Wednesday, July 17, 2024

‘Tails’ of Triumph: Sandi Walker’s efforts to create Second Chance Farm

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On any given day, Sandi Walker is surrounded by her beloved rescue animals at Granbury’s Second Chance Farm. This sanctuary exists because of her unwavering dedication to animal welfare. Founded in 2012 by Walker, SCF has become a refuge for neglected, abused and abandoned animals. But the path to establishing this haven was challenging. Walker’s journey is one of perseverance, sacrifice and an unyielding commitment to giving animals a second chance at life. Here are some inspiring tales of triumph from her remarkable journey.

BLAZE AND ANNIE: THE GUIDING BELL

Walker’s passion for animals started long before SCF became a reality. Annie, a cow, arrived after she became disabled giving birth, and she was down for 53 days. Walker worked with her daily despite whispers that she would never walk again. “She finally got up one day and walked,” said Walker. “She was crippled, but she got around okay, and she was happy.”

Blaze was Walker’s horse of 25 years. He became blind toward the end of his life. She put the blind horse and the disabled cow together to graze. “Somebody gave me the idea of putting a bell around the cow’s neck, so I did,” Walker said. “Every time Annie lifted her head from eating, drinking, or whatever, that bell would sound, and the horse would go to her. Blaze followed that cow everywhere — to water, food, grazing, whatever.”

Even though they were different species, they still got along great. “People told me, why don’t you put them down? Why? They’re not hurting anything,” Walker remarked.

“Blaze and Annie were my first rehabs; they taught me so much about resilience and the power of compassion,” Walker reminisced. Despite their physical challenges, both animals found comfort and companionship in each other’s presence. These early experiences of rehabilitating and caring for animals laid the foundation for what would eventually become SCF.

FUNDING THE DREAM: PERSONAL SACRIFICES

For many years before officially founding SCF, Walker owned and operated three small businesses in Granbury, including a salon and a beauty supply store; she poured the profits from these businesses into her rescue efforts. “I worked my tail off,” Walker said. “I paid my personal bills, and everything else went to the animals.”

Walker’s dedication left little room for personal luxuries. Despite the financial strain, she remained steadfast in her mission. “There was no time or money for vacations. Everything went to the animals,” she explained.

As word of Walker’s rescue efforts spread, so did the calls for help. “Everybody started calling; I’ve got this dog with mange, or there’s a dog that needs an amputation,” Walker recalled — her rescue quickly gained recognition. “We’re known in Oklahoma, we’re known in Louisiana, Houston — a lot of places.” SCF rescues animals from many shelters and works closely with the Humane Society of North Texas and Hood County Animal Control.

Despite the growing demand, resources remained limited. Walker and her small team, consisting of six daily staff members and numerous volunteers, worked tirelessly to care for the influx of animals. The community’s support became crucial, with volunteers assisting with tasks ranging from animal transport to administrative duties.

THE TURNING POINT

In 2012, Walker officially registered SCF as a nonprofit organization. “That’s when it exploded,” she said. The nonprofit status allowed the farm to receive donations and grants, providing much-needed financial support. The 70-acre farm became a sanctuary for dogs and various animals, including horses, pigs and even ducks with special needs.

TUFF: THE FIGHTER

Tuff came to Granbury’s Second Chance Farm from a Fort Worth shelter and was near death. “The dog was very lethargic — very anemic,” Walker said. “His gums were white, and there were other clear signs that he was in serious trouble health-wise. His insides swarmed with parasites. They were eating him alive.” Tuff wasn’t with them for five minutes when they called the emergency vet clinic and transported him to Mansfield. He was on the verge of dying.

Tuff’s healing was touch and go. “He seemed to get a bit better, but after a couple of days, Tuff started to crash again, and we had to take him back. After two or three more trips, he began to heal,” said Walker. “He was in the back seat of my truck. I called him Tuff, like tough. He had to be tough. I would turn around and say, Tuff, and he would lift his little head, and I was like, ‘Okay, we can keep going.’ I thought I was going to lose him,” she explained.

The vet performed a blood transfusion on him during one of his ER visits, which was very expensive. SCF reached out on social media, asking for donations for Tuff’s care and their farm. The Facebook farm fans responded generously and contributed to Tuff’s treatment.

SCF quarantined Tuff in an outbuilding constructed with concrete and cinder block walls. The room is air-conditioned, heated, equipped with Alexa for music, and designed for easy sanitation. Situated near the barn, it allowed for frequent check-ins, with staff monitoring Tuff several times daily through cameras.

The blood transfusion worked, and Tuff began eating again. Due to his severe illness and emaciation, the staff fed him small, frequent meals, slowly and carefully, to help him gain weight — he had no muscle mass, and his knees touched. “Somehow, Tuff went from being skin and bones, full of parasites, and near death, to turning around completely,” said Walker.

After Tuff’s rehab, his personality blossomed. “Oh, my God, he wagged his tail! That was huge because he hadn’t felt good for so long. When Tuff wagged his tail, I was so excited,” exclaimed Walker. “Once videos of Tuff were shared on the Second Chance Farm, Granbury Facebook page, he was quickly adopted. The people who adopted him adore him,” Walker said, “I also board dogs here at SCF, and I’ve kept Tuff when his family went on vacation. He has gained weight, and there’s a picture of him sitting at their place at sunset. He now has the wonderful life he deserves, and they truly adore him.”

SAMSONITE THE SURVIVOR

SCF got Samsonite about two weeks after an incident of cruelty. The details are harrowing: two men set him on fire, locked him in a suitcase for five days, and shut him in a closet. “Think about those open wounds and him urinating on himself. I cannot imagine. We’ve cried so many tears over Samsonite,” said Walker.

Walker and the investigators later learned how events transpired. The dog’s circumstance worsened after five days when one of the perpetrators remarked, ‘he stinks,’ and the other decided, ‘We’ve got to get rid of it.’ They took him, still in the case, to a Dollar General or something similar and left him in a dumpster. A boy exiting the store heard whining, smelled the situation, retrieved the suitcase, and called the police.

“God, that dog was skin and bones,” Walker said in disbelief. “He should have died too ... he should have died.” The investigator on the scene named the dog after the luggage brand.

SCF and the investigators kept Samsonite until the perpetrators were tracked down and convicted. There was a wound on the back of Samsonite’s head. Initially, police thought he had been shot with an airsoft pistol, but the men confessed they had slammed his head on the concrete, causing the wound. It was horrific, and both men went to jail with third-degree felonies on their records.

Samsonite’s rehabilitation was extensive and challenging. Walker used red light therapy on him and applied silver cream to his wounds. “It took about three months of antibiotics, pain medication, and red light therapy for Samsonite to heal,” Walker said. She sees rapid recovery with red light therapy and says the LED lights increase blood flow and circulation, cutting healing time in half.

“Samsonite — he’s great! He slept underneath my covers,” disclosed Walker. “I said whoever adopts him will never be cold in winter because he radiates heat. He was hot-natured. I’ve got numerous pictures of Samsonite under the covers, and he loves people. He should hate people, but dogs and animals are so resilient. Samsonite was adopted to a great home close by.” Despite the unimaginable cruelty he endured, Samsonite’s gentle spirit continues to shine.

Second Chance Farm rescues all kinds of animals in every condition. “We get animals that were run over, shot, abandoned and dropped off. We get all kinds of things. I’ve got two dogs that only have two legs. One of them was born with only back legs. Her name is Grace, and she has the best balance! I had her and her brother, but he died a couple of years ago of an enlarged heart. They came from Oklahoma. Their daddy only had two legs, and they didn’t have him fixed, so he just passed on that gene. I still have Grace.”

LEGEND THE RUNNER

Legend came from the Marshall shelter after being hit by a car. One of his back legs had already been amputated, and the opposite front leg had atrophied due to nerve damage. Eventually, just last year, the staff arranged to have the damaged front leg amputated as well since it was of no use to him. Not long after the surgery, Walker saw Legend in the pasture and marveled, “He can run! He’s an amazing dog.”

FROM SEIZURE TO SANCTUARY

SCF participated in a large-scale animal seizure in Erath County and Stephenville, taking in 11 pigs, including a sow who gave birth to nine babies shortly after arriving. The total number of animals from the seizure was 20 pigs, three miniature horses, one standard-sized horse, and ferrets. Two goats and a blind cocker spaniel, also from that seizure, were adopted quickly.

While many pigs have found new homes, the babies are old enough to be adopted. SCF ensures each pig receives the care and attention it needs to thrive, whether awaiting adoption or living out its days at the farm. Recently, SCF successfully found homes for several more goats and some sheep — two more have special needs.

THE EQUINES

SCF is well-known for its dedication to rescuing horses. From those who have been abused or neglected to those with special needs, every horse at SCF receives personalized care. The farm also houses miniature horses, offering them a safe and nurturing environment.

Walker’s connection with horses runs deep, dating back to her first rescue, Blaze. Her experience and compassion ensure that every horse at SCF has the opportunity to heal and thrive — providing second chances.

GOUDA THE ROCKSTAR 

And then there’s Gouda — Cane Corso and Italian mastiff. When he arrived at SCF, he was a puppy, about six or eight weeks old. “There was a shelter in south Dallas that posted on a Sunday night, ‘This dog needs help now!’” said Walker. She determined SCF would take it and immediately arranged transport. When the dog arrived, she saw that part of his face was gone. Walker could tell by the nature of the wound that a much bigger dog had ripped off part of the pup’s face.

“His nose and his top lip were gone,” Walker said. “He was in incredible pain, and the vet immediately started him on antibiotics and pain meds. It was better the next day, and I could look at it. I didn’t know if his teeth were gone because I couldn’t lift his lip — it hurt (him) so bad.”

Gouda underwent many major surgeries. At Mesquite Ridge Animal Clinic in Granbury, Dr. Lammers does some of the surgeries; however unusual they may be, he is about to operate on the dog again. “Gouda’s nasal passages are still there,” Walker explained, “but the outside part is gone, and that outside wound will grow granulation tissue and close up because it’s trying to heal the wound. He can breathe out of his nose okay during the day because he can pant. But at night, when he lays down and his mouth closes, it’s like (he has) sleep apnea.”

SCF works with many veterinarians in different towns, but Dr. Lammers will try something new regarding Gouda’s next surgery. A woman who worked as a vet tech years before saw a post about Gouda’s medical difficulties: she shared an idea about a type of stent they had used to keep a cat’s bladder open. It was a tube made of surgical-grade stainless steel. Walker began to research the idea, and then she ordered them. “We took them to Dr. Lammers, and he will use them in the nose hole to keep his nose hole open. We will try it and see if it keeps the granulation tissue from growing and closing his nose hole. He’ll never have a normal face.”

“Gouda is eight months old and growing like crazy. He’s going to be a very large dog, but he is our new rock star,” said Walker. One of his jobs in life is going to be to go to schools and daycares to talk about bullying. He has already started. A little bullying occurred recently at a daycare, so Walker brought Gouda for the lesson.

“I’ve had over 200 four-legged children,” Walker said. Her deep commitment to animal rescue has shaped her life, and her pride in all that has been accomplished is evident. “We’ve grown into a nice rescue and have a great reputation. We do what’s right for the animals.”

She says the salon industry started her rescue. As Walker shared those early years, she looked out her kitchen window where a blind hound dog was walking around in her front yard and said, “He was shot in the face last year and left for dead — shot in the face — and it blew one out eye and blinded the other one. His name is Bullet.” Walker posted on her Facebook page that morning that two employees were driving one of the golf carts and who was sitting between them? Bullet! Bullet: The Brave. “He was just barking and having so much fun as they were taking him for a ride around the driveway.”

The farm’s facilities are designed to prepare animals for adoption. Dogs live in insulated, climate-controlled cabins, which help them transition to home environments. “It is rare that a dog has an accident,” disclosed Walker. These tiny homes, complete with cameras for monitoring, ensure the animals’ comfort and safety.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

The support from the community has been instrumental in SCF’s success. Donations from local businesses and individuals have funded critical medical treatments, like Tuff’s life-saving blood transfusions. Social media has also played a key role in raising awareness and supporting the farm’s efforts.

Walker’s journey from a small business owner to a renowned animal rescue founder is a story of resilience, compassion and unwavering dedication. Her struggles have shaped SCF into a sanctuary where every animal, no matter how dire their circumstances, is given a second chance to thrive.

For more information about Granbury’s Second Chance Farm or to support its mission, visit its website Www.scftx.org, or follow them on Facebook Www.facebook.com/scftx. Walker’s story is a powerful reminder of the impact one person can make through determination and love.