A couple weeks ago, I headed out to Sadler, TX (near Sherman) to visit the Animal Refuge Foundation (ARFhouse). I’m not sure how I first heard about it, but I had checked out the website and was curious about seeing the operation firsthand. I finally made the trek on an overcast morning, after several days of rain.
Martha Hovers created ARFhouse about 20 years ago when she inherited her grandfather’s 25 acre farm. ARFhouse offers refuge and care for unwanted, abused and/or physically challenged dogs and has become the third largest care-for-life, no-kill canine sanctuary in the US – at any given time, there are about 250 to 350 dogs living there. Some of the dogs are free to roam the property, swim in the ponds, and chew on the sticks. The others live in 30′ by 60′ runs, usually with one or two other dogs, each with their own doghouse. The budget to run the place is about $175,000 annually, relying entirely on private donations. Martha works long hours but relies on her staff and a bunch of volunteers to help the place running, and the dogs fed and healthy. A lot of the dogs are up for adoptions – others aren’t for health or behavioral issues.
I left ARFhouse with bittersweet feelings — it is wonderful that so many dogs’ lives have been saved, but sad that many of them will spend their remaining years in runs, longing for attention. The staff does their best, but with a few hundred dogs, there is only so much attention you can give each one. Some of the dogs clearly love living out on the farm, able to roam (particularly the herding dogs), but as I walked down the path between runs, dogs came running to the fences, frantic for a little love and attention — it was a little heartbreaking.
As I do, I took a ton of photos – these are just a fraction of the dogs out there, many of whom are up for adoption.