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Meet the loveable roster of rescue animals benefiting from this year’s ‘Goat Games’

Aug. 5, 2022 Updated Fri., Aug. 5, 2022 at 10:23 p.m.

Kit Jagoda, owner of River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary and her husband, Peter, pose Aug. 2 with Toby the Goat in Spokane. River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary joins 13 animal sanctuaries across the nation for the 2022 Goat Games. The nationwide, virtual event challenges human participants to run, walk, bike, hike or complete an activity of their choosing to raise awareness and funds for farmed animals. Toby the Goat is the team caption for River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, and athletes will rally behind him.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Kit Jagoda, owner of River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary and her husband, Peter, pose Aug. 2 with Toby the Goat in Spokane. River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary joins 13 animal sanctuaries across the nation for the 2022 Goat Games. The nationwide, virtual event challenges human participants to run, walk, bike, hike or complete an activity of their choosing to raise awareness and funds for farmed animals. Toby the Goat is the team caption for River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, and athletes will rally behind him. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

On 65 acres next to Riverside State Park, more than 100 horses, donkeys, goats, pigs, rabbits, assorted fowl and other animals are living their best lives

Since 2004, River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary has saved animal lives through rescue, education and advocacy. Next week, the community can help them continue their mission via the 2022 Goat Games.

Held Friday and Saturday, the nationwide virtual event challenges human participants to run, walk, bike, hike or complete an activity of their choice to raise awareness and funds for the sanctuary team of their choice.

Thirteen sanctuaries accredited with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries are joining River’s Wish for the Goat Games. Hosted by Catskill Animal Sanctuary, the event rallies the support of animal lovers and farmed animal sanctuaries.

River’s Wish evolved when Kit Jagoda and her husband, Peter, answered a call to foster dogs and cats in 1994.

“We knew about overpopulation issues with companion animals, but then we learned about the plight of farm animals,” she said.

With plenty of space, the couple took in two horses that were headed to slaughter.

“People don’t realize how many horses go to slaughter no matter how many races they’ve won or foals they’ve bred,” Jagoda said.

Soon, a baby Nubian goat and a couple of day-old calves joined their crew, followed by a slew of rabbits.

“Rabbits are the third-most common animals in shelters,” she explained.

Aware of the growing need for safe places for farm animals, the Jagodas launched River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, a 501(c)(3) named after their beloved dog, River.

Animals come to the sanctuary from various situations.

“Many were rescued from slaughter. Some were brought to us from seizures. Some have come to us when their guardians have died and there was no place for them to go,” Jagoda said. “Brutus is a magnificent one-horned elderly sheep who came to us from a seizure done by SCRAPS. He will live out his days in peace.”

Then there’s Violet, a 7-year-old turkey who came to River’s Wish from a family who saved her on Thanksgiving 2015.

Philip, a friendly elderly goat, was going to be euthanized because his hind legs were bowed. He is now well into his teens and gets around very well.

The organization has partnered with SCRAPS and Pet Rescue in fostering and placing animals, but many of them are seniors and will likely live out their time at River’s Wish.

The all-volunteer organization has no government funding or paid staff. They rely on 35 volunteers who feed, water, medicate, clean and care for the animals weekly.

“Our annual budget for feed and veterinary care is approximately $140,000,” Jagoda said.

She and Peter are artists and art teachers, and their biggest fundraiser of the year is “Art for the Animals with a Starry Night Celebration,” a virtual silent and live auction. They recently held the event for the 12th time.

They also collaborate with Spokane Art School, offering workshops for young people, and have resumed hosting field trips for area schools.

Jagoda hopes participating in the 2022 Goat Games will continue to raise awareness, and they’ve chosen a charming team captain: Toby the Goat.

Toby and his companion Frosty moved to the sanctuary when their person passed away in the fall of 2021.

“Toby and Frosty have always known love. I can’t say that about all our animals,” Jagoda said.

River’s Wish is currently at capacity for horses and cows.

“We get way more requests than we could ever accommodate,” she said. “While we can’t provide refuge for the overwhelming numbers of animals in need, we hope to have a positive impact through education and advocacy.”

That’s why participating in events like the Goat Games and hosting field trips and art classes at the sanctuary is so important to her.

“We can be so tied up with tech that we’re removed from the natural world,” Jagoda said. “A lot of people can go through their lives without ever meeting a pig or a cow, but being with them helps us connect to nature and creates compassion and empathy.”

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com.

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