Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

A warm refuge keeps animals out of the cold

Animal caretaker Maegan Curry makes her rounds during the afternoon feeding of the animals Friday. With her is Sammie the swan, who has found an ice-covered pond to be a mystery.
Animal caretaker Maegan Curry makes her rounds during the afternoon feeding of the animals Friday. With her is Sammie the swan, who has found an ice-covered pond to be a mystery. APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer
Animal caretaker Maegan Curry makes her rounds during the afternoon feeding of the animals Friday. With her is Sammie the swan, who has found an ice-covered pond to be a mystery. Gallery: A warm refuge keeps animals out of the cold
At the PAWS Farm Nature Center, a potbellied pig named Chapman has the best deal of all.

In the summer, Chapman's pen is air-conditioned; these days, as temperatures plummet, he basks in the glow of several heat lamps.

Caregivers at PAWS in Mount Laurel face special challenges as they try to keep the 80-odd birds and animals housed there from shivering during a brutal winter. Some animals, like the alpacas, carry their own warmth. Others, like Chapman and a black-and-white rabbit named Thumper who was brought inside from his snowy outdoor cage, need a little assistance.

Some are just plain confused.

Animal caretaker Maegan Curry, 19, from Weymouth, N.J., points to a hen that laid eggs, then took a five-day break from sitting on them and has now resumed her duties. "I don't think they're going to hatch," Curry says with a shrug.

Sammie the swan still goes over to the pond and tries to swim, says Curry. "But she winds up ice skating."

PAWS has only three heated buckets, so the others have to be emptied once or twice a day to keep the animals' drinking water from freezing. The hoses freeze as well.

Curry, who has taken marine biology and veterinary technician classes and hopes to become an equine massage therapist, has only been at PAWS for five months. She is, however, already very attached to her charges, including a favorite alpaca named Brownie, which she kisses once - and only once - each day. "He just gives you one kiss," she says, "and that's it!"

"You've got to have a favorite in each pen," she explains. "You can't tell them, though."

- April Saul

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