DARTMOUTH, Mass. – The alpacas, with their funny Muppet faces and curly coiffed bangs, were inquisitive when the new people walked up to meet them.
A pony ran over, head bobbing.
Two goats trotted near, like dogs with big horns, to have a sniff and a stare.
Todd the goose stayed where he was with the ponies and other animals.
“He doesn’t like the ducks and chickens,” said Deborah Devlin, who owns Don’t Forget Us Pet Us, a 14-acre farm that is home to all manner of animals that have been neglected or have some form of special needs.
Devlin runs the place with her friend Jill Tigano. They are both mothers who enjoy raising their young children — they each have two — while tending to the animals.
It started in 2010, when they took in two goats, Stevie and Eli, who needed a better home. From there, well, no one knows what really happened.
“As we went along, the animals found us,” Tigano said. “We started getting calls.”
The two women care for a pig, Lulu, who was stepped on by her mother at birth and failed to thrive. Lulu is now 4 years old, and her weight is anyone’s guess.
“She does a trick,” Devlin said. “Watch.”
Devlin let Lulu sniff a peppermint, and then instructed the pig to sit. Lulu quickly did as she was told and soon got her treat and a pat on the head.
A cow, called Baby, is blind, but she smelled the peppermint and came right over to Devlin.
“I’m sorry, I’ll get you later,” Devlin told Baby.
A pony, called Cowboy, came to the farm after suffering an eye laceration that was allowed to fester by a previous owner.
Devlin and Tigano raised money to have the eye removed. Today, Cowboy barely notices that he’s lost half his vision and is friendly and well-mannered.
Jeremy the donkey suffered pneumonia. The women bought him at auction and gave him breathing treatments.
“We have a huge love for animals,” Devlin said.
The love they share for all things furred or feathered has translated into an educational, mobile petting zoo. The women give pony parties and take the animals to different venues. In January, they visited the people of Newtown, Conn., after the Sandy Hook school shooting to offer the children a day without fear. They are also beginning to get involved in pet therapy.
“We’re just looking for a way to give back,” Devlin said.
Devlin and Tigano run the farm with their own money, costing them $1,200 to $1,500 per month in food alone.
Devlin, who lives on the property, is up at 4 a.m. each day to care for the animals.
“I look forward to it,” Devlin said. “This is my therapy, my quiet time.”
That’s followed by waking the kids and getting them ready for school, taking them to school, and then going to work.
Both women have full-time jobs.
The kids help out with cleaning and other farm chores like “picking up the poop.”
“It teaches them responsibility,” Devlin said.
Running about the farm are other animals, like chickens, ducks and, of course, barn cats. They were rescued, too.
“It’s something I can’t help,” Devlin said. “When I’m aware of something in need, I need to step in and help. I won’t sleep until I do something about it.”