Find out why we rescue our animals here at Sugar Water Manor and how this impacts all of the decisions we make in our life.
There are so many ways to add animals into your home and on to your farm. But we have gone the route of rescuing over and over again. Now rescuing often looks different but it all has one common thread. We do not go to purchase with intention to support a breeder. We go with the intention to provide a better home/farm environment for an animal. That too may be unique and for different reasons.
Now let’s first back up and identify that breeders provide a very important role. Let’s take Bo and Zoe for example. They are Great Pyrenees a breed that plays an important role on farms and ranches. They are true livestock guardian dogs with breed in linage to guard. But not all breeders are the same and not all dogs breed in linage will be livestock guardian dogs.
Bo and Zoe come from a terrible hoarding situation and had many issues. We adopted them knowing the breed would love our environment and do well here but be house dogs. Nope, Bo was a livestock guardian dog and had to work so we put him to work with a little rescue herd at the farm.
Now if we had a larger predator count or opened up more acreage for other purposes for animals, like a slow grow chicken area or larger herd for milking we would have to re-think if that role was appropriate for Bo but most likely we would find a breeder to purchase a lineage livestock guardian dog. So in this example we built a herd for Bo to work, but if we had a herd that needed a livestock guardian dog we would most likely work with a reputable breeder. A working class dog is very different kind of animal.
So on to why we rescue our animals
Sixteen years ago I was working at a non-profit rescue, rehab and release facility in Florida as the COO while the board was trying to hire a CEO. No, I did not want the job and in fact I wanted to go back to volunteering just doing fundraising. But the facility needed someone and I had the management and non-profit skills needed, so I stepped up during their search. During that time I worked closely with staff, volunteers and the community and learned a lot about the impact we as humans have on the environment and animals.
This forever changed my view on animals and my perspective became. If we humans caused the issue we had to fix it. The bigger issue was that the humans fixing it were not the humans causing it and to this day it remains true.
Often unintentional and often just lack of follow through and knowledge caused the damage or death of animals and their environment but there are and we cannot overlook them - those humans who just do not care and those who intentionally cause these issues. So my outlook became - do what I can and teach others when I can.
Sixteen years ago right about this time I was having dinner with my husband and in-laws and I may have had a couple of glasses of wine and my veterinarian from the rescue, rehab and release facility called me. She was beside herself. She received a call about a now abandoned dolphin that had been stuck in a crab pot line and had several injuries. The rescuers basically told her we were her last chance, all the big players wanted to euthanize her. Those big players, Disney, Sea World, MOTE and I could go on.
So here we were a struggling very small facility that I was already trying to save from the last mess it was left in before I stepped up. I called my top three board members and they all were very clear not to take in the animal and told “well if the big guys don’t want it neither do we”. That there made me realize it was all wrapped around money not doing the right thing.
I knew right then, yes a couple of glasses in that I would take the dolphin in against the decision of my board. I mean what did I have to lose. I looked at my husband and he said what will it take? And I replied, some Pedialyte and fish milkshakes. He dropped me at work at 9PM and he went to the drug store for Pedialyte. A human decision to not recover a lost crab pot caused this animal to need humans. We needed to fix this not just for this dolphin but also for education. For people to do better.
So last week that dolphin passed away. Honestly I was super sad, I cried. When I found out I was alone in a hotel room between NYC and home with a rescue pup I had just adopted. I started the day in Montreal, flew to Philly, drove to NYC and thought I would make it home but I just too tired.
As I laid in a hotel bed with this new rescue it all came together. I had years of realizing I was not doing enough. Years lost not making an impact. Years lost in not doing more for the wrongs of others. It was then I realized that this new pup, Sadie, would help me make a bigger difference.
So back to the question. Why do we rescue? Here are the 4 main reasons we rescue:
1. To take in other people’s mistakes
2. To provide a better home for animals than they have - not always in a bad way
3. To educate our guests and others
4. Because we can
1. Let us start with other people’s mistakes
Mistakes happen, dogs and other animals get pregnant but they do because humans do not spay and neuter their animals.
We also have people that intend to keep animals but then something happens out of their control.
A breeder who doesn’t have a plan for animals that will not sell or does not meet standards (like Oscar and Willie- our first rescue goats).
Someone who has good intention but no plan if something does not fit into their plan.
Then we have bigger human mistakes (or humans doing bad things) that cause harm to animals
In the end - mistakes happen we get it! We would love if people could be forward thinking and try hard to reduce these mistakes. It is the humans that these mistakes can be avoided that are the most frustrating.
2. To provide a better home for animals than that they have and not always in a bad way.
Not all animals are in their best environment at no fault of the person who adopted or bought them. Also over time family situations and human lives change causing a change to be needed for animals.
Now there are the just bad environments that no animal should be in. We have goats that were at auction twice before David found them on a Facebook page and something told him that he needed to get them. Thankfully he did because if not little Jack would not have made it. Why was this threesome at auction twice, most likely humans and a breeding error. Two people bought this threesome at auction and they did not fit into their business model so back to auction they went and then it happened again and posted to Facebook.
Then there are situations that are life changing events, someone passes away and no one can take the animal, a human baby is born and no matter how hard the family tries the animal cannot handle it and needs a better environment.
Then there are working class animal situations. A Livestock guardian dog is bought but has an issue and cannot work and has to be rehomed. Or in reverse like Bo and Zoe, a dog is rescued with intention to be a house dog but has to work.
3. To Educate our guests and others
We are an agritourism lodge. We use our farm to educate others. We know that if we can impact one person they can then impact others. They can share their new knowledge and experience.
If I learned one thing from my time with that sweet dolphin it is that the closer people can be with animals the more impactful the message will be. If I can sit there and share a story about one of our goats, about Bo or a chicken and its care while the child or adult is interacting with that animal there will be a bigger impact and memory. If I can ask a child or adult to please pick up any fishing line they may drop or piece of trash or balloon they may find while at the river or visiting our oyster garden they will have that hands on experience and now have the why.
The why is the important part. While we rescue the majority of our animals we also talk about the working animals and the need for them. We share stories of our friends and their farms and ranches.
4. Because I can
Rescuing animals is not an easy or inexpensive thing to do. Rescue animals in general usually have more issues and need for care when they first arrive.
Like with all animals that come to the farm there is a vet check and quarantine time. Special food to get them acclimated and often getting them caught up on immunizations.
People often “adopt” dogs because they think it is cheap. Animals are not cheap period. If rescuing from a reputable rescue you have fees that help cover the cost of the rescue. If rescuing a dog or cat you have the responsibility to spay or neuter if they are not. And then you have the lifetime care of the animal, period.
I have set up our business model to accommodate these costs as this is what we do.
There is also time involved. We have driven countless miles to rescue, transport and take a animals to specialized veterinary centers. For Zoe alone I have spent 5 nights in hotels when she was getting surgeries.
In the past year Bo, Zoe and Jack all required major surgeries and those are on top of other animal spay and neuter.
Again we set up for all of this in our plan.
When people ask if they should adopt I always say one thing - be prepared first! Be prepared with time, space and money. You should be ready to spend a minimum of $5000 for the lifetime of the animal. Most of the time you will not do that, but you need to have money available in case of an emergency.
So we do it because we set up for it with time, space, care and money.
In the end I will say there are those situations that humans do the right thing and are truly looking out for the best of the animal. But in my experience this is not the norm. Most animals need to be rescued due to humans making mistakes. We all need to get better for all animals, working, domestic and wild.