What do you think of my photo this month? It’s by my good friend Jose A Guzman Colon, who has spent the past couple years taking photos of A-list drag and tranny queens, so I was highly honored when I got a call one weekend in San Fran to come sit. I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to get a holiday snap for my Xmas card, column, posts, what have you, and did it à la socialite with the cute, little toy dog. Look at the face on that little fella—could you just die? Alas, this is not my Maltese/Bichon Frise (Chester), but my City-By-The-Bay roomie’s, Mr. Anthony.

I would love a pet––the companionship, the unconditional love. Unfortunately, my lifestyle is one that lends to not afford such a luxury. I always said that I can’t have pets till I can keep my plants alive––I can’t just throw them away and get new ones at the Farmers Market. Damned if I’ve kept my flora among the living for nigh on two years now, and still no fauna. The trouble is, I am never home. Whether it be to another state or social obligation, I can’t justify either being the person that has to bring the animal with them—torturing the poor thing by bringing it to the club—or simple neglect (because I can’t keep a schedule for myself, let alone another living, dependent creature). Luckily, I know this, and our shelters are too full because of these sad scenarios. If you are up for a pet, wait about two months after Santa comes and go to the Park City shelter––you’ll have your pick of the créme de la créme of specialty breeds.

I started to think of how I could curb such cravings, and this led me on a hunt to seek out an alternative. Turns out you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one of Utah’s many heartfelt facilities for our furry and feathered friends. We have so many shelters and rescues to choose from, that are always filled to capacity and never have enough volunteers.

I wanted to find something a little more than just your average cleaning kennels/dog walking, so I decided to hit up the Ching Farm Rescue and Sanctuary. Founded in 1998 by Mike and Faith Ching, the sole purpose of this farm is to give a home to our unwanted, broken, displaced and retired farm creatures. I called my friend Larayn Clegg––master vegan chef at Zest and selfless animal activist––to see where to begin.

Being the clever devil that she is, she suggested I take a tour of the farm with her to see the wonderful things that the farm does and meet the cast of characters—both human and otherwise—who make up this barnyard vignette. In doing so, she knew I’d be hooked.

With over 200 animals at the sanctuary, each has a story as touching as any, from Thelma and Louise, the GIANT sows found in the middle of nowhere escaping from certain death, to Clementine the Tom turkey, Kati Large, the retired Clydesdale and, my favorite, the most adorable little billy goat, Donald, who was born with the goat equivalent of the umbilical cord around his neck. This precious little guy is a bit slow, with an underbite and a limp, and I find him standing and staring at walls a lot. Without the sanctuary, he would have just been a monetary loss. What’s more is that this and all the cute little guys on the farm know their names and come running, wagging their tails when I arrive at the farm and call them. Ponies, ostriches, emus, llamas, chickens, cows: You name it, they have it, and I am proud to say that every Monday, you will find me strapped in my overalls, leopard-print galoshes and braids, feeding, loving, frolicking and covered in pig shit! Visualize that one.

Holidays bring out our need, as humans, to help the less fortunate, and our first thought is to help our fellow humans at this time. I want to plant a little seed and challenge you this season to think about our four-legged and fowl friends who need your help. There are many opportunities at Ching to enrich your life, help make a serious difference and fill your soul. Aside from volunteering on the farm, you can donate equipment and money for feed and sponsorships. What would be a better present this year than buying (sponsoring) your kid a Shetland pony that they can feed and love, making a difference in a life that really needs them? Isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Visit the website, chingsanctuary.org, to get a better idea of what the farm needs/does, and take a look at all the beautiful pictures of the animals that inhabit it. Better yet, take a trip to Ching Farm and see how it works. Faith and her fabulous, full-time farmhands (Crystal, Will, Jordan) and all their furry/feathered friends are anxiously waiting to see you!

Moo-ry Christmas and maaa-ny happy New Year returns.