What happens to animals that have disabilities or are abused and abandoned?
If they’re lucky, they end up at Second Chance Farm under the care of Sandi Walker.
Walker created Second Chance Farm as a rehabilitation refuge for animals — horses, dogs, sheep, goats, ducks and chickens, among others. Deaf, blind and crippled animals are welcome, along with some on the rebound from illness or malnourishment.
"I’ve always loved animals,” said Walker, who grew up in Keller, graduated from Granbury High School, and got a degree in agribusiness from Tarleton State University.
The farm is on 70 acres of family-owned land in Hood County between Tolar and Granbury, approximately 17 miles northwest of Glen Rose. About half of its population is made up of dogs, while horses make up about 30 percent.
Walker came up with the farm’s primary motto, “Let’s redefine normal,” along with “Eyes and ears are overrated.”
For the past several years, a special needs Catahoula and boxer mix named Doofus has been Walker’s chief fundraising “rock star” to meet the public for SCF promotional appearances. Doofus is a 7-year-old dog that is deaf, and has only partial eyesight in one eye. Sales of “Doofus for president” T-shirts have helped raise money for the SCF’ necessities of food and medical supplies.
Walker said the farm gained 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit entity in 2012.
“I did it for more than 20 years out of my own pocket,” Walker said recently while making a fundraising appearance at H-E-B in Granbury. “When we got our nonprofit, then we could start taking donations and now we are 100 percent donation-based. And we get donations from all over the world.”
A major SCF fundraising event is set for 6 p.m. on Oct. 27 at the LC Ranch near Tolar. It will feature musical entertainment from a live band, The Calamity Janes.
“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Walker said.
Anyone interested in either donating to SCF or looking into adopting an animal can go online to the website (www.secondchancefarmgranbury.org). For other information on SCF, call 817-243-8172.
SCF also has a Facebook page with more than 18,600 “likes” as of last weekend — making the leap from just over 3,200 five years ago.
Walker explained that some of the SCF dogs that are blind and/or deaf are “double merles.”
“We take in a lot of double merles,” she said. “This is when two merle patterned coats in dogs breed and some of the puppies are born mostly white.
“If they have eyes at all, one or two of them are usually blue. The chances of deafness and/or blindness are greatly heightened. Some of my favorite dogs at the farm are the deaf and blind ones. They ‘redefine normal’ every day.”
The farm’s population has grown to about 150 animals, and it’s basically at full capacity until more animals can be adopted. Adoptions don’t happen very often, for several reasons.
“Some months we’ll have four or five,” Walker said. “Not everybody is looking for a special-needs dog. We’re very picky where our animals go. We do a vet check and we do a home visit. But we want to make sure they’re going to be safe.”
Walker has one full-time worker, Courtney Mimick, and usually about four others who volunteer on a regular basis.
“All in all, I have 50 total that do all kinds of different things,” Walker said.
Walker has taken in animals from all over Texas, as well as locations in Oklahoma and even Mississippi. Fortunately, volunteers usually transport them to SCF so she can tend to the daily chores.
One of the most recent newcomers was a stray transported from Marshall, in East Texas. Despite missing a back leg and having only one functional front leg, Legend still manages to hop around on his own — at least until he gets tired from the effort.
“I named him Legend, because he’s going to be a fundraiser,” Walker said.
'THEY DON’T KNOW'
Walker said that animals with disabilities don’t realize they are different — and don’t feel sorry for themselves. In fact, they seem happy and carefree.
“We’ve not had one that was depressed,” Walker said. “They don’t know. They really don’t. We try to get them to where they are not hurting. They all get out there and play, and they all have a blast. One of my deaf and blind dogs, named Luna, that’s one of the happiest dogs I’ve ever met in my life. We always say this, she’s chasing butterflies. She’s so happy. Her tail’s wagging. She can catch your scent and know you’re there and she’ll make a bee-line for you. It’s amazing. It’s the scent.”
Walker explained that the blind dogs learn their way around, and remember where to go — much like a human getting up during the night to go to the bathroom in the dark.
“They know exactly where everything is,” Walker said, noting that she currently has nine dogs that are deaf and blind. The deaf ones learn to read her commands in sign language. Those that are blind but can hear, of course, learn to respond to Walker’s vocal commands.
‘IT’S JUST MY LIFE’
Walker said she can’t imagine not running the farm, but she has made arrangements in her will for someone to take it over when that time comes.
“I’ve been asked, ‘How long do you want to do this?’ I hope I can do it forever," she said. “For me, it’s just my life. They’re just normal to me. I get choked up, at times.
“It does my heart so good. It’s my mission now. Just like Legend. I’m gonna make him have a good life. I’m gonna get him two more legs, so that he walks like a normal dog and won’t get tired. I want him to run and play with the other dogs.”