Monday, March 7, 2011

Rolling Dog Ranch, a Sanctuary for Disabled Pets

By Linda Cole

Even pets can go through an illness, be born with a deformity, injured in an accident, or suffer from old age that leaves them disabled. I had a dog who lost his sight and hearing as he aged. But neither disability stopped him from leading a relatively normal life. He didn't give up, and there was no way I was going to give up on him. Unfortunately, not every pet has an owner who is willing to do what's necessary to meet their animal’s needs, and some disabled pets are in shelters because of it. Disabled pets are not as likely to find new homes, yet these are loveable animals whose only crime was having a disability someone didn't want to deal with. Steve Smith and Alayne Marker decided to do something about this, and opened a one-of-a-kind sanctuary for special needs pets, called Rolling Dog Ranch.

Steve and Alayne founded Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in December of 2000. Located on 160 acres in western Montana, the ranch fulfilled a dream they both had of opening a sanctuary specifically for disabled pets. They decided to call the ranch “Rolling Dog” after watching their dogs roll around in the grass on this beautiful ranch in the Blackfoot River Valley.

The problem with their location in Montana was the distance they needed to travel for vet care, supplies, groceries and everything else they needed, along with finding good employees and volunteers to work in such a remote area. In early 2010 they moved the Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary and its disabled pets to a new location in New Hampshire. Located in the White Mountains, their new sanctuary is much closer to all the services they need, and even though it's a little smaller at 120 acres, there's still plenty of room for the animals. This includes blind dogs, cats and horses, deaf dogs, three-legged dogs and cats, and some with medical problems like muscular dystrophy.

Animals don't feel sorry for themselves, and they don't dwell on their disability. They are every bit as lovable as a pet without a disability. The goal of the Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary is to find suitable homes for the disabled animals. Some of the pets will find new homes, but because of their disabilities and the fact that most of them have already been though a lot, many of them will remain at the animal sanctuary for the rest of their life.

When a pet finds a loving home, this leaves space for another animal with a disability to have a chance to live as normal of a life as they can. They can be in an environment that gives them love and care, with people who understand that life is about giving and helping. Disabled pets don't know they have a disability. They adjust and move on. And they deserve the same amount of love and care as any pet.

As you might guess, vet care is the largest expense for the Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary. One dog they took in was deaf, blind and had a cancerous tumor that blocked his sinuses and prevented him from smelling. Rather than put the dog down, they had the tumor removed. Not a cheap operation, but worth every penny to help a dog regain his sense of smell and self respect.

In 2009, Steve and Alayne received the ASPCA Henry Bergh Award for their work with disabled pets. Since opening their doors in 2000, Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary has placed 31 dogs, 6 cats, 1 donkey and 1 burro in loving homes, according to their website.

There are not many who would take in one disabled pet, let alone the 50 or so that live at the Rolling Dog Ranch with Steve and Alayne. Disabled pets are special creatures who don't want us to pity them – they just want a chance to live their life to the fullest. Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary gives pets that chance. Steve and Alayne are special people indeed. If you read their posts on Facebook or on their blog, you will share in their love for each and every animal in their care.

Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary is a tax-exempt charitable organization, and depends entirely on donations to keep the ranch running. For more information on this great sanctuary for disabled animals, or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit their website.

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Hello: I just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your articles, and articles by others, each day when I get to work. My husband and I adopted two puppies from the Sterling, MA Animal Shelter in October of 2009. They are the best thing that ever happened to us, they bring so much joy. We took them to obedience school and the trainer told us about Canidae. They love the food and it clearly agrees with them because they are healthy, happy and shiney! This article really moved me, I am so grateful for folks who step up to the plate and see beyond the disabilities in these animals, rather focus on the ABILITY and love they can bring to others. Thanks again! I shared this will my family and friends.

  2. Those two people sure sound like terrific human beings. What a wonderful thing to do for the animals. I am going to read all about them. Thanks for telling us about them.

  3. Great post! Thank you so much for telling us about the amazing work Rolling Dog Ranch is doing!

  4. This is such a fantastic post! Great to read about what this really cool Ranch is doing for our canine pals. Love the photo too, he is so cute!!!

  5. Those are two very SPECIAL PEEPS!!! Super story today!!!

  6. Unlike we humans, animals take a disability in stride. They do the best they can with what they have and don't worry about anything else.

    I love the idea behind this organization and wish them every success!


  7. this was wonderful and brought tears to my eyes. Steve and Alayne are truly angels. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  8. Rolling Dog Ranch is quite the place!! Thanks for telling us about it and the wonderful humans that run it!!

  9. I sent them a donation to help in the great work they are doing.


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