Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Montana Memories

My parents are in town, visiting from New Jersey. In catching up with them, my original reason for moving to Montana five years ago came up in conversation: Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary. Rolling Dog is a haven for blind and disabled animals where I worked for nearly a year upon graduating from my Master's program in elementary education. I needed a break from school, and I had a background with animal work. I found the Rolling Dog job posting, and before I knew it I had moved from Boston to a tiny, culture-shocking town with a population of less than 100 in Big Sky Country. I cared for the ranch's growing population of handicapped dogs, horses, and cats, plus a few random others (I still remember you, Charlotte, you ornery pot-bellied pig!). It was hard work, but satisfying, and even though I did not want to muck stalls and drag pastures for the rest of my career, I value my time at the ranch. I do miss the vastness of the space, the silence, and, of course, the animals. While working at the ranch, I got to fall asleep to the sound of coyotes howling, drive tractors (so much fun!), and work outside (in short bursts, of course) during -30*F weather. I never thought that hefting hay bales could be so much fun, but it is! The entire experience was incredible.

Chatting with my parents brought my original Montana memories to the surface, so I headed over to the Rolling Dog website. The owners, Steve and Alayne, run an amazing blog in addition to their homepage, but somehow I never subscribed to it. It was before my blogging days, I suppose. I have rectified that problem, and am excited to receive updates in my reader when Steve returns from his blog break in January.

Perusing the site and blog, I was amazed at the changes I learned of. Some were wonderful changes, like winning the ASPCA's 2009 Humane Award. Others saddened me. So many of the lovely animals that I fed, cleaned, and cared for have passed away -- Birdie, the dog with muscular dystrophy who loved tennis balls and eating rocks, and Destiny, who I remember as a skittish blind foal, or Pepper, the sweetest blind dog (she's the black dog pictured at left, playing with Travis). In my mind, they had been happily living out their days on the ranch, but now I know otherwise. Still, that does not change the fact that Steve and Alayne gave these dogs a chance and a home where they otherwise might have met only with neglect, abuse, or the receiving end of a euthanasia needle. At Rolling Dog, they found safety, comfort, and groundbreaking care.

And I can't stay sad, not when the ranch has given me so much. I never would have moved to Montana, met the Best Husband Ever, run races, hooped, worked with elementary school families, or climbed mountains, perhaps, if not for them. The first dog that I ever called all my own, Cody, is a former Rolling Dog Ranch resident. He came to the ranch from a shelter in Cody, Wyoming, as a puppy. The shelter folks thought he was blind, when in fact he just has rapid eye motion that affects his eyesight, but he can see. It's been amazing to watch Cody adapt to this disability -- now, you probably would never even guess that he's handicapped! He's not a stellar player in a game of catch, but he can hold his own remarkably well. Plus, he's super cuddly.

All this to say -- Steve and Alayne of Rolling Dog Ranch, I miss you! Thank you for everything that you do, and everything that you've given me. It's amazing what generous hearted people can do when they set their minds to it, isn't it? They make moments like these possible:

1 comment:

  1. I loved your perception. In life, there will always be pains and struggles...but there's always sweet moments, too, stored as precious memories for a lifetime...


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King