He is no longer tagged 492; the purple stripe down his back signifying his demise is slowly fading. And he has a name now: “Eminem” for the time he spent on Eight Mile as a fugitive on the lam.
Animal lovers concerned about the sheep that escaped the slaughterhouse and frantically darted around an east side Detroit auto shop last Tuesday need not worry anymore.
With the warm sunlight pouring in on a hay-filled stall in a barn, plenty of food and water, and a goat aptly named “Buddy” to keep him company, Eminem, the sheep that made a run for it — police said most likely from a local butcher — now has a new permanent home at SASHA (Sanctuary and Safe Haven for Animals) Farm, in Manchester.
“In a day or two, once he gets comfortable, he’ll go out to pasture with the other sheep,” said Dorothy Davies, who along with her husband, Monte Jackson, founded the animal sanctuary — at 65 acres, the largest in the Midwest — close to 20 years ago. “The animals are happiest when they are with their own kind.”
Just then, Eminem cozied up to farm director Christine Wagner, nuzzling and licking her hand. With a wry smile, Davies said: “When you live in a farming community, you learn that meat doesn’t come on Styrofoam trays wrapped in neat little packages.“
More than 400 animals, including cows, horses, goats, sheep, potbelly pigs, farm pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, emus, turkeys, pigeons and guineas all live out their lives here now. They were rescued from neglect, abuse, abandonment or deemed by their owners as no longer useful.
Save one full-time staff member (Wagner) and one part-time employee (Davies), the entire operation is funded by donations of money and food. About 40 volunteers work a 365-day schedule, which is not nearly enough help, says Davies. Donations, too, are a tenuous proposition.
“Last year’s drought sent the prices up,” she said. “And of course, once they go up, they don’t ever come down.”
Still, ever since the couple moved here in 1981 (seeking refuge from the flight pattern in Westland near the airport) and rescued their first farm animal — a draft horse from Mackinac Island that pulled a garbage cart for 20 years — they’ve never looked back.
“She couldn’t work anymore, so they were going to put her down,” Davies said. “Seemed a little unfair, don’t you think?”
On a recent tour, Davies was full of heart-tugging rescue stories; each animal has a story.
“Just like people,” she said.
Pointing to the donkeys, she said: “They came from out west. Every few years the Bureau of Land management rounds them up and turns them into dog food. Same thing with the wild mustangs.”
In July 2010, a livestock truck turned over on the expressway and a former dairy cow ran away from the scene.
“She’s the only survivor of that accident,” Davies said. “And the one that was inside her at the time.”
Her baby was born here; it’s not uncommon to rescue animals that just happen to be “in a family way.”
A Texas Longhorn bull named Digger happily grazing in the field was being raised for his meat on a nearby farm. But the kids convinced their parents not to kill him.
During the recession, they lost their home and they left him in the barn. Next to Digger is Shania. She was supposed to be a breeder, but she never got pregnant, so her owners didn’t want her anymore.
“Jefferson” is probably their most famous rescue. In 2003, the cow ran away from an Eastern Market slaughterhouse. He ended up stopping freeway traffic and even trotted his way past a Burger King drive-thru window. He was finally caught and tranquilized, which meant he couldn’t be sold at market for two weeks. Davies said the two weeks gave them enough time to negotiate for his release.
“It was a classic struggle between the people who wanted to save an animal’s life and the owner who had paid good money for him to be slaughtered,” Davies said.
About 100 chickens were rescued from a factory farm in New York. Davies rescued 50 dogs after Katrina and brought them up to Michigan for adoption. The potbellied pigs were the result of a widely held myth that potbellied pigs have a miniature variety.
“They don’t,” says Wagner. “And when they grow up, people get rid of them for a whole host of reasons.”
The farm pigs have a similar story; petting zoos are fond of baby pigs. Adult pigs: not so much.
As for six-month-old Eminem, he’ll soon make friends with two other young white sheep named Art and Van that were born here. Their mother, who also escaped slaughter, was finally caught in Ann Arbor behind the furniture store after which her children are so named.
Given that Eminem can expect to live another 10 years or so, Davies couldn’t help but add that the little guy could really use a sponsor.
“If the other Eminem would like to step up to the plate,” she said. “His namesake would love it.”