Wishing Well: a sanctuary for rescued farm animals

Noah feeds Poomba, a rescued pig at the Wishing Well Sanctuary. MIRIAM PORTER PHOTO

In a land far, far away there is a magical dwelling where tired abused souls are healed, lives are saved, love is given unconditionally, and happy paws and hoofs run free from harm. If you are a lucky visitor you may get kissed by a cow, tickle a pig, feed a llama, get playfully chased by a goat or sheep and set your eyes upon the most loving horses you have ever met. This enchanted haven is in Bradford, which is really just 45 minutes north of Toronto, and is called Wishing Well Sanctuary.

Wishing Well was founded by a compassionate and dedicated woman – Brenda Bronfman. She even looks like she stepped off the pages of a fairy tale, with long, dark, flowing hair, a graceful demeanour and welcoming smile. 

This mother of three adult children is truly committed to improving lives of animals, both human and non-human. Originally from Montreal, Bronfman opened Ontario’s newest sanctuary in 2011, now a federally registered charity. 

“I always felt a connection with animals. We had dogs growing up, dogs were my first love” she says. “Later I became involved in local animal protection issues. I joined the Toronto Humane Society as a volunteer in the education department. I also love kids and education. It’s crucial to educate others in order to have a positive impact in the world.”

Bronfman joined the board at the Humane Society and later became president of the board. “I learned about animals raised for food and that opened a whole new world for me,” she says. 

“I visited slaughterhouses because I felt it was important that if I was going to speak about these issues and educate others I needed to know about it. I had to say I witnessed it with my own eyes.”

The more Bronfman learned about abused and mistreated farm animals the more she wanted to help. She saw others speaking up for cats and dogs but there was a void advocating for farm animals. Bronfman combined her passion for children, education and animals – and the Wishing Well Sanctuary was born.

She fondly recalls when the first rescued animals arrived at their home. “It was a cold fall day.  The animals came off the truck – nine cows and five sheep – and I was crying. These rescued animals walked into the paddock and suddenly the energy of the entire place shifted. These precious souls had arrived. It was fantastic.”

Bronfman’s mission reflects the Jewish value of tikkun olam. 

Humane education, an integral part of Wishing Well, aims to offer positive choices and teach people to live compassionate lives without harming others. 

Bronfman facilitates workshops, public speakers, wellness programs, retreats and summer camps for children, all the while promoting empathy and integrity for all species. Programs that encourage abused and neglected children to interact with abused animals can have a healing effect on children as they can relate to the animals and what they have been through. Bronfman is filling a huge gap in this province when it comes to humane education workshops and these platforms have the power to literally turn lives around.

Standing tall in the centre of the sanctuary is a beautiful peace pole. Bronfman explains that the pole radiates peace outwards from within the sanctuary. The six sides display writing in Hebrew, Ojibway, Sanskrit, braille, French and English, as well as animal prints. If you attend a tour, offered on the last Saturday of each month from March to November (no drop ins), you can stand next to the powerful peace pole. 

Each animal has a unique personality and rescue story. There are currently 53 animals on the property, including cows, sheep, donkeys, pigs, goats, horses, chickens, cats, rabbits, and one gorgeous and curious white llama named Lightening. Lightening will gently nibble grass from your hand and has the funniest crooked toothy grin. 

Of the 10 pigs, Yoda is the most famous. This piggy celebrity was just a baby when he boarded a truck destined for slaughter in Quebec. But this brave little guy fought for his life and jumped off the truck that would have taken him to his death.  Yoda’s renowned rescue aired on mainstream media and raised awareness. Perhaps the news of Yoda’s rescue spread to pig-land because a few weeks later another pig jumped off a truck to freedom and also ended up at Wishing Well. Bronfman named her Princess Leia and the rescued piggies are best friends. Wishing Well is also home to Jinx, a mischievous goat; Sweet Pea, a horse removed from a horribly abusive situation; and there is even Muzzle Tov the steer, who was discovered in terrible conditions on a farm. Bronfman said he looked like “Good Luck”!

Bronfman’s good luck extends to the wonderful volunteers she relies on. “This place cannot run without our volunteers, they are amazing and help so much,” she says. 

It costs about $7,000 per month just on food alone for the animals, Bronfman confides. “Having a famous last name is a mixed blessing. The downside is that people automatically think I don’t need money for the sanctuary, but that’s not the case. The truth is I have sold pieces from my family heritage to keep the sanctuary going.” n

To learn more go to: www.wishingwellsanctuary.org