Last year, we told you about the amazing opportunity we were given to help more dogs thanks to the generous support of a fellow nonprofit. Rescue Ranch acquired the use of 150 acres of horse installations to retrofit for dogs. With that much space, we knew that if we had the resources we’d be able to save many more lives. That was the birth of the Rescue Ranch Sanctuary. Last week, I caught up with Sanctuary Operations Manager Laura Finley who took me around to see the recent improvements and talked about future plans.
As Laura pointed out, space at the Sanctuary is not an issue; we have plenty. What’s more, there’s power, security cameras, Internet, and even facilities for staff to bunk overnight or stay for a while. Most importantly, there’s plenty of water, and there are water points everywhere. She explained that the main challenge came with adapting the facilities for dogs. It’s a huge, resource-intensive undertaking. The Sanctuary team, has to make efficient use of materials and effective use of space while addressing the needs of our dogs.
Rescue Ranch Sanctuary must meet many different needs
Generally speaking, all dogs need to be safe, secure, comfortable, and sanitary. But that’s easier said than done when you’re dealing with a multitude of individual dogs, each if whom comes through with its own history and its own issues.
Most dogs come to the Sanctuary for a temporary visit. Some come for evaluation or extra training. Others are adoptables who need a break from the Adoption Center, like Rory, the Husky, or Teto ,the gold and white shepherd mix. Then there are the pregnant or nursing moms, the quarantine dogs, the occasional parvo cases, the rescue-boarders, and the list goes on. They all require different handling and different spaces.
Finally, there are those few long term residents. Some might even live out the rest of their lives at the Sanctuary. They come with their own requirements.
Beyond these general categories, staff also have to consider the different types of personalities and energy levels of Sanctuary dogs. Some residents are escape artists, others do better if they can’t see their neighbor, still others might need more quiet time away from the action, while some need a companion.
As we continued our tour, Laura highlighted the many creative solutions the team has come up with to tackle each of these challenges while keeping costs down. I was amazed at the rapid progress they had made in recent months.
Retrofitting the Sanctuary for dogs is no easy task
We started out last year with just a few fenced in enclosures. Staff and volunteers placed kennels in some of the horse sheds near the main building, as well as the interior and covered exterior of what had once been the equine medical facility.
Progress was slow, initially. We lacked the resources and the personnel. Global supply chain issues had caused fencing prices to skyrocket. Not to mention that clearing overgrown paddocks of brush and grass was labor-intensive. Meanwhile, some of the retrofitting also required a combination of carpentry and other skills not given to everyone. And, of course, we had to have at least some caregiving staff in place, including dog handlers of varying skill levels and puppy fosters who could help with pregnant and nursing moms.
Little by little, the team began to make headway, but the going was slow. The Sanctuary nevertheless proved its worth over the next 12 months. The facility became home to our unadoptables, took in overflow, housed puppies, and provided space for rescue boarders. Then, during the McKinney fire, we moved a number of old kennels to the covered exterior of the medical building, they would hold 17 Rescue Ranch dogs to make room for evacuees at the Adoption Center. It was then that we received a generous gift to help us accelerate improvements to the Rescue Ranch Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary Team is finally able to make real progress
Laura and Executive Director John Golay evacuated to the Sanctuary during the McKinney Fire. Now that they had more personnel and some unexpected funds, they decided to stay onsite. They would lead the team and help move the project forward.
As we walked and talked, Laura showed me what a great job staff had done, repurposing wood taken from unused horse sheds to offset costs. Combining wood with fencing they have been able to create a variety of enclosures to suit different residents. They use fencing sparingly, ensuring the dogs have views beyond their enclosures but employing reclaimed wood where possible.
The escape artists on the property, require at least six-foot fencing or higher. For the real Houdinis, staff has devised extra tall fences that also curve in at the top, which makes them unscalable by even the most determined dogs. Meanwhile non-jumper/scalers or smaller dogs don’t require such high fences. The team has also used reclaimed wood to create visual barriers between enclosures for dogs who would rather not see their neighbors.
With continued support the future looks bright for Rescue Ranch Sanctuary
We came to the new play yard where a number of older puppies were frolicking and talked about plans for a dedicated exercise yard. One with a nice long strait, dirt track for ball chasing . “This is where I want to put the aboveground dog pool we don’t have yet,” she said. “We could help a lot of dogs with a pool, so it’s definitely at the top of my wish list.”
Indeed, a large above ground pool adapted for dogs is something we’ve been talking about for a while. It would be an excellent addition to the Sanctuary. A pool would help dogs get rid of excess energy as well as keep them cool in the summer. It would also be of great benefit to special needs and senior dogs.
She indicated a space near the main residential building, “That’s where we’re putting the new whelping structures. They’re being delivered in October.” Pregnant and nursing moms need flexible interior spaces with outdoor access, close to caregivers. Currently they’re housed in the medical building, but thanks to an unexpected donation, they will soon have their own dedicated space near the house. We’ll return to the whelping pens and other improvements in a future post.
In the meantime, it’s wonderful to see the Sanctuary finally taking shape. With continued support, the sky’s the limit with what we can achieve. “We were a little bit stuck there for a while,” said Laura, “but we’ve finally got the jump start we needed to move to the next level. It’s just the beginning but it’s a good beginning. With the help of our community, we’ll be able to save even more lives next year.”