Forever Home – Oliver

As many of you know by now, I had to find a new home for my baby boy Oliver. I rescued him 3 years ago when he was only 2 weeks old. If you want to know how, you can read his rescue story here. I always thought that he was able to stay with the family I work for, but apparently that was based on a misunderstanding. I was heartbroken, because I never imagined having to find him a new home. It is not easy to find a new place for a close to 250kg weighing pig. If I knew he wasn’t allowed to stay I would have found him a home when he was a lot younger. As soon as I heard he had to go, I was super stressed. I didn’t know where to start, how to transport him and when I heard he had to have his ear tagged before traveling I almost lost it. I couldn’t see how I was ever going to manage that all. Oliver is lovely, but it’s not like he is always cooperating very well.

I contacted all the sanctuaries I knew and all the sanctuaries I was able to find that were close and further away. Everything was full for pigs and with every message that came back I lost confidence of finding him a good place. It was such a hard and stressful time for me. A few sanctuaries recommended contacting ‘Pigs in the Woods’ though. They were very far away, but they also help with rehoming pigs. So, as a last resource I send them a message. They didn’t have a place for him, but he was going to be on a waiting list. When I heard that the waiting list is very long, I actually gave up on that as well. I did fill in the form though and I explained that it was urgent (I had 2 months before the family I work for moved houses) and then I got a message back from them. The lady said that she was going to visit a sanctuary the next day and that she would mention him. I didn’t hear back and I was too nervous to ask about it. Then almost a week later she send me another message that she might have found him a place, because she visited another sanctuary that just freed space for more pigs. She send me the contact details of a lady called Michelle Morgan. It was already quite late in the evening, so I decided to send a message first. But I got a message back straight away, asking me to give her a call. So I did. And within 2 minutes Michelle took away all my worries and stress! She told me that she would take Oliver and he was very welcome to live with them forever. She also was able to do transport and they would do his ear tag at the sanctuary by their vet. It was such a huge moment of gratefulness! It was very emotional!

Then about 2 weeks later they came to get him. First he was going by trailer, but in the end they came and get him with their van (my baby boy had his own little vanlife adventure! Haha!). It was so lovely to meet Michelle and her husband Julian! I was crying straight away, because of all the tension and the huge feeling of gratefulness. I was also feeling stressy, because Oliver has a lot of strengths (literally), but doing what I want him to do is not one of them. But to all of our surprise he got into the van straight away. Only to get straight out though! I thought we were lost and it was going to be a huge battle, but within 5 minutes he was in again and I quickly shut the door. I was shaking of adrenaline, but we did it! It was going so much better than I expected. It was a 4 hour drive back, but he slept the whole way and he was quite sleepy when he got out. As he is deaf, he didn’t even notice that they openend the van when they arrived. He was greeted (Michelle filmed it) straight away by their dog Sheldon, by their 2 kids and lots of other animals. I’ve watched that video about 50 times!

It is going very well ever since! After a period of getting used to his new surroundings, he lived with a group of goats for a while, but since a few weeks he actually has 2 huge pig girls to share his field and life with. It was a little tricky in the beginning, because he was a little scared of them at first and he broke out of his field (he is super good at this!) to be with Michelle and Julian, but it’s going better and better. It makes me so happy, because he was aways so lonely when he lived with me. Something that always broke my heart, but I couldn’t have another pig at the place. I was going to get him a friend after the move, but as you now know everything went a lot different. Seeing him with other animals and with lots of attention, gives me the happiest feeling! He is surrounded by lots and lots of rescued animals who are all lucky animals, because they all have Michelle and Julian looking after them and they are the best!! This is also one of the reasons why I’m writing this, because I would love to tell you their story, to make you aware of how special and inspiring they are.

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Michelle (51) used to live in South Africa and in 1996 she met Julian (49), who was on holiday over there. They moved in together very quickly and now, 24 years later, they have been married for 15 years. All this time they always wanted to move back to Wales, as Julian is from there. Michelle really fell in love with Wales, after visiting Julian’s family many times. They both wanted to move there to have land and keep a few animals. They never thought of having a sanctuary though. The reasons why they eventually did is so inspiring and I have to share this with you!

The first reason has something to do with family life. Michelle was working in the hotel industry, Julian was working in IT and both of them loved their jobs. They tried for children for about 10 years, but without any succes. Then one day Julian came home and said: ‘what about fostering?’. They started to look into that and eventually they did. They now have 2 long term foster children. They both have severe special needs. Their daughter Sophie (15) has down syndrome, ADHD as well as severe learning and their son Charlie (21) has global development delay. Michelle feels very strongly that they couldn’t have biological children, because they were meant to have Charlie and Sophie. I find this an amazing thought and I totally believe as well that everything happens for a reason. Michelle: ‘Destiny is faith and these children were waiting in the wings to make our lives complete, which they have!’. Michelle left the hotel industry to focus on family life and when they were asked to foster Sophie, she knew she needed an extra pair of hands. They kids often each need one to one care and sometimes appointments would fall on the same dates. She needed help and that is where Julian left IT.

They were living at Basingstoke at the time when Michelle went to a petting zoo one day. This is where she got inspired to make their dream happen. Not because she had such an amazing experience, but the opposite, she was horrified. She saw animals being handled very roughly by children and staff being on their phones not caring one bit. When she got home she said to Julian: ‘Let’s move to Wales, let’s get a smallholding and let’s rescue some animals!’.

This wasn’t the only reason though. In 2018 Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer and her tumor has an 84% chance of coming back in the first 5 years. This is when Michelle said to Julian: ‘If the second cancer is the one that comes and takes me off of this planet, do I want to be taken off it from a smallholding in Wales surrounded by animals or do I want to be taken of it here in a mid-terrace in Basingstoke?’. The answer was pretty simple! She says that the silver lining in her cancer diagnoses is that it pushed them to what they had been discussing for years. Now, that is the way to see and take life!

They first wanted to just have a smallholding with a couple of animals, but when they rescued the first 2 animals, they realised the need. This is when they seriously started their sanctuary and they now have over 80 rescued animals! They have Welsh large pigs, Kune Kune pigs, lambs and sheep, ducks, turkeys, roosters and ex battery hens, goats and a dog. Julian is basically the man with the strength and does all the maintenance. Due to Michelle having had cancer she is quite weak in her hands, but that is why she gets to do all the loving, which I think is such an important role. Her chores are: tickling, scratching, cuddling and kissing. How amazing!

Their sanctuary never rehomes. All animals can live there for the rest of their lives. The only exception is when there is an issue what causes the animal unhappiness. For example, they once had a boar called Jeffrey who they couldn’t castrate, because he was too old and the operation could have killed him. They couldn’t keep him on their land, because of the female pigs that they have. Keeping him would  mean that he had to be in a pen by himself, with the smell of the female pigs around him all the time, that would drive him crazy. But luckily they have a farmer across the road who also has a small holding who was able to keep him there with no females. He is now happy over there!

Michelle became vegan 2 years before she was diagnosed with cancer. She decided that she wanted to know where her food came from. She heard some horrifying things in the media and wondered if they were true. So she started researching herself. She is very visual, which means that telling her about slaughterhouses and the horrible circumstances animals live in, isn’t helping her that much. So, she started to watch videos and documentaries and that is how she started to realise it all. Michelle: ‘I thought how can I call myself an animals lover? I can’t! I have to call myself a dog lover, a cat lover, because I was eating pigs, cows and all other commercial animals.’. So much has changed since then. She said that she used to be someone who ate her body weight in chicken and bacon, but since researching the horrible industry and seeing how much cruelty existed, she turned around completely. Michelle: ‘Talking about the cruelty makes me rather emotional, because animals are sentient beings and we shouldn’t eat them or use them for anything. You can also be way more healthier having a plant based diet!’. She does believe everyone has a choice of what to put in their mouth. She chooses to not preach veganism, but to show people and live by example. She hopes that when other people see their lifestyle and meet their animals, that they start to think differently. Some friends have already. How great is that!

During chemo therapie though, her body rejected all food! Everything she ate was thrown up again, except for.. meat! It broke her heart, but luckily she is now off all the chemo and active treatment. She is so happy, because she couldn’t imagine being outside with all the lovely pigs and then go inside to eat pork. Julian is not 100% vegan yet, but he doesn’t eat any meat of the species of animals that they keep. Which is a good start, especially cuz they have so many different species already. Veganism is very important to Michelle! Michelle: ‘You look into the faces of these animals and they are not just animals, they have hearts, they have traits, they have personalities and they are absolutely fabulous and each one has its own character and depth. I absolutely love it!’.

Michelle and Julian tell me that they used to be quite materialistic. Michelle had a big handbag and shoe fetish, collecting many big brands. Julian would buy loads of electronics and gadgets. Since moving to Wales their life has changed 360 degrees. They are now big into recycling, sustainability, animal welfare and care! She was telling me that she bought an industrial poop scoop and broom the other day and she was so excited when it arrived and that it was the same excitement she used to feel when a handbag or a pair of shoes arrived. I absolutely love this!!

Michelle: ‘Cancer taught me to live my best life and Julian fully agrees’. The diagnosis turned their life upside down, but it also showed us what we actually need and what we want to do. They hope to even purchase more land around them, so they can rescue even more animals! They would love their sanctuary to grow a good reputation. In my eyes they already have, because with so much honest love and care, you can’t top that. They don’t want to open to the general public, but instead they want to open for parents who have children with special needs. Many special needs children can’t go to other sanctuaries or petting zoos, where it can be quite busy and noisy because of other people. So families can call them and, by appointment only, they can come and visit. They are making sure there is only one family at the time. This way the children can meet and touch animals and learn about them in a safe and calm environment.

They are a 100% non profit organisation and every penny spend on the sanctuary comes from their own pocket. This is why any donation is gladly accepted and appreciated. All this money goes towards the animals directly! I donate £30 every month (every 13th, because that is the day Oliver moved there), which I hope to increase in the future. If you can spare a bit of money, even if it’s just a little bit or even if its just a one time thing, please donate via PayPal: info@safehavensanctuary.co.uk. They use this money for all the right reasons!!

Aren’t they amazing people?! I told you! I love them both so much and I’m forever grateful that they came into my life and I trust them completely when it comes to my lovely boy Oliver! Do you have a question or do you have something you want to say? You can do this below or you can do this via Instagram: @freedomevermore and @safe_haven_animal_sanctuarys (give them a follow!!). Thank you! X

 

Personal #2 – Life these days

The last time (also the first time) I wrote a personal post was back in September. A lot has happened in the meantime, so I thought it’s really time to write an update. In my first personal post you could read about the fact that a lot of things were going to change for me. Things have changed now. Seriously changed. They even changed a lot more than I could imagine.

OLIVER
Something that I didn’t foresee was that I became a pig mum within 2 weeks of moving. You maybe already know this if you follow my blog or my Instagram, because I posted about Oliver here and a lot on Instagram too. He even has his own Instagram profile. Last Friday he turned 12 weeks, what means he’s already with me for over 10 weeks! Mid December he moved to the barn and he’s doing amazing. He is so lovely and I love him so so much! He brought me a lot, mostly good things. Actually only good things. I said mostly, because looking after him is a big responsibility and I always worry about him. He is all healthy now, what is amazing, but I worry about his future. I’m doing my best to raise him well, but he will be big and he sometimes forgets he is strong. This is why I choose to not have another pig for now. It will be nice for him to have a companion, but I’m worried that accidents will happen (mainly with the small kids I’m looking after). Two big pigs together will be maybe too much to handle when they’re both full size. So I want to see what it is like when he is bigger and in the field. By then I hope he will still accept a companion and if not, that he will be ok by himself. Especially when I’m traveling in a few years.

STRUGGLE
Lately I feel that I struggle with being vegan. Don’t get me wrong, being vegan itself is the easiest thing. Doing the right thing for the animals, my health, the environment and so many things more is the best decision I’ve ever made. My struggle is with the fact that the rest of the world isn’t vegan. In the first years of being vegan it was bothering me as well, but I can feel the feeling is getting stronger and stronger. I think this is for a few reasons. Since I have Oliver, there are a lot of people who want to make a funny comment about him, in terms of ‘bacon’ ‘bbq’ ‘spare ribs’ etc. Or people who ask me why I have him or what I am going to do with him. As in ‘will I eat him’. This bothers me so so much (and this is a very nice and polite way of expressing myself comparing to what I actually feel at moments like that). Even only writing it down now, makes me very angry. To be really honest with you, what I feel at moments like that is hate. I don’t want to feel it and I’m a very positive person and I always try to see things in a positive way or at least to not let it get to me, but I’m failing terribly. I’m really struggling with this more since I’d say 6 months and it got worse since I moved and have Oliver. In the country side there are so many meat/dairy/egg/hunting related things around me. The pigs in the fields next to the house, the cows and other animals I see in the fields, hunting the pheasants next to the house, but also the people everywhere. It’s more ‘normal’ here it seems, what makes it so hard for me. How can people be so distant from all these beautiful animals? They must be so lost in society and tradition, that I should actually feel sorry for them. This all is so hard and definitely the hardest things about being vegan. Why do people not get it? Why don’t they see what I see? Where is their compassion? I feel like it bothers me more and more and sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself. I always have an answer for everything, but for this one it seems I’m stuck.

VANLIFE
Something super exciting is that I bought my van. Last year, in November. It’s a white Citroën Relay from 2014. So far I stripped and cleaned it. I wanted to fit in the skylight ventilator and the window before Xmas, but it was too cold. I have the insulation ready to fit in, but there is so much condensation (because of the cold as well) that I have to wait with that too. I will wait until there is a weekend with temperatures above 15C. Hopefully this will come soon, because in March my dad is coming to help me and the insulation needs to be done by then. Overall, I just need to be patient, what is super hard, because I want to work on it. I’m so excited for it to be finished and me moving in.

HEALTHWISE
Last year I didn’t work out much, I made less time for yoga/mediation and mindfulness and I ate too much junk food. This year I want to change that and it’s going super well so far. I’m eating clean and I’m seriously working out almost every day. I’m trying to make sure I live in the now and I start my mornings with yoga and meditation. One of the things I also started doing since the first of January, is writing down what I did every day, like a little journal. I bought a day-a-page diary for this and I do this every evening before I go to sleep. It’s not so much for writing down my feelings etc. but more to remember what I did that day. This works great for living more mindful. I also started to read more, what was one of my new years resolutions. I love reading.

Do you recognise some things? Do you have questions? Or do you have something you’d like to share after reading my more personal stuff? Please let me know in the comments below or show me by using #PlanetManel on Instagram. Thank you! X

Lucky Oliver #1 Rescue

Many of you probably know now that I rescued a little piglet. Especially if you follow me on Instagram, I’m sure you’ve noticed all my pig spam, haha! I’d like to share with you how I got him and what has happened so far, but also because a lot of people have been asking me about it. It just saves a lot of typing if I write down the whole story. This is why I decided to share his story here on my blog. I also want him to be an inspiration, I hope he will make some people think and they make the connection. So here is the story of Lucky Oliver..

To start at the whole beginning. I just moved houses. I moved from London to a farmhouse in the countryside, 4 weeks ago. Very nearby is a pig farm and only a 5 min walk from the house were a lot of mummy pigs with their piglets. Pigs are my favourite animals, I’m crazy about them and I absolutely adore them. So the first opportunity I got, I made my way to the pigs. There were about 40 little mud fields with a little shelter house. Each had one mummy pig with her babies inside. I was so excited to be so close to these amazing animals. But when I greeted them all, I also discovered several dead piglets that were clearly there for a longer time. So sad. They were all very scared, but with a lot of patience, I finally got one mummy pig to accept me. She was still very suspicious of me, but she allowed me to come close to her babies. She had 10 babies, who were about 5 weeks old at that time. From that time I went to the pigs straight after work and in the weekends I was also covered in mud. I easily spend a few hours with them each time or until it was dark. They eventually let me stroke them all over and even the mummy pig dared to come closer and she let me touch her nose and snout. I was so happy to be with the pigs, but also very sad at the same time. They shouldn’t have been there, they shouldn’t have been born in the first place, because they were only born to end up on somebody’s plate. I tried not to get too attached to them because of this, but that is hard when you discover that each of them has his/her own personality. The second time I went to the pigs I discovered a separate, more closed pig pen, that I didn’t notice before. When I looked inside I was shocked. There were about 45-50 piglets in there in all different ages. Some of them were barely 2 weeks old, whilst others were over 8 weeks old already. There was no mummy and the most shocking was that I counted 8 dead ones. They were everywhere and the others walked over them or still cuddled up against them. The circumstances were horrible. There was almost only mud what was mixed up with their poo (what was mainly diarrhoea). There was no milk, but only pellet and water. I was so shocked and sad. From that time I checked up on them every time I went and every time there was one or a few dead ones lying around again. Then this happened 2 weeks ago: I rushed home after a van view, just so I could spend a little time with the piggies before it got dark. I first went to see the orphaned pigs and then I saw one of them who was about to die. He was lying in the middle of the pen and couldn’t get up, but he was still trying to lift up his head though. My heart broke. I was standing there, but I couldn’t do anything. It was the most horrible feeling. I really wanted to take them all home. There were also 4 that were so small and skinny that they just hopped along with the others. Their heads and tails were down and they had such sad eyes. It just was the saddest thing ever. Next to the pig pen were 2 dead ones too. The farmer obviously had taken them out, but just left them there. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and the amazing day I’ve had didn’t feel like it was worth anything anymore. I was so deeply saddened and incredibly angry with the whole world! How could people do this to them? Why do people want to hurt and eat these beautiful intelligent animals? It was all so unfair and I just wanted to shout and scream to the whole world to stop doing this! I felt so powerless. Because I couldn’t get it off my mind, I went back the next morning to see how they were doing. My employers happened to be there too, with the kids and they told me there was one dead piglet. So I told them about what I saw the day before and that I was sure that it was the one I saw. I went to see them and I was right. Whilst I saw it being alive yesterday, there it was, lifeless. I was so upset! We talked about it a little and at that moment there was one of the 2 week old piggies standing next to me on the other side of the fence. He didn’t ran away with the others, but he was just standing there. So I bend over the fence and picked him up. He didn’t even resist, but just let me. What is so unusual for pigs (they naturally do not liked to be picked up). His eyes were infected and one of them was all closed. He was so tiny and light and he was shaking a lot. My employer suggested putting him in my coat. In the meantime she was going home to ask the farmer if I could keep him. It was a very cold day and I waited with him in my coat for quite a bit. After a while he shaked a little less and he made some cute noises when I tried to push him up a little bit, because he kept falling down. He sometimes popped his nose out to sniff in my direction and I really fell in love with him. It might sound weird, but it kind of felt like he was a part of me. I wanted to make him feel better and look after him so badly, it came from really deep within me. Then after 1,5 hour I was so cold that I asked if she heard back yet. She hadn’t, but told me to bring him home and we’d see from there. At home we got some moving blankets together and a big cardboard box. I wrapped him up and put him on the floor. I was a little anxious he’d panic and run, but he seemed too weak to even get up. So whilst I was preparing the cardboard box he just stayed exactly where I put him. As soon as he was in there and my employer prepared a hot water bottle from him, I took a shower. I was so smelly and muddy and I wanted to go to the shops to get him some necessities. Whilst I was in the shower my employer knocked at the door and got me the much wanted news, the farmer got back to her and he was fine with me keeping him. Yay! I was so happy!! I also felt sad though, because his 3 brothers were not likely to survive the night. It was going to be the first night of the season with freezing temperatures and 2 of them had severe diarrhoea and infections.

Before I went to the shop I drove back to the pigs to get him a bit of the pellet he ate over there. He was used to eating that and I didn’t want to change it straight away, in case it would upset his stomach even more. At Sainsbury’s I got him cat litter, a toy (a ball on a rope), a bottle and yes.. milk! I hated to get him milk, because it’s such a non vegan thing to do, but I needed to save his life. At the pet shop I got him a cat litter tray and a jumper. Going home I was only hoping that he would still be alive. He was! I got him out and offered him food and water and he ate and drunk a lot. That made me so happy. After, or sometimes during, I would put him in the litter tray. It did go wrong a few times, but oh well, what do you expect. Every 3 hours I did this, also in the night. My best friend suggested to name him Lucky. I liked it, though I wanted to add something to it. But for first, Lucky was a great name. The next day I looked for a vet who had pig knowledge. I thought there must be somebody around if there is a pig farm so close. I found a practice, but they didn’t do farm animals anymore. I did email them and asked if they knew somebody who did and in the evening I was called by a very nice vet, Julian Slater. We made an appointment for the next morning. He was busy, but so kind to still make a little bit of time early in the morning.

I rushed home from the school run the next morning, but luckily my employer already let him in. He told me that he was about 2 weeks old. That was my first thought too, but later I did think he might be a little bit older and just smaller from being ill. It turned out that Lucky had a big fever, so the vet gave him 2 injections. The first one was to take his temperature down and the second one was with antibiotics. I also got a paste he needed to have 2 times a day, to make his diarrhoea go away. He thought he did have an ok chance of survival though. It made me hopeful, after not daring to hope that he would. By lunchtime his temperature was down, what was such good sign. From that time he was a little bit better every day. He kept sleeping a lot though. For every 10 min he was awake he wanted to sleep a 2-3 hours. In the days after he stayed awake a little longer every time and his diarrhoea was gone (what made it so much easier to clean up after him). Several times I tried to offer him cucumber and blueberries, but he wasn’t interested one bit. In his first week he was also officially named Lucky Oliver. I’ve always loved the name Oliver and it was 1 of the 2 names I’d choose if I had a son. He feels like he is my baby, so Oliver it is. On Wednesday I also got him a new cage, because it was hard to keep the cardboard box clean. So a cage with a plastic bottom was a lot easier to clean and it’s more hygienic.

On Saturday (the 6th day I had him) I gave him a bath. He didn’t particularly like it and it was a little stressful for him. So I made it quick and skipped his head. He really seemed to be a little disappointed with me for doing that to him, haha! Then I put on his jumper and showed him his new bed that came that day, he was a lot happier by then. So happy that he slept for hours in his new bed and really didn’t want to come out. But then around midnight he suddenly started to keep his head tilted to one side. He was also shaking his head/ears the whole time and tried to scratch it with his paws. He also kept moaning like he was in pain and he was clearly uncomfortable. It scared me a lot, because I really thought he had a bleeding in his brains or something like that. It could also be an ear infection though, but I was so panicky that I couldn’t think clearly anymore. The whole week he tried to scratch his ear a little, but as I couldn’t see anything in his ears, I assumed it was just natural behaviour. Also because he has had antibiotics and so I didn’t think it was something alarming. That night was the most horrible and most stressful night, because I really thought I was going to lose him. I stayed up with him until 5:00 in the morning, until I really couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. When I woke up at 8:30 I contacted the vet and he was so kind to come over a few hours later. He also thought of an ear infection, but a mid-ear infection, because just like me, he couldn’t see anything in his ear. He gave him another type of antibiotics, that goes in his drinking water. He also gave him an anti inflammatory that he needed to keep taking once a day for 5 days. After 2 days he kind of stopped keeping his head tilted to one side, though he kept doing it after waking up + he kept shaking and scratching. He did started to be more naughty though. He (all the time) knocked over his food and water within 2 second of me putting it down, he knocked over the bin, started to bite in everything.. he clearly started to feel better and noticed the things around him more and more. It was really time to correct him, raise him well and be sure he’ll grow into a good friendly pig. He learns so fast though. It’s his stubbornness that makes him do things again, haha! He also finally started to show interest in other food than his pellet. He tried cucumber and after a few tries he now finishes a whole piece with great joy (what gives me even more joy!). He also really likes grapes.

I noticed he, like all other pigs, had a big urge for rooting. He didn’t have that at first, but he’s getting older and I guess his instinct is kicking in. So we even went outside for the first time (had to get him a new jumper, because he’s growing and the other one was too small after a week!). Oliver experienced grass for the first time and he really liked it. He can’t stop sniffing everything, chew on every leaf, play with little stones and run and following me around. So from now on we go outside every day. It’s good for him to get used to the temperature and I think the fresh air and rooting in the dirt is healing too. In the weekend I also got him a brush. Not necessarily to brush his hair, but more because I thought he’d love the feeling. I was so right! He loves his brush!

If you want to follow Oliver, to see where he is up to (pictures, videos and InstaStories), then please follow Oliver’s Story on Instagram: @LuckyOliverPig

|> I want to thank Doug & Maryn, my employers, for letting me rescue him and for all the love and support they’re giving him (and me). Without you he wouldn’t have been alive! <|

Thank you so much for reading this huge article! I think this is the longest one ever, haha!

Did you like reading about Oliver? Would you like me to write an update later on? Do you have a similar story or do you want to say something about it? Please let me know in the comments below or show me by using #PlanetManel on Instagram. Thank you! X