APPLEGATE VALLEY — As operations manager for Sanctuary One, Brian Kiesse has heard countless tales about animals and the humans who help provide them with a chance for happily ever after.
Sometimes the four-legged friends he meets at the rolling property near Applegate Lake find their forever home with him.
Kiesse met Nacho, a spirited American blackbelly ram named for its Doritos-eating past, on what would otherwise have been just “another day at work.”
“We make connections here … and we end up taking some of them home. I have cats from here. My wife is a vet. It’s definitely what I guess you could call an occupational hazard … the getting attached,” Kiesse points out.
Nacho came to Sanctuary One from Farm Sanctuary (www.farmsanctuary.org), a rescue organization in Los Angeles.
“They’re strictly an animal rescue, and they’re a zillion times bigger than us, but we help them out occasionally with an oddball case like a pot belly pig or sheep. We’ll help them relocate a species they don’t really specialize in.”
Nacho’s story began when he was posted for slaughter on Craigslist. A good Samaritan saw the ad, purchased the ram and proceeded to have him live with his family dogs.
“His former owner had him living in his backyard and he was quite fond of him. We got a picture of him living in a backyard. It worked out OK for a little while, but he didn’t have the money to get Nacho neutered. They can get fairly aggressive when they’re not, so he just made the decision to surrender him.”
Farm Sanctuary took him to UC Davis to be castrated, and he was supposed to stay three days, Kiesse said with a laugh.
“UC Davis called and said, ‘You need to come get this sheep, because he’s being a real pain!’ We thought, oh, boy, we were probably going to have our hands full when he came up here, but it just took waiting for the testosterone to filter out of his system.”
“We decided to call him Nacho, because in the picture the owner sent to Farm Sanctuary he’s lying next to a dog and there’s a big bag of nacho-flavored Doritos lying on the table next to him,” Kiesse notes.
While the ram was behaving obnoxiously before being neutered, Kiesse said he quickly found a connection with the buff-colored boy.
“He was up here for three or four months, so I got to work with him every day and realized what a really sweet, friendly soul he was,” Kiesse said.
“It wasn’t that he didn’t have any place to go. I’m sure he would’ve gotten adopted. I had an opening, and I had really formed a bond with him. He likes to follow me around the pasture. If you scratch him on the back, kind of like you do a cat near base of their tail, and they arch, Nacho kind of does that, too.”
While American blackbelly rams are raised for meat, at least one of the species, in the Applegate Valley, serves as a reminder that even a seasoned animal rescuer can become as attached to four-legged creatures as the average adopter.
“We have six goats and a llama, some cats, a couple of birds, two dogs … he just seems to fit right in,” Kiesse said.
“Did I ever imagine I’d adopt him? No. But I never thought I’d get llamas either. I think once you open the door to a new species, the next one is a natural progression. And Nacho is really, really a great little guy.”
— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.