more help.
Shropshire is hoping to see another three people offer their time because she finds importance in how the animals help people who come by the sanctuary.
She's seen people develop a special, compassionate bond with them.
"We have people that have lost loved ones and we have people that have gone through traumas. When they come out and they see our animals and they see that they can touch them and pet them and sit with them, they find a deep connection that they have with these animals," she said.
"So we're a sanctuary, not only for animals, but for people as well. So it does help everybody."
The bond is something Shropshire hopes will also lead people to reconsider eating meat after interacting with the animals.
"I hope that they see not only an animal, but they see a soul, they see a friend, they see someone who they've connected with and that they will view animals not only as farm animals and something to eat," she said.