Eyes Are Overrated
By Meda Kessler
Photos by Ralph Lauer
It’s one of Second Chance Farm’s favorite hashtags, as they care for animals who are visually impaired (along with the deaf and physically challenged) but who have learned to redefine normal at this Granbury sanctuary.
Can a blind cow from south Texas find love and happiness in Granbury? The answer is yes.
Lola’s story started a couple of years ago when Ananda Kite, who lives north of Conroe, bought a blind calf off Craigslist, fearing it would end up in a bad place if she didn’t. Ananda and Mike, her husband, had just enough acreage for a couple of horses and pigs, but they made room for Lola. Ananda worked with the calf, using vocal commands to keep her from running into things.
The goal was always to find a sanctuary for Lola, but Ananda struggled to find such a place. Most were full, others did not meet her standards. The Kites even brought in a miniature zebu as a companion to Lola, but when Ananda, a legal analyst, was laid off in July, she became very concerned about Lola’s long-term care.
Thanks to social media — Ananda put a plea out on Facebook — all it took was one phone call to Sandi Walker of Second Chance Farm to connect the Kites with the Granbury sanctuary and find Lola her forever home.
It has been five years since we first met Sandi. The introduction of Lola to her new home felt like the perfect opportunity to revisit the working farm, which typically is only open to visitors by invitation.
The Kites trailered Lola to Granbury to meet her new caretakers and check out the property. Sandi wanted the couple to feel secure and confident about Lola’s future at SCF, where the motto is “Let’s redefine normal.”
On a scorching hot Sunday in July, Lola did a few tentative laps around a small pen she was sharing with a horse named Hamilton. Sandi and Ananda blinked back tears a few times, but there also were a lot of smiles as the Kites let Lola settle in and walked the pastures, meeting blind horses and cattle, along with chickens, pigs, mini horses, goats and donkeys who are forever residents at SCF.
Some ended up at the farm because they had been physically abused or abandoned and left to starve to death. There’s Twister, the horse left tied up in a pasture with no shelter who was impaled by tree limbs during a tornado. Hamilton was skin and bones when Sandi took her in; the horse has gained 400 pounds with a good diet and medical care.
And, of course, there are the 80-plus dogs that make their home — many are permanent residents — at Second Chance Farm. It’s a motley mix of blind, deaf, blind and deaf (issues due to poor breeding), those missing limbs and a few dealing with medical issues that require one-on-one care and medication.
We spot several familiar faces from our first visit: Doofus, a deaf and partially blind dog, remains the face of the farm. Charlie is still getting around just fine despite her deformed “flipper” foot. Junior, a donkey with a cleft lip, hangs out with his horse buddies.
Animal shelters, law enforcement and rescue groups around the state have Sandi’s cell number on speed dial. But while she has a big heart, she’s also realistic about how many animals they can take in at the farm. Although many will live out their lives at SCF, some go up for adoption once Sandi has determined that they’ll be a good fit for life off the farm and that adopters meet her criteria.
Death, too, is a fact of life. Recently, she said goodbye to an old dog, an old mare and a goat whose cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Sandi sticks with her “better to be a week too early than a day too late” motto, but admits it’s hard on everyone when they lose an animal.
The death in early August of Aries the ram, a longtime resident, was a tough one. We photographed Aries in 2015 and again two days before he died in his sleep. “We knew he was old but didn’t have an exact age,” says Sandi. Aries is one of the high-profile rescues at SCF. He was attacked by dogs and then given up to animal control officers, as he could barely walk due to the damage done to his front legs (he couldn’t stand for any length of time). SCF tamed him by using crunchy cheese balls, his favorite snack, and nursed him back to health. He was scheduled for surgery to allow him to walk normally, and Nat Geo Wild filmed the 2016 operation and rehab for a show called Animal ER. Today, Aries rests in the farm’s very special cemetery.
Since almost nothing related to animal rescue is cheap (SCF is almost 100 percent donation funded), Sandi has raised the profile of Second Chance Farm tremendously since securing official nonprofit status in 2012. The Facebook page now has more than 22,000 followers, and several “angels” with deep pockets left SCF money in their wills that has bankrolled a new structure that will serve as a medical quarantine and rehabilitation barn, a first for SCF.
“I also have a part-time grant writer, and that has helped us so much in securing funds for shelters and other big-ticket items for the farm,” says Sandi, who has one full-time employee now, along with a core group of hardworking part-time volunteers.
“As a working farm, there’s so much to do in addition to caring for the animals. I’m very lucky to have our volunteers and those who support us with regular donations.”
Reuse and recycle are popular themes at the farm; a haul of previously owned faux grass will be used in one of the dog yards. An old school bus is a favorite roosting place for the chickens. SCF gets regular deliveries of leftover fresh produce to feed the pigs. Many of the dog cabins — former playhouses or small sheds — came from supporters.
“We’re extremely lucky in many ways,” says Sandi. “We get to save lives and be around these amazing animals every day and see them enjoy life despite their handicaps.”
Meanwhile, Lola has moved to the big pasture and is hanging out with Leonard the steer and other bovines. Love might be blind, but it still appreciates company.