On Monday, March 20, a 250-pound pig fell off a truck onto Interstate 90 in Sioux Falls, S.D. Multiple agencies responded to the call, rescued the pig and transported it to the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society where he was treated for road rash and began a five-day waiting period during which his owner could reclaim him.

More often than not, this is where a story like ends. The pig is reclaimed and completes the 3-mile journey to the Morrell meat packing company where he becomes bacon.

To hear the woman who was following the truck from which the pig “fell,” it sounded much more like an escape.

She see a snout pushing the gate up. She recalls thinking, “What is that trying to get out of the back of that truck?”

She said the animal tried three or four times until he got the gate up. He pushed out to the edge of the truck, going 70 mph down the highway, and he jumped. She got pictures of him on her cellphone looking down before the leap (she surmised, contemplating the risk versus opportunity factor).

The next thing she knew the pig was tumbling head over butt, causing her to slam on her brakes sending everything flying including her phone. She said the pig got up, shook it off and walked to the median.

Was that pig lucky? You bet, but that was just the beginning of his lucky streak.

The woman called 911 and reported the whole incident to skeptical law enforcement officials.

The pig’s story blew up on Twitter. The closest farm sanctuary in Iowa was full. Meanwhile Kara Breci, Founder of the SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary in New Richmond, Wis., heard about pig and contacted the Humane Society in South Dakota.

The folks in South Dakota, in particular the woman who rescued the pig, were put in touch with Breci and between them, they worked out the details to transport the pig to New Richmond. Those details included $180 in vet fees, permits to transport the pig across state lines and Breci clearing the idea with SoulSpace board members, convincing one of them to accompany her to fetch the pig.

Little more than three weeks ago, “Wally” arrived at his new home along St. Croix County Road CC where he walked out of the trailer and into Breci’s heart.

“I fell so hard in love with this pig within the first five minutes of meeting him. We didn’t get home until 11 o’clock at night. We opened up the barn doors and then the doors on the trailer. I said, ‘OK, Wally you’re home.’ He got up, walked straight into the barn, straight into the barnyard, tipped over a couple buckets of water, rooted around a bit, then just started rolling in the mud; you could tell he just knew he was home,” said Breci.

A new life

Breci has always loved animals.

When she and her husband bought the 11-acre plot with a 100-year-old farmhouse and assorted out buildings from the Francis estate, she had the idea of starting a sanctuary in the back of her mind, she just didn’t realize how soon it would become her life.

An injury on the job as a St. Paul police officer ended Breci’s career in law enforcement and started her down the path to creating the SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary two years ago. With the help of her father and friends, she repaired the various buildings in preparation for taking in farm animals. Breci knew she had to learn everything she could about what would happen next.

Gene Baur, a best-selling author and president of Farm Sanctuary, America's leading farm animal protection organization, appeared at a book-signing and reinforced Breci’s dream.

“The first conference I went to was the big farm sanctuary conference out in New York. They go through how to start up a sanctuary and then they spend a huge portion of time on animal care. It’s a very intense couple of days about animal health<” she said. “I read books and did as much research as I could. I continued learning by visiting other sanctuaries. But it’s hard. You can’t just Google pig care, because most of that information is geared toward fattening a pig up for slaughter, not addressing their overall health for their whole life span.”

Breci learned one of the primary reasons many sanctuaries fail is the operators’ hearts are bigger than their facilities and finances. To succeed, you must define whom it is that you intend to offer sanctuary to and, how many refugees can your physical facility sustain and your finances support.

Breci offers sanctuary only to farm animals, but no cows or horses. She isn’t equipped with enough space or resources for large animals.

“I feel like I’m at capacity now. I’m trying figure out how I will take care of what will be a 700-pound pig. So out of the 33 animals that we have, I’ve had to say no to 300-400 animals in the last year. The calls come from everywhere, a ton of pigs, a ton of chickens, horses, cows, people who picked the wrong pets. It’s awful because there are no other options for folks in the area,” Breci explained.

Two-fold mission

“This is not a rescue. We’re not a petting zoo. It’s a sanctuary, where this is their home for life and they get best care and treatment possible to live the lives they are meant to live. That’s the number one priority here. Our second priority is education. We, all of the sanctuaries worldwide, don’t make a dent overall in saving animals. Billions of animals a year are slaughtered for food. Educating people, changing their minds is a huge part of this. We are a vegan sanctuary.”

To watch Wally rooting out a shallow bunker while Amos the miniature donkey and his sheep posse (George, Frederick and Oliver) look over his shoulder fascinated by the excavation project, you get the sense that this sanctuary is meant to be.

“Every time I introduce a new resident here, they just work their way into the mix. It’s just amazing. The chickens eat out of the same bowl as the cats, and the roosters ride on top of the sheep, everybody pretty much knows where their place is. With Amos the donkey, I was worried how that would go over with introducing Wally, but Wally just worked his way in and gets along with everybody,” Breci said.

Plenty of hands, little money

Breci has received an abundance of volunteer support.

“I’ve spent the last four months working on the volunteer program. Since I started this, I have been overwhelmed with people who want to volunteer. Once I realized that this was going to be bigger than me, when I saw how people related to the animals and their stories, I knew I needed help and these folks wanted to help. I’ve got a core group of about 35-45 volunteers. We have workdays where they come out twice a month, and I have regular volunteers that are here almost everyday of the week. They do chores, whatever is required,” said Breci

What keeps Breci up at night is funding. It costs a lot of money to care for 33 animals. Consider just the food and veterinary care alone, add to that equipment and maintenance costs and you have a full-blown business.

With the help of her board members, Breci is starting to figure that out too. She is currently running a Gofundme campaign (www.gofundme.com/soulspacesanctuary) to raise money for vet bills. This spring tours of the sanctuary will resume with plans in the works to start offering more sophisticated humane education programs such as summer camps for kids.

So far Breci’s connections to the Twin Cities have provided the majority of her support, volunteers and visitors. She realizes folks in her backyard don’t even know the sanctuary is here. She would like to change that. Signage is on the way and May 13 the sanctuary will host its first fundraiser. The money will be put toward construction of a visitor’s center.

The benefit starts with a tour at 3 p.m. followed by a vegan potluck, music and a movie – Babe. There will be a silent auction (still looking for donation items for the auction), a henna artist and it sounds like Wally might be available for autographs. Breci also has a SoulSpaceFarm Sanctuary vegan cookbook in the works and potentially a bed-and-breakfast inn on the property.

“The most amazing thing about all of this is how I got the toxicness out of my life and all of this goodness just started flowing in. Some mornings I wake up scared to death, like ‘What am I doing, I’m in over my head.’ Then it’s just that healthy good fear, like, lets just do this.”

Take a tour

The SoulSpaceFarm Sanctuary is located at 1976 County Road CC in New Richmond. Learn more at soulspacesanctuary.com and Facebook page at: facebook.com/SoulSpaceFarm. Contact the sanctuary at 612-760-0471 or SoulSpaceSanctuary@gmail.com. The sanctuary is a 501c3 nonprofit.

Tours begin Saturday, April 29, at 1:30 and 3 pm. and continue through the summer every Saturday. The cost is a $10 donation per person ($5 for military or law enforcement personnel).