The Rescue Ranch is a rescue sanctuary that I co-founded twelve years ago to take care of special needs dogs. They were just being euthanized or killed because no one would help them and that bothered me deep in my soul. They had every right to a good life despite being abused or hit by a car or being kept in an infected shelter and contracting an illness.
Vets, rescue groups, shelters, owners…all email or call with situations to go save dogs’ lives (or to come pick them up or some just “dump” them on us) that require beyond-normal time and effort.
A complicated pregnancy, a spinal cord injury, broken legs, smashed mouths (many causes), Distemper, Parvo which are now curable (contact Kind Hearts In Action!), Brittle Bone Disease and so many other afflictions. If the dogs had surgery, were fixed up, treated, they would be available for adoption or returned to their original referring people/organization. That was the theory at least.
We found that no one wanted to put in the continued time and effort, and we would soon discover the very unexpected escalating expenses as they aged to keep them stable–not the rescue groups, not adopters, not their original families would take them back. Since we had made the promise to help them and give them sanctuary, basically, we made the decision that they could stay at the RR until God called their names. Many are still living happily but it takes it toll especially on me, especially now. (We have a whole lot of furry friends that depend on the Rescue Ranch and its angels–will you become one?)
Mr. Lewy Enters the Picture
Taking care of the RR dogs used to be a partnership but as they say, Mr. Lewy, or Lewy Body Dementia, a terminal, in this case, early onset (not just seniors get it) brain disease came to land in the brain of my co-founder and primary benefactor of the Rescue Ranch, right before Christmas 2015. His salary, bonuses, and lots and lots of overtime all went to pay for the overhead and bills, with help from angels to supplement with the dogs’ expenses. We gave up and have given up everything to help them all. That said, all of that support evaporated in 2015.
“You have Lewy Body Dementia,” I remember the head doctor, or “Dr. Genius” as we called him, of the neurologic specialty group of rare diseases saying to him–herein called Someone–with not so much as a tint of emotion (diagnosed after five high-level brain scans over ten months time). Huh?? “It is a terminal illness that lasts from two to seven years and ends when you die–usually because you lose the ability to swallow and you drown in your saliva…”
We sat there in shock and silence for about half an hour and then were ushered out only with a letter to turn in to apply for his permanent disability benefits. Needless to say, we skipped Christmas that year and I pulled the comforters over my head for what seemed like a month (getting up only to do the necessities of self and dog care). He didn’t think he was sick so it was life as usual.
Well, Mr. Lewy is a bizarre disease with ups and downs, bizarre twists and turns, with unexpected moments of lucidity–or Someone coming back to himself for a few hours a day–but in a weakening body that is just falling apart. (No one warned us that this disease takes apart the skin, teeth, gums, bones, and so many more parts.)
I am always on alert now pretty much–twenty four hours a day, seven days. I wait for the moment every day or many times a day, to fix whatever Someone did “wrong” or broke or lost or or or. When I hear, “Uh-Oh,” my heart skips a beat and I start running. I never know what I am going to find.
Gracie is Missing. What?
Early this morning, around 4:30 AM, I had to ‘string chicken’ as I call it as a vegetarian-sometimes-vegan (I say a prayer for each chicken that gave its life to feed these dogs–and no, I am not nutty)–basically making chicken breasts into small pieces to mix into the dogs’ dinners who won’t eat regular dog food. With special needs dogs, the need for fast food (for doctor or hospital days when I just cannot do high-level meal preparation) or people food or alternatives is paramount. Every night it is like having a dog restaurant to open and close/clean up and not every night is the same. That said, it is better than syringe-feeding or hand-feeding each dog because they refuse to eat or drink.
I heard the back door open and Someone yelled IN, “Gracie’s missing.” I was watching the early morning news, thought that Someone was taking a break in his recliner because all was quiet and I was just working on the chicken, not in the “alert” mode. I didn’t know that he had gone outside at that hour.
At first, I was not too worried about Gracie since I figured she was probably in another room that Someone hadn’t looked in, happily sleeping. If she was outside, the entire property has a seven foot fence so I wasn’t too worried other than about the cold weather. The only concern I had was that her collar may be caught on a bush or maybe she was stuck in some mud because I didn’t hear any barking and there was no movement outside at all–not even a twig snapping.
My radar started to go off. Dementia was somehow rearing its head and I needed to find out what was happening. Gracie was not on the property and after a full sweep of the RR, she was not inside.
I ran outside with no jacket and in socks and it was freezing out (thankfully, we live in the South). I had to solve this problem fast. I stood before Someone who basically looks back at me now with a blank stare and started bombarding him with questions. He would answer me! despite his decision to not bother responding to questions any more.
“What happened? Where is she? Where could she have gone!!!??” I started asking in my calmest, loudest voice. I had to force an answer out of a demented-in-that-moment person (he was not lucid) with only the tone and strength of my voice. As a low-key, calm, pretty gentle person this is very difficult personally for me to do.
“I looked through the fence and she is outside the gate,” Someone said. OMG I thought. “How did that happen!?” We have two big gates to get out of the fenced area but you can’t see one from the other. I knew that they were both locked. He said that he was trying to open one of them when he saw Gracie through the slats, who is nicknamed, “The Wild Child,” but she disappeared, happily running. He couldn’t get the gate opened, couldn’t figure out how to get to her so he came in to tell me.
“Well,” he started again. “Last week when Gabe was here to cut the lawn, he closed the other gate wrong and it cracked. He said that he would fix it in two weeks.” Why didn’t anyone tell me? Before the sun went down that same day, that gate would have been fixed, and most likely I would have had to fix it myself. Screws, saws, drills–I have to learn now to do it all–and I am still learning. (Caulking and Gorilla glue solves a lot of problems! LOL)
I “ran” over to the other side of the property. Sure enough the bottom horizontal beam at the bottom of the gate was completely off. The crack had weakened the beam and the screws and the cold weather must have contracted the wood enough for it to just come lose. Gracie is only about twenty five pounds and fast as lightning and must have just run through the hole.
Thankfully, and Thanking God in that moment, that I give the dogs lots of bones and treats and love and attention every single day because they respond really well to me. I give them a taste of my dinner–one by one by one by one by one…–and share whatever I can. So, when Gracie heard me yelling for her a few times over, she came screaming through the now open gate and ran past me and right inside! I was so grateful. It was cold and dark and she can’t really be seen at night, except that I made sure that her collar has reflective thread in it so I can see her outside at night–in the yard!
So, all is well for the next few hours while Someone sleeps then it starts all over again. I wonder what today’s challenges will be! I cannot even being to imagine. You cannot plan for any of this. Sleep for me, will just have to wait.
I hope that you become a Rescue Ranch angel, too. My gift to you is my writing, sharing my stories, sharing my knowledge and my love but I can’t do this alone. I need virtual support, prayers, and your gifts really make the difference in being able to finish this mission that I’ve been given–or falling flat on my face. I am trying as best I can with all that I am.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”