Our dear Freya had a rough start in life. After being rejected by her mother as a foal, Freya was adopted by a loving human family who treated her as one of their own. Freya became accustomed to this lifestyle and developed poor socialization skills with other burros. Her adoptive family quickly realized it would be in Freya’s best interest to move her from her semi-urban life in the canyons of Los Angeles to the hills of Lompoc where she could live like an actual burro!
It wasn’t easy for Freya. She didn’t play well with others; she just didn’t know how. First, we introduced her to Jasper, a burro who also prefers humans and horses to living with the burro herd! Although Freya seemed eager to be with Jasper, he wanted nothing to do with it. We then introduced her to the burro herd of 25 living in the approximately 100-acre oak forest! Almost instantly it was clear that Cornelius and his best friend, Jacamo, along with Poncho and Maggie, would keep an eye on Freya. The herd tolerated her odd ways and the fact she always had to be first for the hay, braying and pushing them out of her way. They seemed to accept her as she was.
For humans, she was a kick — literally. One minute, she played the coquette, wanting to be stroked; the next, she was crotchety and kicking. Yet somehow, she managed to endear herself to everyone. She was always getting into a predicament or chasing someone or something, like the 4-wheeler. Once she slipped down a hole but let it be known straight away with her braying. RTF staff heard her, helped her out and all was okay. Perhaps that was a foreshadow for what happened a few weeks ago.
One day, Freya did not show up to meet the feed truck. Usually, she was first in line but now, she was nowhere in sight. The next day, the same thing. Panic struck. Quickly, everyone went into action. Thus began a two-week search of tracking, diving into ravines and thick brush. Where could she have gone? Despite the terror, there were no vultures in the sky, an indicator a carcass was not on the ground and there were no signs of mountain lions having dragged her. The search was constant and extended beyond the team at RTF. Neighbors were looking, too.
Every day, there were 1-3 people searching, 6-10 hours a day. Fence lines were repeatedly checked, ravines followed through thick brush. RTF Ranch Hand Raul Carlos, once a tracker in the Army, gave us hope when he found what he believed to be her tracks and followed them through what seemed impossible brush for her to get through and over to the neighboring ranch’s water trough…but where was she?
We were about to finally give up after a wrenching two weeks, but…as mysteriously as she disappeared, Freya returned! One morning she was back with the herd … but different. She was not braying and running to the feed truck. She was disoriented, dehydrated, shocked and had body trauma. She could not move her tail and fur was missing. She was severely impacted and could not urinate or defecate on her own.
From two weeks of frantic searching to two weeks of chronic care: intensive emergency care, first by Dr. Chris Pankau of Inland Equine Medical Center in Los Olivos, who saved her life, but she was not out of the woods yet! He then transferred her to Alamo Pintado, a full-scale state-of-the-art facility, to be under the loving and expert care of internist Dr. Christina Lopez and her team.
Although this feisty burro showed every sign of fighting her way back, her future was still very precarious. An older burro most likely would not have survived, but 6-year-old Freya had youth on her side, so we remained optimistic. Dr. Lopez said Freya loved her sessions in the hyperbaric chamber but was not at all behaving for acupuncture treatments (to help with her nerve trauma)! Her infections were healed, the IV drip came off, her bladder catheter was removed and Freya was starting to function on her own.
Because we now have an on-site veterinarian at the sanctuary, Dr. Nicole Eller, who can keep a close eye on Freya’s recovery, feeding and provide emergency treatment if Freya would become impacted again, Freya was released to return home!
Freya seemed to perk up each time someone whose voice she recognized came to visit her, so we made sure she was visited every day by someone she recognized, and Facetime visits were often scheduled with the family who first rescued this orphaned little burro. Many thanks to Lisa Brown who brought Freya to RTF originally and traveled up from Ojai, and to RTF staff: Neda DeMayo, Gwen Malick, Sarah Romberger, Dr. Nicole Eller, Erik Oftebro, who went and took her on short grazing walks at the clinic, massaged her spine with oils, administered homeopathy and groomed her. Gratitude must be expressed to RTF’s feed team and Raoul, who noticed she was missing and spent hours into the dark tracking her after we all lost hope. Thank you to the tireless daily search efforts of Neda, Sarah, Gwen, and relief from Merced Tagle, Paulin Tagle, Brian Laughlin, Tommy Brown Jr.
We are grateful for the immediate and expert care from Dr. Pankau, Dr Lopez and for the now daily oversight and care for Freya by Dr. Eller at the sanctuary, who points out that she is now Freya’s personal assistant!
Since Freya’s return we have seen a new younger male mountain lion. It appears he is staking out his territory. He could have been on her trail. Perhaps she strayed from the herd and was on the run, eventually getting caught up in some of the heavy brush—finally escaping to neighboring rolling hills. We can’t be sure but we assume that all the searching and tracking helped her find her way back.
Freya’s story is surely unique in our 22-year history, except in one regard: It is emblematic of the devotion and quality care Return to Freedom gives all of the animals at the sanctuary. Yet, we cannot do it alone.
Freya In The News
Click Here to read Freya’s feature in the Santa Barbara News Press