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Sanctuary gives disabled pets a second chance

Steve Smith founded Rolling Dog Ranch with his wife to make a difference.
/ Source: TODAY

It’s not often that you see an animal with a disability. Frankly, most of them are abandoned or euthanized. But a very special couple in Montana found unseen potential in these animals and created a special place for them. These amazing creatures provide us all with a lesson in perseverance and survival. TODAY asked Steve Smith, who co-founded Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary with his wife Alayne Marker, about why they decided to create this haven for abandoned pets.

There’s a special place where animals with disabilities are cherished, not cast off.  It’s our ranch in Montana, where disabled animals from all over the United States and Canada come to get another chance to enjoy life.

Whether it’s a blind dog from California, a blind horse from North Carolina, or a wobbly cat from Washington, we welcome animals with disabilities at our Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Ovando, Mont. At any one time, 80 disabled animals — more than half of them blind — call the ranch home.

We were inspired to establish the Rolling Dog Ranch by the many special-needs animals we adopted while living and working in Seattle. We realized there was a need for a sanctuary devoted exclusively to disabled animals, so we quit our jobs at The Boeing Company in 2000 and moved to our 160-acre ranch in Montana. We haven’t looked back since.

Although we loved our jobs at Boeing, we wanted to feel like we were making a difference. Starting this sanctuary to serve disabled animals was how we decided to make that difference.

Sharing our lives with these special animals is an incredibly enriching and fulfilling experience.  For us, the most rewarding part of what we do is taking in an animal that other people have given up on, simply because it’s disabled, and watching it blossom. These animals know they’re loved here, and they respond in kind.

The sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and operates 100 percent on donations from kind and compassionate people. We can provide for all the daily care the animals get, but none of this would be possible without the financial contributions of the sanctuary’s generous friends and supporters.

There’s one really important thing we want people to know, and it’s that disabled animals can have a truly wonderful quality of life. Each and every day, our animals show us how much joy they take in life. All they want is that opportunity, and that’s what we give them here. And they give us back so much in return!

For more information, and to see the animals that live here, visit