Winnie and Tom Reed have never met an animal they didn't like -- especially not a mistreated one.
On their 50-acre farm in Montgomery County, they provide a home for Sassy, an African zebra that was abused while part of a circus that traveled to area shopping centers.
Also on the farm are two pairs of large, flightless birds called emus. One of the pairs was found abandoned in a box before being adopted by the Reeds.
Also on the Reed farm are: one guanaco (a type of Andean llama), peacocks, prairie dogs, dozens of ducks, exotic waterfowl, horses and the grand champion turkey of the 1990 Montgomery County Fair. They are among 125 animals and birds, some exotic and some ordinary, that have found a home on the Reed's farm.
Last month, the Reeds and their 17-year-old son Rex, a senior at Wootton High School, were the grand marshals of the Potomac Day parade. "We were all impressed with the quality time and concern that the Reeds give to homeless animals in Montgomery County," said Elie Pisarra, chairman of the Potomac Week celebration
Tom Reed, a real estate developer, is on the board of the Montgomery County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Winnie Reed, a former teacher, has been active in Montgomery County animal advocacy organizations since 1974. Both are native Washingtonians and graduates of Wilson High School in the District.
The couple moved to their farm in Potomac 25 years ago with the idea of keeping horses for their children.
But the animal inventory and feed list kept growing, despite the single-family subdivisions that continue to pop up around the farm.
"We are animal-oriented people all the way around," Winnie Reed said. "We only take animals that we think we can handle and fit in with our present menagerie."
On a recent visit to the farm, Taco, the guanaco, followed a visitor's car up the long driveway. Closer to the Reed's house -- an 1820 farmhouse that has been remodeled four times -- two honey-blond Irish wolfhounds the size of small ponies bounded about. Named Corky and Freddy, the wolfhounds walked freely in and out of the Reed house. "Gentle giants," Winnie Reed called the dogs.
Then there is Sassy. Two years ago, officals of the Animal Protection Association of America asked the Reeds to take in the zebra after the traveling circus of which she was part was shut down. For a long time, the zebra would not let anyone touch her. Now she can be petted and brushed down. "But she is still a wild animal and unpredictable," Winnie Reed said. "Her kick could kill you."
En route to see the emus, Winnie Reed was escorted by her constant companions, Siamese cats Cece and Alex. The Reeds bought their first pair of emus 4 1/2 years ago at a farm auction. The second pair were found abandoned in a box and the Reeds traveled to New York to adopt them.
The Reeds also keep 30 breeds of ducks in an aviary that Tom Reed built last spring. There are 15 domestic varieties and 15 exotic ones with exquisitely colored plumage. There also are 14 peacocks, including two very rare white ones. A 3-month-old peacock chick is the lone survivor of four hatchlings. Also residing in the bird sanctuary are seven white ring-neck doves.
"When my son Rex was four, I got him a few ducks to teach him responsibility," Winnie Reed said. Thirteen years later, caring for the fowl has turned into a full-time after-school hobby for him, with a huge feed bill and lots of work. The birds consume 400 pounds of grain a week.
Many of the ducks that the Reedscare for are blind or lame and could not survive on their own. One white-headed female paradise duck quacked loudly and constantly as Winnie Reed walked by the aviary because, Reed said, the duck wanted to be picked up and stroked. "She's particularly friendly this time of year," Reed explained.
Some of the healthy ducks fly away and return the next year with mates, she said.
It's a tremendous job, moving the animals into the barn at night and taking them out again in the morning. A farm manager tends the animals five days a week, but much of the time, the job of managing the menagerie falls to the Reeds. And when the family goes away for even a day, they have to make sure someone responsible is at the farm to watch the animals.
"Even though they are a lot of work, they are rewarding and fun pets," Winnie Reed said.