As the end of summer approaches, lots of people make last-minute plans to go away on a quick vacation. But there are also outings people can do right in Pleasanton that can make them feel like they're far away without even leaving town. For example, a lot of people in Pleasanton don't realize they can visit and play with (on the public sidewalk side of the fence) the farm animals that live at the corner of Bernal Avenue and Independence Drive.
For about 50 years, Drea Colella's family has owned the property there, which she refers to as "The Ranch." Her grandparents were its first owners. On the ranch, which is quite a few acres, there are several horses, pigmy goats, Skittles the pony, some chickens, and a friendly llama named Oscar who loves to play. Most of the animals, and especially Oscar and Skittles, love human attention and come right up to the roadside fences to be played with by visitors. They like to be fed treats, too. Colella feeds the animals pellets and hay for their meals, but says visitors can feed them bread, carrots, lettuce, cookies, or old compost scraps (but no meat), as long as they stay on the sidewalk side of the fence (for safety reasons). The horses especially like carrots and will trot over to the fence if they see you holding one. It is Colella's uncle who paints the fences and makes sure they remain secure.
One word of caution is that if you play with or feed the animals you have to be very respectful and gentle with them because some of them will bite or spit if they are frightened. In fact, very young children should probably just admire the animals, but not actually touch them.
Colella thinks caring for the animals is easier than having a dog. She thinks of all the animals as family pets, even the exotic ones who don't live inside the house. When any of these animals die, the family feels as sad as someone else would feel if their dog or cat died. Colella and her family enjoy riding the horses, grooming them and making sure everyone is happy and healthy. They are also careful to make sure that animals placed together in the same arena (field) all get along with each other. There are actually several different arenas on the property, but this is something no one will discover unless they get out of their car and walk around on the Bernal Avenue and Independence Drive sidewalks.
Aside from the outdoor animals people see when they drive by, the family also has cats and dogs that live inside. These animals do not come up to the fence. That's okay though because it's really the llama, pony, horses and goats that are so fun to see because they are uncommon in our area.
Colella and her family are also looking into adopting a pot bellied pig in need of a home, through the California Pot Bellied Pig Association located in Pleasanton Hill (www.cppa4pigs.org). This charitable organization helps find new homes for unwanted or abandoned pot bellied pigs, and educates people about pot bellied pigs. The pig Colella may adopt is named City Girl and she is a three-and-a-half-month-old pot bellied pig that someone in San Francisco bought without first thinking about the fact that a small, city apartment might not make such a good home for a pig. If the adoption goes through, Colella will change the piglet's name, and that pig will eventually be another animal on the ranch who likes to come up to the sidewalk fences to socialize with people. That's one more great reason to visit.
Anyone looking for a fun, end-of-summer outing that barely even uses up any gas should take a drive over to the ranch, especially if you never knew you could get out of your car to play with the animals. Even better, if you eat at a restaurant downtown, walk over there afterwards with your non-meat leftovers; the ranch is just a few short blocks away and the animals would love to see you.