The Paint in all of us

C21D3A38-B959-4132-ACA1-7D29123C8F80There is a special horse at the ranch that has captured my attention over the past several months.  Since she arrived, there has been something pulling me towards her in a way very difficult to explain.

Her name is Picasso and she is a beautiful American Paint mare.  As I have gotten to know her, she has been patient with me as I try to understand her message.   I may ramble a bit, and I am sure she still has more to teach me, but let me share what I have come to learn from my friend and teacher.

Lesson #1 – We are all a Paint, embrace it.

Her coloring of white, brown, and black is striking.  The history of a paint, and the mixture of colors, occurred by breeding several types of horses.  People are a mixture as well.  Some are a mixture of races and others may be ethnic mixtures, cultural mixtures, societal mixtures, or religious mixtures……but each of us are a mixture that makes us unique. Just as there are no two horses alike, there are no two humans alike.  Her appearance is nothing more than showing us her uniqueness.  There is no fanfare, no pretense…..she is just Picasso, showing us who she is.  As I see it, she is simply saying be yourself, your own uniqueness and light will shine on its own.

Lesson #2 – All of us are damaged in one way or another.

Picasso has suffered great pain.  She was intentially pulled behind a trailer and her head and face were severely damaged.  Physically she has recovered but there are still emotional damages we continue to uncover.  She has many scars and a lip that will always droop. But she is a survivor.  We are all damaged in some way.  We have physical and/or mental scars.  All through our lives things happen to us that impact who we are and how we view ourselves.  As we grow older, we all have a choice on how we deal with the damages.  We can let them take us down the path of darkness and self-pity or we can view them as a battle scar and grow stronger by embracing them.  We also need to recognize that others are damaged.  We may not see the damages but they exist.  Give others time, their damages are as real as yours.   When I look at Picasso, I don’t see the scars or damage, I see a beautiful horse shining in all her glory.  She looks at me with a look of understanding.  She does not need to know my history to know that we both have our own history that we will overcome. Someday, may I shine as brightly as Picasso.

Lesson #3 – Find a way to Trust, Forgive, and Love. 

AFear is a powerful emotion.  Many of our animals arrive with a look that can only be described as fear.  Fear of the new surroundings, fear of the new life, and fear of us.  Many are withdrawn or may even lash out.  It takes time to move beyond the fear. They have to learn trust and in many cases forgive.  Many come in with damages caused by people.  Picasso was one of these animals who was filled with fear but craved human contact.  You could see the conflict in her eyes.  Slowly our animals learn to trust us.  I think the trust comes from all of the love at the ranch.  A place of love allows the fear to disapate and trust and love finds the way to the surface. There is no love compared to the love of a animal.  Picasso has learned to share her love with everyone at the ranch.  Her gentle manner is that of a thankful soul and anyone who has the opportunity to spend time with her will come away changed.  I know she has changed me.

Lesson #4 – Take time to play, laughter really is the best medicine.

Horses typically love to be challenged and Picasso’s personality shines when we play.  At feed time, I take her grain and we have a game we play.  We walk to the far end of her paddock and race to her grain bowl.  In the beginning, she would hold back and we would trot to the bowl, allowing me to win.  The first time Randy watched this game, he thought she was chasing me.  I laughed and told him of our game.  Now  she shows no mercy and runs to her bowl, mane blowing in the wind.  I may never win another race, but I will always be a winner by having the opportunity to care for her. I often laugh at her antics as she tries to cheat by taking off early or turning quick to the bowl. She knows she is doing it and it seems she is laughing at me when I catch her and make her come back.  She has taught me that no matter the mood, a little play and laughter makes any day better.

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i know there is still much to learn from this majestic horse, but for now, I feel honored that she is sharing her messages with me.  I hope I will always take time to listen to the animals.  Although no words are ever exchanged, they speak to everyone who takes time to listen.  I am thankful my journey has both brought me to the ranch and provided Picasso as a teacher.

Remember Love is universal, take time to hug & kiss your pawed and hooved kids.  You will get it back ten-fold……. I am living proof!!

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Adoption Day

As a rescue ranch, there is a day that everyone looks forward to with excitement, but also with a little sadness. It is the day when one of our beloved rescues moves on to their forever home. We just experienced the adoption of Pablo, now known as Bella. Pablo was a special little horse who came to us from Louisiana. She was only 18 months old when she arrived and followed everyone around, starving for attention. She is a small standard bred who quickly worked her way into the hearts of volunteers and staff. She also captured Randy’s heart from the beginning.

A couple of months ago, a very special mom came to the ranch looking for a rescue horse as a gift for her soon-to-be 13 year old daughter. As soon as the daughter met Pablo, you could see they adored each other. It wasn’t long before it was time for Pablo to move onto her new life as Bella. There is a special bond between a girl and her horse and it will be fun keeping up with the adventures of Bella and Kendahl.

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For me, the adoption day brought a mixture emotions. I was so excited to know Pablo was going to a wonderful home, but sad because she was taking a piece of my heart with her. Yes, there were a few tears shed, but I am well aware that by having one of our rescues adopted, we have now made room for another one in need. That is the life and purpose of a rescue ranch.

As I thought about it, I have come to realize that each of these special animals at the ranch have captured a piece of my heart that I will never get back. But I also realized they have left me a piece of theirs.

Technically, the human heart is often described as having 4 parts, or chambers. I believe that a well lived and loved heart can actually have millions.  When we love, we give away a piece of our heart. With any luck, the recipient of our love will also love us and provide us with a piece of their own heart. Our rescue animals come to us with broken spirits that need a few extra pieces to make them whole again. The volunteers and staff give these special animals pieces of their own hearts allowing the animals to heal and thrive. When they are strong enough, they share a piece of their own heart with the caregivers.

I believe my heart is made up of bits and pieces of all those that I have loved and cared for and each of them accompany me along my journey.  In return, each of them carry a piece of my heart within them and maybe once in a while they remember me.

I also thought about Randy and all of the hundreds of thousands of animals he has rescued in his life.  If each of them took a piece of his heart and in turn gave him a piece of their own, is it any wonder that one or two of those pieces may not have fit exactly right and resulted in his recent aneurysm.  On the flip side, with all the love within the pieces of his heart, it is no surprise he survived and is recovering.

My goal is to continue giving my heart to each of our rescues and when my time on earth is done, I hope they find my heart in millions of pieces. Then I will know I was truly loved.

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Our Purpose

Have you ever wondered what is your purpose and what you should do with the life you are given? I think most people, at various times of their lives, wonder about their life’s purpose. Does God have a specific plan for us or is everything coincidental? With everything happening at the ranch, there have been a few conversations surrounding the topic. Is our purpose and our journey predefined or are our lives and our purpose fluid and subject to change based on our decisions.

My journey brought me to the ranch.  I thought of this opportunity as a way of healing myself, but was there another purpose to this part of my journey?  Was my journey to the ranch one of those moments in time with multiple purposes? Was I supposed to be here when Randy and the ranch needed me the most?  Randy survived an aortic aneurism that is normally fatal.  Yet here he is, improving each day.  Does God have a special purpose for him?  I think we all know Randy has had a purpose his entire life; to save as many animals as possible. Perhaps nearly losing him is a  reminder to all of us that there is still so much more for us to do.  I cannot imagine what would have happened to the ranch if we had lost him.

 Sometimes I wish we could just wake up and clearly know what we are supposed to do, but then I realize that we are not given one purpose in life, but rather many.  Most of us have had experiences of being at the right place at the right time.  Something as simple as being there to catch someone as they fall may have been our purpose at that moment in time. Personally, I am beginning to think that those big “Ah ha” moments we experience may be God’s way of adjusting our compass but we have many more moments in our lives where we are fulfilling our purpose without  acknowledging or even recognizing it is part of our journey.

As I am sure you all know by now, I love to watch the animals at the ranch.  I wonder if they ever think about their purpose. Do they know why they are here and what purpose they may have as part of the ranch’s journey?  Many  say animals are intuitive and have a special ability to connect with people and understand us even better than we understand ourselves.  Jake, who was adopted by Randy, seems to have a very unique way of knowing what Randy needs.  They communicate in a way beyond the spoken word.  Is that Jake’s purpose?  Johnny, our little longhorn that Randy rescued, has gone from being the one saved to the one saving all of us.  Anyone who has spent time with him recognizes he is a special little bull. Was he spared in order to be here when he is needed the most? A therapy longhorn in the making?  I look at Picasso and I see beyond her scars. She is a beautiful horse and she carries herself with a very regal inner beauty. Was she destined to be injured so she would find her way here in order to be part of the healing ranch?  Everything we do, and all those we meet along our journey (human or animal) have crossed our lives for a purpose. How often do we fail to recognize that simple concept.

I have decided as I move forward, I want to take time and acknowledge those moments that may seem insignificant, because one small moment for me may be something much larger for someone else. Maybe writing this blog, which for me is simply putting my thoughts on paper, will lead someone else to realize their purpose. For now, I am just happy knowing that each day gives me the opportunity to reach out and help myself by being there for others and for all the amazing animals at the ranch.

For today, love each other and all the animals you meet along your journey. We may not always understand our purpose, but somewhere there is someone who may find their purpose through us.

 

The Heart of the Ranch

I started writing my blog a couple of weeks ago.  Then the unimaginable happened. Randy was rushed to the hospital, transferred to St. Louis, and was in surgery for a thoracic anuersym within a few hours. The original plan for the blog was to discuss the recent school shootings and the vision for the ranch. Along with answering the question, “What does one have to do with the other?”

The message is still an important one, but I also realize how close we came to losing the heart behind the vision. The difference between a successful and unsuccessful implementation of a vision often comes down to heart. Randy has a dream, a passion, and a vision.  His heart lead him to the ranch and his passion is making it a reality.  As he was going into surgery, he was more concerned about the care of the animals than he was his own health. During his time in the hospital his absence at the ranch was felt by all.  The ranch was well cared for by everyone, but even the animals knew a critical part, the heart, was missing from the ranch.  You could see it in the faces of the workers and volunteers.  It could be seen in the eyes and actions of the animals.  It could be felt in my heart, as I couldn’t seem to put words and emotions onto paper.  There are certain people that God has chosen to share with us, that inspire us, to be better.  Randy is one of those people and I am thankful we will have more time to move his vision forward at the ranch.  My heart is much lighter knowing once again, the heart of the ranch is home where he belongs. We are all blessed.

Below is the finished blog I was writing before that tragic Friday when all of us were saying a few more prayers.

Healing our Nation, One Person at a Time

A lot has been weighing on my heart since the most recent school shooting. I pray for all of the families that have been touched by these tragedies and I pray for our nation.

I look around at our our menagerie of animals and have first hand witnessed their healing power. These broken and forgotten animals have come together to create a place of healing, for both themselves and those around them. I wonder if these children committing these horrible crimes were somehow broken and forgotten, just like our animals.

The world can be very hard for people and animals that don’t fit comfortably into our society. We, at the ranch, have a unique opportunity to help both animals and humans. Randy has a vision for the ranch that goes beyond saving the animals, he envisions helping people who may struggle to fit in as well. The ranch has already provided healing powers for many of the volunteers and just as the ranch is in its infancy, so are the programs we foresee for people.

There is a term for the vision, it is animal assisted activity (AAA). It is a more casual and unstructured group of programs allowing interaction between people and animals.

This interaction may be as simple as spending quiet time with the animals or may include more hands-on working and learning at the ranch.  In all cases, the programs will be custom built to heal and strengthen the bonds between humans and animals, as well as appreciation of the ranch.  Below are some of the programs we hope to develop and how I hope we can begin healing our nation, one person at a time.

Special Needs Program – designed to help children and adults that have physical or mental abilities which require learning outside of traditional environments.  Each program would be customized for the participants.  Hopefully this will include special needs students from local schools, autistic individuals, those with Down’s Syndrome, and other groups yet to be identified. How amazing it will be to connect these group with the ranch and animals.  There is a special language that goes unspoken between this amazing part of our society and the animals.

Seniors Program – Often our senior population is confined to senior living facilities. Many in this area came from farms and ranches.  The vision is to bring those individuals back to the ranch to rekindle their passion.  This may come from spending time gardening, visiting or assisting with the animals, or simply fishing in the pond.  Mentally and physically our seniors can benefit from this interaction.  We can listen for there is still much to learn from our seniors.

PTSD Program – People suffering with PTSD have a unique disadvantage in our society and need special places to heal.  With our ranch located near a major military base, we have the opportunity to offer a place where these individuals can come and benefit from a relationship with our animals.  With proper resources, we should be able to develop an equine program that can connect these individuals with our horses.  There is nothing quite as special as the bond between man and horse. In its own way, it can help settle a soul. 

Youth Program – This program would be specifically designed to reach the youth in our community that often don’t fit into the ready made society created in our schools.  They may be bullied, or be the one doing the bullying.  It may be the socially awkward or LBTQ kids that really don’t feel they fit in anywhere. It may be the underprivileged or those missing a responsible adult in their lives that can introduce them to the special relationship between man and animals at the ranch.  It is society’s responsibility to identify and reach out to these kids before they reach the point of hopelessness.  Both Randy and I know what it is like to be on the outside and if the ranch can be a part of helping these kids, we owe it to them, ourselves, and the ranch.

I am being given a very special opportunity to assist in the development of these programs and I hope to share with all of you the successes and challenges we face along our journey.

As always, be kind to one another. Give your kids, human or otherwise, an extra hug.  Life is too short, as we all have recently been forced to realize.

Love from the ranch,

Karen

 

The Words within the Silence

Being a caregiver for Johnny, I have had the opportunity to see the ranch at various times of the day. Johnny has a 10pm feeding that has been part of my routine on most days. It is quite spectacular when the hustle and bustle of the daily activity has come to an end, people have gone home, and the animals have settled in for the night.

It is said that silence speaks volumes but I don’t believe I really understood the meaning behind this statement before the ranch. I always thought the statement was meant to imply my own silence would speak volumes and I could make my point without speaking a word.

From a young child, through adolescence, and in adulthood, silence was used as a tool. As a child, I would stop talking to try and get my way. In adolescence, I used silence as a way to fit into a variety of groups. As an adult, silence was a major influence in manipulating others. Silence could be used to express anger, insecurity, compassion, and dominance. Throughout my life, it had always been about how “I” used silence.

What I have recently come to realize is that the statement, “Silence speaks volumes” has less to do with my silence, but rather listening to the silence and what it has to teach me. I spent 40+ years in Corporate America before I retired. The combination of retirement and the experiences of the ranch have allowed me to look at life through a new lens.

Driving into the ranch around 9:30pm, I turn off my lights relying on the few ranch lights to guide me to Johnny’s barn. First passing by Panda’s Hospice House, the silence speaks to me of the precious pups resting inside. Their lives on the streets, struggling to survive, are over. They sleep in a warm home on beds and surrounded by love. I hear the words safe and gratitude.

On occasion the silence is broken, not by words, but by one of the cows greeting me with a low moo or the local owl asking, “Hoot goes there?” Both are small reminders that I am a privileged guest to the nightlife of the ranch.

Passing the barns and ranch house, lights are low and movement is nonexistent with the exception of an occasional shadow moving within the barn where Pablo and Picasso are currently residing.  Strength and perseverance shout from all corners.

Across from the arena, the silence is often broken by the soft hoofbeats of Jake and Jendy who greet me as the gentle giants of the ranch. No words are spoken, yet I feel their energy.  I hear watch and protect. These two, without a doubt, are the after-hour guardians of the ranch.

As I park and exit my Jeep, I stop briefly to take in the beauty of the ranch during the late night hours. The ponds are calm. A slight breeze blows through the trees, welcoming me to a world few get to experience. Peaceful and serenity echo in the silence.

Entering Johnny’s barn and even before I hear him, I know he is waiting for me. Anticipation. He looks up at me and no words are needed. Love.  Feeding him is always a bright spot of my day, irregardless of the time.  Happy Valentine’s Day my little bull.

As I leave the ranch, my heart speaks to me in the silence. An overwhelming sense of trust, compassion, honor and most important love.  Love for all the ranch has offered me.

Silence has spoken and become my teacher and I the humble pupil.  I now know, “Silence speaks volumes” to those that listen.  Like the ocean trapped in a seashell, the ranch has much to tell me. I will listen.

Resilience

This past week has been a good week at the ranch and everyone’s enjoying how awesome the animals are doing. Of course I think we would have been a lot happier if  Puxatony Phil would have been a little nicer to us with his forecast.

As I sat down to write, reflecting on the week, one word keeps coming to mind, resilience.  The definition of resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Originally, the word resounded with me because of our animals.  Many have seen the worst in humankind but here they are at the ranch, showing us each day how resilient they are.  Our new kids, Pablo and Picasso are doing great.  Picasso had to figure out how to capture grain out of her feed bowl but found a way by using her lip and the edge of her bowl to gather the grain.  Triumph over adversity. She is only one month post surgery and looks great.

Johnny, our miracle longhorn calf, continues to grow and is weighing in at almost 49 pounds. He is officially one month old today and has found his moooooo.

Lesson on weighing Johnny:

Start by making sure no one is around when I step on the scale 👀👀. Next wrangle Johnny, pick him up, and step on the scale.  💪 This is not as easy as it sounds. He would much rather play.  As a side note, plan on adding cow pee or poo to your attire because Johnny somehow thinks it is a requirement when being picked up. 💩 🤨  The difference between my weight and the combined weight is Johnny’s weight. Before long he is going to be too heavy for me to pick up and weigh. Anyone have a large animal scale they are not using? At least for now, I get my cardio and weightlifting in handling this little man.

We also had an unusually warm day this week and Rodeo Randy, better known as Daddy to Johnny, was able to get Johnny outside to run. We still have to be extremely careful and could not expose him to the other animals, but he embraced the new opportunity to explore outside his stall.

Sway, irregardless of his health issues, is one of the happiest most loving big hunks of a dog you could ever want.  He loves his new life, although we have to order ginormous puppy pads to work on his bathroom skills. He immediately took to the current residents of Panda House, leaving slobber marks on all.  This has affectionately become known as being “Sway’d”. Speaking from experience, there is nothing quite like being Sway’d.👅

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Gypsy, Jenny, and Homer from our original Bayou rescue run continue to grow and interact with people.  Below is the original Gypsy picture and a current one.  She has gone from kicking and biting, to a beautiful Shetland Pony who desires human contact.

Another story I haven’t had the opportunity to share is Shanaynay.  Shanaynay is roughly 2 years old and is an awesome pot-bellied pig who was found wandering the mean streets of St. Louis.  She is, in every sense of the word, a street pig, with a swagger and attitude to match.  I adore our little girl. If you haven’t figured out by now, I have an affinity for the kids with an attitude. Whomever adopts this little girl is in for an amazing journey.

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We have dogs that have been abused, shot, several in wheelchairs, one that is blind, and many that are old. Yet here they are loving life at the ranch.

The one thing that all of our “kids” have in common is resilience.  They continue to recover from what the world has dealt them and tackle each new challenge head on.

But as my mind wanders, I have also come to realize that it is not just our kids that are resilient, but all of the people at the ranch as well.  The employees, the volunteers, and the founder carry their own stories.  Life throws all types of challenges and we continue to find our way through them.  We have team members that are overcoming the loss of a child or parent. Some are dealing with serious heath issues of their own or those of aging parents. Others are coping with emotional scars left through physical or emotional abuse.  Some are dealing with economical challenges. We are quite the motley crew, but never the less, resilient. We have built a community where everyone is giving of themselves.  A community of healing, not only for the animals but for each other as well.

I am truly blessed to be a part of Randy’s Rescue Ranch. ❤️🐴🐮🐷🐶

Circle of Life

As expected, this past week has been rough.  On Tuesday we said goodbye to Lucy and Curly.  They were set free of their pain, surrounded by love.  They are now free to run together in greener pastures in the warmth of God’s embrace.  They were a cornerstone of the ranch and will always hold a special place in our hearts.

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As I passed by their barn the next couple of days, there was a heaviness in my heart and I couldn’t bring myself to walk in. The bright spot was Johnny who continues to thrive and reached a milestone 40 pounds this week.  He has a small halter and is getting the opportunity to explore outside of his stall.

82228247-B93F-4F71-8303-4C64BF000B30On Thursday we had a very special delivery.  SiSi, one of our longhorns, gave birth to a beautiful and healthy boy.  Welcome to the ranch, Gino the Bull!  Unlike Johnny, he was born on a warm January day and immediately stood and began nursing.  He is already significantly larger than Johnny and on Friday morning greeted me with a resounding Moooooo. The circle of life was showing me that from the sadness of death, life emerges.

The melancholy of the ranch was lifting.  I walked into Lucy and Curly’s barn for the first time since Tuesday and I smiled with all of the wonderful memories. Their presence could be felt as if they were telling me to be happy for them.

Friday morning Randy, the man with the biggest heart ever, and Gino, our amazing ranch manager (guess who our new bull is named after 😁), set out in the wee hours of the morning to bring back two rescue horses from Louisiana, a mare and her foal.

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But as we all know life cannot be scripted. It was a rough trip, starting out with a flat tire on the trailer. The RRR team was traveling into one of the poorest parishes and a situation that pulls at the heart.  The local rescue that is trying to save these abandoned and abused animals is doing the best they can in extremely adverse conditions.  Private adoptions are not allowed and unless this group can find another rescue group to take them, the animals will die.  This is part of the rescue operations that takes the largest toll on the human soul.  Heartbreakingly we cannot take them all. The two we went after were there, but there were two others that pulled on Randy’s heart.  One began following Randy around like a puppy, just searching for attention and love. His best friend was a paint who was seriously injured in an abuse case.  I will never understand how humans can mistreat and abandon such beautiful animals.  The physical injuries have healed but the emotionally healing has just begun.

Randy knew he had to find a way to bring them home but we were operating with a borrowed 2-horse trailer.  The one thing that kept coming to my mind is how loss leads to opportunity.  If Lucy and Curly had not been set free of their pain, we would not have a place for these two who so desperately needed us.  Saturday and early Sunday plans were still in the works but when it came time to load up the mare and her foal, God had another plan.  In the wee hours of darkness, the mare refused to load.  With that happening, a decision was made to bring the other two home.  Loaded up, the RRR team was ready for the long journey to the ranch. The woman who runs the rescue assured Randy that they would load the mare and her foal later in the week and deliver them to us. Just like that, all 4 of these beautiful horses would be coming to join us at the ranch. 

Of course, if there are any other opportunities to save an animal the RRR team isn’t passing it up. A large abused Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff) who had a collar embedded in his neck and is suffering with cancer was living among the horses.  He was treated to a truck ride to join the ranch family.

I was honored to be at the ranch Sunday evening as the weary travelers retuned with our new kids. It has been a long journey, but welcome to the ranch Pablo (brown filly), Picasso (paint mare), and Sway. Let the healing begin. You will now know what being loved is all about. For the first time, Pablo and Picasso will have clean water, fresh hay, grain, carrots and some yummy treats. Sway, you will find out what it means to be spoiled with healthy food, indoor living, and a bed of your own.

I am so blessed to be part of the ranch family where the circle of life proves every day that a broken heart is not really broken. That for ever piece of your heart that is taken by a loss, there will be an opportunity to heal by allowing the hole to be filled with the love of a new member of our family.