The FOUND Project // Helen Woodward’s Sally the Rosy Boa
You may remember from Bixby’s story, but in case you don’t, here’s a quick recap… FOUND is my personal project featuring inspirational stories about shelter and rescue animals who came from extraordinary circumstances and are now leading extraordinary lives. For this story, I’m going to introduce you to Helen Woodward Animal Center’s rosy boa snake, Sally, who is now an ambassador for the non-fluffies.
Imagine you were happily living with your family and found out Grandma was going to move in. The catch is that Grandma doesn’t like you and says she won’t come in the house unless you’re long gone. So, you have to leave. Well, that’s exactly what happened to Sally, a stunningly beautiful rosy boa snake.
Thankfully, though, her family did the responsible thing and found another safe place for her: Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, California. The wonderful people at the Center immediately saw Sally’s charm and had an opening in the Pet Encounter Therapy program. Every week Sally got to meet children and adults during summer camp, school programs, and more to teach them how to care for animals like her. Sally also taught people the importance of proper animal care and respect for all animals.
About five years after joining the program, a staff member noticed something wasn’t quite right with Sally. She was developing a bump a few inches back from her head. Sally was taken in to see one of the talented veterinarians at Helen Woodward and they determined it was cancer. The mass was growing around Sally’s heart. There was no other choice: Sally needed open-heart surgery. Yes, open-heart surgery on a snake! Can you imagine the precision and skill needed for that? Thankfully, Sally pulled through and recovered without any lasting issues.
After her open-heart surgery, Sally went back to being a snake and enjoying her work as a PET ambassador… but more bumps began to form. This time, she had multiple ones forming in her abdomen. Once again, there was no other choice: Sally needed surgery. She was taken in and all the masses that could be removed were taken out. She made it through and recovered nicely.
Sally is now happy and healthy, working once again in the PET program. Along with the other animals, she is hard at work teaching children about compassion toward all animals, not just the fluffy ones. She tells them her story of adversity and overcoming immeasurable odds; she teaches them about second chances. Sally embraces her bumps and teaches children it is okay to stand out and be different.
The three girls I photographed with Sally are long-time campers at the Center’s Critter Camp and the next generation of animal advocates. The youngest happily told me all about Sally and mentioned she was her favorite animal there. All the girls handled Sally gently and carefully, following the instructions the camp counselors had taught them over the years. They treated Sally with patience and reverence — all without fear — and it brought me such joy to see.
Sally’s is a story that deserves to be told. It needs to be told. All animals deserve a chance at a happy life. Just look at Sally — really look at her — she’s not scary; she’s a living, breathing, gorgeous being. Her history teaches us of perseverance, second chances, and regard for all life. She — and every snake — deserves our compassion and respect.
Want more FOUND stories? Here are all the current ones on the blog.
Do you know an animal who would be great for The FOUND Project? I’m looking specifically for rescue and shelter animals (breed and type not important) who are now doing something incredible with their second chances… education for kids, law enforcement, hospital therapy animals, animals who inspired their people to do something hugely meaningful, and so on! If you have an animal like this or know of one, get in touch!