A three-legged dog from the streets of India sets the pace on a walk through tall grass to reach the Indraloka Animal Sanctuary’s construction site.
Sanctuary founder and President Indra Lahiri hasn’t named him yet. She brought him to those wooded hills through an international network of animal rescuers, and on Sunday, he clearly was still getting used to his new surroundings.
He needs a name that suits him and his journey, probably one in Sanskrit, Lahiri said.
While summer programs kick off at the original Mehoopany sanctuary, construction at the new complex along Oak Drive, a project 15 years in the making, forges ahead.
Renovations to the old Crooked Lane Farm barn, about a quarter-mile from Falls Road, are nearing completion after demolition of an attached dairy barn and major structural work to level and secure the main barn’s foundation.
Deeper into the 90-acre complex, which spans Wyoming and Lackawanna counties, stand the uprights for a 3,200-square-foot barn. Timber for the main 8,000-square-foot barn remains mostly wrapped under tarps to keep out the rain.
Electric utility cables feeding the barn were laid underground, and the cap on a newly drilled water supply well pokes out of the ground. But the Indraloka team wants to rely on conventional utilities as little as possible.
The farm will have a rainwater collection system and solar panels on the barn roof, which faces south to capture more sunlight.
Animal waste will feed a biogas digester to cut down on animal pollution and lessen reliance on other energy sources.
The sanctuary subsists on community donations, many of them small, Lahiri said. Donors give $5 a month, or $20 a year.
Naming opportunities remain for donors who want to contribute to larger bits of the complex. Otherwise, the rescue is grateful for donations no matter how small, she said.
Every thoughtful detail will give once abandoned and abused animals three times as much space to live out their days in peace. They in turn provide lessons for kids who face learning barriers.
“It’s all through the animals,” said teacher Sarah Thornton, Indraloka’s education director.
For example, she teaches a bullying-prevention lesson using a cantankerous goose named Anahat.
“You may need some space,” she tells her students. “That doesn’t mean you don’t like your friends.”
Or she’ll tell them about Maddie the goat, whose perky ears give away her curiosity.
Thornton brings Maddie into the conversation when students’ attention starts to wane.
“Maddie’s ears are up and open,” she tells them.
Indraloka’s suite of programs, which it’s calling Hopeful Heroes, will be built on four pillars:
Academics through teaching science, technology, engineering, the arts and math.
Life skills, such as mindfulness, hygiene and good nutrition.
Special care for at-risk youth with programs to help them feel “useful and necessary.”
Emotional support and therapy for kids who have experienced trauma, and for whom traditional therapy falls short.
“The kids are learning skills that they can’t teach them in the classroom,” Lahiri said. “They’re learning them at the sanctuary, and they’re able to continue using them in the classroom.”
Indraloka will hold a three-day Mini Earth Camp from Wednesday, June 26, to Friday, June 28, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for children ages 6 to 16. Cost is $75, with scholarships on a sliding scale available. Visit www.indraloka.org for details or call 570-763-2908.