Wally was bound for the slaughterhouse. Perhaps he knew it was a one-way trip, and that’s what made him test the gate on the truck. Headed down the interstate at 70 miles per hour, he pushed the gate loose, jumped off — the motorist following the truck swears he leapt, he didn’t fall — rolled, and got up: 250 pounds of fugitive pork on the lam.
It’s usually a temporary reprieve. Typically an escaped animal is returned to the truck and the journey concludes as they all do. But somehow, the story hit social media, and that’s where Kara Breci stepped up to give Wally a second chance.
Breci runs the SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary in New Richmond, Wis. It’s a home for neglected and abused farm animals, as well as a place for people to get to know the critters up close. She brought Wally to the farm, where he took an instant interest in Amos the mini-donkey. It was mutual.
“Amos stayed on the other side of the gate,” Breci said, “and watched him for two weeks, and when I opened the gate they were like, ‘Finally, I found you!’ Best friends ever since. Amos sleeps in the same barn, watches over Wally when he’s sleeping.”
Tending to orphaned animals is Breci’s second career. She previously was a St. Paul police officer.
“I knew since I was a kid I wanted to be a cop. There was never any doubt. My dad was a cop in Sioux Falls — where Wally came from! — and my grandpa was an FBI agent. I always knew I wanted to make a difference. Then I got hurt chasing a dude that bailed from a car, I went over a fence, came down hard on the other side and had some issues with my back.”
It took a year to heal, and while she did light duty, she realized, “I wanted to figure out what to do next with my life.”
That’s where her 11-acre farm came in. Why not turn it into a sanctuary for farm animals?
A desk jockey reading those words might think: “Ah, what a bucolic life — land spreadin’ out so far and wide. Fresh air! The chores! It’s fun, right?”
She laughed. “You have to wrestle a 250-pound pig that likes to take apart fences. I used to have vacation days, and I totally took them for granted. It’s 24-7, it’s 16-hour days. It’s absolutely nonstop. But it’s awesome.”
Breci wants to make SoulSearch awesome for others, too.
“My dream is for people to experience what I have experienced with these animals. To say they are healing is an understatement — I went through a lot of stuff, and they have healed me. Once I realized how amazing this place is, that it’s bigger than me, I wanted to open it up to others.”
Breci is a vegan, a trait that plays a role in her mission.
“There’s a huge vegan community that works tirelessly for these animals, because there’s no place for them to go. Having sanctuary doesn’t make a drop of difference, but the education part is huge for people to make more compassionate choices.
“We’re working on a visitor center, a community education program, and starting a Big Brothers/Big Sister program that connects the kids with the animals, lets them be outdoors, breathe in the fresh air.” The first time she brought a city kid to the farm, he said, ‘Where are your neighbors?’ He saw the stars.”
The animals appreciate the farm, too.
“We just had a benefit, and 250 people showed up. When it was done I was so exhausted I laid next to Wally, and Amos the donkey came over and leaned in and wrapped his head around my neck. They know they are cared for and loved and safe,” she said.
“I wake up every day and know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, and I love, love, love my life. “
Wally and Amos were unavailable for comment, but you suspect they’d say the same.