BENSON - Crystal Begin has always had a passion for animals, especially those that were misunderstood, injured or abused.
Begin was born in Flin Flon, Man., and then moved to Edmonton, where she was raised.
Begin had a troubled and abusive childhood that she speaks openly about. While growing up she felt different and misunderstood. Begin felt a connection with the animals that also had been treated poorly.
“Animals became a big part of my life. They judge you on how you treat them,” said Begin.
She went on to say that animals do not know the trauma a person lives, and they do not care about anyone’s opinion. They only care about how one interacts with them.
Animals became Begin’s counsellors and they understood her, which helped with her trauma.
Over the years, Begin married her husband Troy and has three adult children and two grandchildren. She has lived on a farm northeast of Benson since 2007.
Begin said her husband saw something in her that she did not even see herself.
Vivid Ink Studio is her place of business in Stoughton. She is a well-known artist in the area, but her farm is her place of peace, relaxation and solitude.
In 2016, Begin was poisoning rats in her barn and came across a baby rat, which did not have its eyes open, and she did not have the heart to get rid of it.
Begin is not an advocate for wild rats. She is well aware of the diseases that wild animals can carry, but she still took the little rat into her care. Her husband Troy was less than happy about this as he did not have a love for rodents, but this would change over time.
She has years of experience with animal rescues and also has her wildlife rehab certificate, but has yet to complete her hours at a wildlife rehabilitation facility. This needs to happen before she can open a rescue facility.
Squeaks, as she called the little rat, lived to be two years old, and she came to love with the little critter.
“I have never had an animal be so loyal and loving,” said Begin.
They now rescue rats from the human society. Pet rats that have been abandoned by their owners, but they have also purchased some from pet stores and breeders.
Although she loves animals, she admits she has to be realistic about infestation, but will not use glue traps as she feels they are horribly cruel, and they can lead to birds and snakes getting stuck on them.
Animals seem to come to the farm, but never leave. She feels they are best to stay if they have issues and worries that they might end up in the wrong hands and not get the proper care.
At the farm, she has goats, dogs, horses, minis, a donkey, ducks, chickens, cows, rats and cats.
Her minis were so wild when she got them, they had to be lassoed to have their feet trimmed. They now will follow her out the gate. The goats and cows would hardly let her out of the pen.
Begin admits she still has her struggles with the past, but with the help of her family, both animal and human, she will get there one day.