Sunday, November 28, 2010


Volunteers Who Volunteered

My work style tends to be "old fashioned". I went to college in the 1970's before computers and calculators and cell phones. In my classes, the "technology" we were allowed to bring into the classroom was a slide rule and a No. 2 pencil. Not even a mechanical pencil! Period.
No internet access. No laptops or PDA's. Heck, there wasn't an internet to access!

So when I thought about this past week while picking the barns this morning,
I found myself needing to go back to my old fashioned technology. I just now
went to the cupboard and pulled out my dictionary.

Yup, it is a book. A dictionary book. I've had this particular dictionary for years. This hard copy volume with black tabs indented for each letter, gold foiled edges on the pages, and fine quality sheets that feel like silk. This particular book has gone with me to work. It was a mainstay in my office. I took it with me to Oklahoma City when I worked for Andy Durco. And when we began Refuge Farms, I deliberately placed it in the cupboard right next to the desk where all
of the paperwork and computer work for THE FARM is done.

So, this morning I needed to pull out the dictionary. I wanted Old Man Webster's definition of a word. "Volunteer". What does Webster say is a volunteer?

Webster says a volunteer is a noun and comes from the french word "voluntaire". Huh. The primary, or most common, definition is "one who enters into or offers himself for a service of his own free will".

My last step was to research "volunteer" in the other hard copy book I depend upon, the Thesaurus. Many times while writing, I'm searching for a word and cannot find it in my mind. I look up the concept in the thesaurus and eventually,
I'll find exactly the word that applies. Handy tool, this big, heavy book!

The thesaurus tells me that synonyms for "volunteer" are "unpaid helper" and "unpaid assistant". A little more searching in the thesaurus and I find what I'm searching for: a volunteer is one who "freely offers their help". There. That's what I am looking for. A volunteer is someone who freely offers his help with no expectation of payment or recognition. Perfect. Now I can tell you about my week. A week filled with volunteers.

This week saw the first big blast of really cold weather blow in. We had ice, sleet, snow, and winds that would not stop! And we had below zero temperatures. Even without the wind, the thermometer in the barn was below zero late Thursday when I walked my last bed check before retiring for the night.

Throughout the week, I pretty much just stayed focused on cleaning barns, insuring tanks were heated well and topped off, moving small square bales of hay to the big barn, feeding, blanketing horses and then re-blanketing during the night or at the point when the fronts came barreling in. Once the four wheelbarrows that can hold manure were filled to the brims, I had to leave the barn floors alone. It wasn't pretty, but I decided not to start the skid loader for just those four wheelbarrows. Not with the current prices of diesel fuel!

So by Saturday morning, I had four plump full - and now frozen solid! - wheelbarrows of manure and barns that looked more like manure piles than barns! Rosalie called and volunteered - freely offered her help - to clean barns with me.
I warned her how bad it was but she arrived regardless! And, bless her heart, we raked and picked and pried and worked. Six - yes, six! - skid loader buckets later, the barns were spotless and the tanks were topped off once again. Order was restored. Thanks to Rosalie. A volunteer who volunteered.

Earlier in the week, I discovered another gift from a volunteer. I've shared with Pam my technique that I used when I drove semi. The technique was for staying awake and alert while driving. What was this technique? I ate. Yup. M&M peanuts. By the bag. The crunching and eating and motion of my arm to search for just the right one in that bag of candy kept me awake. So, as I told Pam, I use the technique today. When I am returning from a rescue, I am usually cold and tired and somewhere far from home. I have horses in the trailer that are going to need to be sequestered and settled in for the night but first, I have to cover miles to get home.

The heater begins to heat my frozen feet and hands, the snow begins to melt,
and I begin to settle into the seat. I am a bit relieved and relaxed because those frozen little creatures that no one cared for were now in the trailer and I knew their lives would be better from now on. Relief tends to flow over me in waves. And the tears come. It would be so easy just to close my eyes. To rest. But I must drive. And that's when I use my old technique. I eat. Never thinking of calories,
I know that eating will keep me awake and so I eat.

Well, Pam knows this, and so early this fall she left a bag for me. A bag that she said should last me a "rescue or two". I stumbled on this bag again this week as I was moving things in the living room. It wasn't the bag (or the M&M's inside!) that caused me to pause. And smile. But it was the note that I taped to the wall that gave my heart a song to sing. Pam's note simply said:

"For rescue work only!
For outer strength.
And my prayer for your inner strength!"

Pam had listened. And she had volunteered her support in a way that only she can do. I will stay awake. Thanks to Pam. A volunteer who volunteered.

And then Friday, I came home from work long after the sunset. It was still raw outside and I was concerned about little Gracie out in the wind and PONY! and Appaloosa Mare and Blaise. These fragile ones get so cold so quickly and it takes so long to warm them up again. I needed to get changed and out to the barns quickly.

Dropping my armful on the kitchen island, my focus was on changing clothes, getting my boots and jacket on, grabbing the dogs, and heading out to the barns.
I looked for an empty spot on the island and then I saw a note. And I stopped and read the note. My smile and my heart told me to pause and appreciate this person.

Colleen had been to THE FARM on Friday. She had driven out with a car full of cardboard for my wood stove fires and pet carriers of all sizes. The purpose for the carriers was to attempt to catch the two feral kittens living in the hay in the old barn. We had been talking and really wanted to capture these two before they became too old to "humanize" and we also wanted to see if there were only two! Last year we had captured two and a few days later, out came their little brother. Cold and hungry and easy to catch with just a little food.

So, Colleen came armed with carriers and cat food and she spent the morning trying to coax the two little ones into a carrier. No such luck. The mama cat must still be coming around because they were interested in the food but not desperate. So, Colleen left all of her goodies for the cats and stopped at the antique store on her way home to update me on the morning's efforts.

Into the store she walked. Arms full of lunch from Culver's. Bless her heart. She knows me well. We sat and ate and talked and every once in a while, I waited on a customer. Traffic was slow and so it gave us some time to catch up and strategize on how to catch these two little kittens.

She left to go home and I thought nothing more of her visit until I walked into the kitchen. Then I saw a box on the island with this note from Colleen lying on top of the box:


My only Black Friday shopping was for a Refuge Farms donation. Here's a Back-Up Drive for the computer!

It's 1500 GB - mine is just 250 GB and I have lots of room! But this way you should easily have plenty of room! If you fill this, I think your computer would explode! Hee-hee!


Bless her huge heart. This is something that we need but the money never seems to materialize. And so we continue to play the odds. And Colleen knows the risk of losing our files. She knows how I back up to multiple CD's to insure that all would not be lost. And she knows the age and fragility of the computer we run Refuge Farms upon. She knows it is just a matter of time before THE computer failure will happen. And so she fixed it.

And because of her big heart, I will spend this evening opening the sizable "Seagate FreeAgent Desk External Drive" box and reading installation instructions. Then I will proceed to setup the backup procedure to automatically create a backup every Sunday evening at 11pm. And one of those nagging little things that needs to be done will be erased from the back of my mind. Backups will be completed. Thanks to Colleen. A volunteer who volunteered.

And so as I reflect on this week, I remember the cold. The Thanksgiving holiday. The prayers I prayed for those standing in the cold with no shelter, no blanket, and no food in their stomachs to keep them warm. And I think of the volunteers.

I think of Rosalie and her freely giving of her time and her energy. I think of Pam and her freely giving of her support and her knowing how I will need to stay awake. And I think of Colleen and her wisdom. And her effort needed to rise so early and fight those crowds to help Refuge Farms avoid a crisis.

Today I say an extra prayer of thanksgiving. For the volunteers. Those who "freely offer their help". There are many volunteers. And each one with each talent and skill is needed to keep this organization humming. So to each of you - whether you be a "formal" volunteer or someone in the wings or somewhere in between. Whether you be a newbie or an "old-timer" with THE FARM or somewhere in between. Whether you be a horse person or not. Thank you. Thank you for freely offering your help. I and the horses are grateful. And I work hard every single day to be worthy of your support.

May you reap the rewards of your giving. May you know the peace of sharing. And may you be rewarded in this world - and the next - for the kindness of your hearts.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

Monday, November 22, 2010


The Tale of Two Labs

On October 3rd I was not opening emails unless it dealt with The Gala or appeared as though a horse's life was hanging on it. Except if I heard from Karen. I always opened her emails.

It was early on the morning of October 3rd. And Karen, a Sister in Rescue, had sent out an email about two dogs that she was most concerned about. This woman, for those of you who knew Keller, was the woman who made it possible for Keller to survive long enough to make it here. She works diligently for the dogs in her depressed area of the world.

This is what Karen's email said to me that morning:

Dear Friends:

Every day at the August clinic in Redby there were two labs standing outside the fence. These labs were hungry and very scared. Our compassionate volunteers put food out as the labs inched their way from outside the fence into the fence of the warehouse. Everyone was hoping we could catch them, but it never happened. You could get so close to them, then they would back away.

Well, the clinic ended and all the volunteers went their own way, many since have emailed and inquired about the two labs. On several occasions I dumped a bag of dog food at the warehouse, and only saw the two labs two times.

One day I made a visit to John and Elaine L., two familiar faces at the clinic as they have 3 small dogs. They are a retired couple who live near the drive–in restaurant in Redby who love animals. While we visited they told me of two black labs they had been feeding. I was so happy.

Yesterday I visited and left another bag of dog food. There I met the two labs. They love John and Elaine. They follow John wherever he goes. They could hold them, pet them, and they never leave the yard. The dogs get along with the cats and the small dogs too. They are loyal and soft spirited. John and Elaine say they would like to keep them, however, they cannot and are asking that someone take them at the next clinic. John said, ”They love each other and they have to go together”. I assured him we would try and find a place where they could be together. They need to be vetted too.

Does anyone have any ideas about a rescue that might take the dogs when the clinic ends on October 16th? Their transformation is remarkable. It is so great to know that these 2 homeless dogs won’t have to suffer through the winter looking for food. This story has made my day and hope it makes yours too!


As I read the story of these two dogs, I found my eyes overflowing. What was it about this email that touched me more than all of the others that have come to this desk? Why these two dogs and not any of the others?

It was simple. At least in my heart. You see, I left out a part of Karen's email. The part that grabbed my heart and would not let go. The part that explained that the names of these two dogs were "Lady" and "Man".

Oh, my. How could I not respond? How could I let these two go by when their names brought memories of big brown eyes and the wagging tail of Little Man? And the love and endurance and comic behaviors of Laddee, the Little Belgian Mare? How could I not reach out to these two unwanted creatures? Little creatures with the names of "Lady" and "Man"?

I sat for only seconds before I wrote back to Karen and said:

Karen -

Hoping this finds you well. It has been a while since Keller has crossed but this year, his grave manifested him in lilies and alliums and an entire assortment of flowers. His companion, Babee IV, the cat with kidney disease, has also since crossed and, as I promised them both, she is buried right on top of him. Her adoration is a yellow peony plant. It will take 2 - 3 years before the plant blooms, but such was their relationship. It took a while to develop, but once it did, they two were beautiful together.

These two labs - Refuge Farms would be willing to adopt the two of them since we are now "dogless". However, we would need to have them neutered and current on vac's, if at all possible. The world of horse rescue is as bad as I've ever seen it. The need for our services is skyrocketing and the donations are declining. Preaching to the choir, aren't I?

So, if it works out that you have no other options for these two, we will give them a forever home. We will keep them together and they will be showered with tons of love and care.

I'll wait to hear from you. Thanks, Karen.

And keep your eye on the animals.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,

Not seconds later, Karen shot back a group email that said:

Hi all:

Boy - God is good!! After our two labs stories were put on the email, Sandra Gilbert of Refuge Farms in Wisconsin sent us an email and wishes to adopt THEM BOTH!!! She previously adopted a dog, Keller, german shep from RLRR that had been poisoned and gave the blind dog 6 months of love and care.

The rest is history, as they say. Lady and Man appeared during the week thanks to the loving transport (and hundred of miles driven!) of Kristin R. and her Mom. The two dogs were larger than I had anticipated and much calmer than I had ever dreamed!
I had the box stall ready for them - shavings, water, blankets. I was expecting street dogs. But what appeared were loving, sensitive animals who respected humans and wanted nothing but love and the absence of hollering and hitting. So the very first night they came into the house and found kennels with blankets and big bones waiting for them.

And it has been smooth sailing ever since. No accidents in the house at all. Man, the big "Bruiser" as I call him, will howl if he or his little sister need to go outside before I take them. Lady, the little girl, is a spitfire and ready to run into the pastures the second I am not looking. Not to chase the horses any more but to find the choice frozen clump of manure to bring back to her brother so they can dine together!

We have overcome the panic that sets in when they cannot eat the manure of the other. At first, I was totally unprepared for this behavior but soon figured that they had needed to survive and so they fed off of each other. But now, they know there is food twice a day and they no longer need to rely on each other for nutrition. That panic is gone.

The grass eating is significantly diminished, too. But not the horse manure yet. That will take time. I've been here before with Lady, the Dog. It does no good to fight it. When they've had enough, they'll stop. And I cannot convince them to stop before they reach that point. Really simple. Just don't let them kiss you. Not yet, anyhow.

They seem very healthy and Man weighed in at 96 pounds when he arrived. He is over one hundred by now. He is stocky and strong and appears wise. Almost old in his eyes. I can see where he was the defender and the "big brother" of the two. He had to do the protecting and the guarding. He was the adult to allow his little sister to be the puppy.

And Lady is just that. She is a handful of love and energy. And fear. Something about children has her running away from them. But that, too, will change in time. She will learn that the children here will not hurt her. She will learn to trust children again.

And the little girl has been hurt. She shows enormous gestures of submission and fear if I should holler or reach for her collar. It is at this point that Man steps in and just works his way between us. He is The Protector. Still.

And play!! These two rough-house and play with each other just as puppies should. And don't think for a moment that just because Man outweighs Lady by fifty pounds that he has the upper hand. No way! Lady is quick and agile and she often shows him just how good a wrestler she is! And as I watch them, I think of how he perhaps is allowing her to win. The big brother, even in their playfulness.

So, there are two new kids on THE FARM. A little girl named Lady. A little girl with history and bruises on her soul. A little girl who will heal and become relaxed and playful as she learns of the love that grows here. Just like the other Laddee. And a little boy named Man. With deep eyes and the tale of burden on his shoulders. A dog who has had to grow up well before his time but who holds no grudge toward anyone. Just wanting his back scratched, please. Just like the other Little Man.
It is a good thing we did here. These two do need to stay together. John was very right when he made that stipulation. These two are joined at the hip, most surely. And by the way, John and Elaine, you did marvelous work with these dogs! They are great companions and fantastic house dogs! Never, ever could you tell that these two lived on the streets! Not once would you guess that as you would now see them in their kennels with their big bones and overturned bowls and bunched up blankets. Nah . . . not these two little puppies!

So now once again, trips to the barn are me and the dogs. Dogs who came here because of their names. Lady and Man. Oh, how sweet it is to call to them! I call loudly and clearly as I say their names! I call to the sky and these two little creatures appear. I call to their namesakes and here they come . . .

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd and Lady and Man

Friday, November 12, 2010


A Picture Speaks A Thousand Words

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. Well, this picture speaks a million words!

There will be blogs to talk about The Gala. Yes, we will talk about the Zuhrah Shrine Horse Patrol, the horse presentations, the auction, the tours. We will talk about it all. But for now, just let this picture tell you what it is that we do here at Refuge Farms. Remember the surprise and the delight at the sight that paraded into the arena that night. And once again, I am so proud to say:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Wanda and her horse, Dudely!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

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