Brewster Woman’s Rescue Pets Become Social Media Trendsetters
By: Bronwen Walsh
BREWSTER – Abigail Rhoads doesn’t follow people on social media. She follows animals.
“I just really love animals,” Rhoads said by phone recently. A volunteer at the Wareham-based nonprofit Peace for Ponies, which is rebranding as Peace for All Animals, she spends her leisure time rescuing miniature donkeys, sparing them from slaughterhouses.
“A lot of people are stopping by to see what’s going on with them,” she said of her two rescues, Zephyr and Miles. “Not everybody sees a donkey every day.
“People are crazy about Zephyr,” who has spotted hair, she said proudly. “It’s a fun way for people to feel connected.”
She was a fan of Pearl, Zephyr’s mom, who was rescued when she was pregnant. “I looked her up online, and they were right here in Wareham, recruiting volunteers. I got to be with Pearl when she gave birth,” Rhoads said.
When he was younger, “he had 150,000 followers” from as far away as Australia and Ireland, and many more from Texas and Oklahoma, Rhoads said.
“Zephyr’s screen name is ‘Zoomer.’ When he was just born, he’d be asleep and wake up and start doing zoomies around the paddock. Once people see Zoomer, they love him — he’s really a celebrity.”
Miles, with brown hair, was actually born in a Texas slaughterhouse, she said.
“He had pneumonia for the first two weeks of his life,” but survived thanks to Rhoads’ adopting him.
Who can resist wanting to hug them, especially when Zephyr and Miles are sporting their colorfully knit winter headwear?
“I started knitting these hats, kind of as a joke — for fun — because I Iove knitting,” said Rhoads. “They don’t need the hats for their protection or for warmth, but they’re awful cute in them.”
Rhoads’ posting adorable photos of her labors of love on social media prompted knitters worldwide to reach out, asking about hat sales, knitting patterns, and the donkeys themselves.
One of Zephyr’s top Facebook fans wrote, “Oh that this entire process could also be applied to the many homeless humans in our world.”
Originally from Pennsylvania Amish country, Rhoads earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and a master’s degree in education from Simmons University. Most of her family now lives in Maine.
“I married a fisherman,” she said, and they raised two children. Son Sebastian Sacco graduated from Nauset Regional High School in May 2020, interned in Wellfleet with the Cape Cod Modern House Trust in 2021 and worked at Sunbird Cafe in Orleans last summer, and is now a student at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture. Daughter Ava Sacco graduates from Nauset this year.
“Raising our kids on Cape Cod has been amazing,” said Rhoads, who has taught high school English for 10 years at Sturgis Charter Public School, where she is lead teacher in the English department at Sturgis West. She also teaches yoga at Nove Yoga and Wellness in Dennis Port.
Donkeys are really desert animals, Rhoads said. There are three varieties: miniature, standard and mammoth.
“They’re quite different from horses; they’re easy to care for. They eat low-grade hay. They’re grazing on my Christmas tree right now. Fresh grass is actually not good for them.
“I’m training them to walk with me on a lead,” she said. “I take them for walks in the neighborhood.”
Rhoads has reached out to another local organization, Cape Cod Goat Walks, in hopes that one day she and her donkeys can book walks with visitors at Nickerson State Park and the Punkhorn.