Rescuing injured or abandoned animals is one of the most rewarding activities we can experience. As those who take risks to ensure the well-being of other creatures will tell you, the special bond they share with the animals they have helped is a natural high that calms the human soul and heals the psyche like little else.
Now, a Texas animal sanctuary is taking up this concept of “Who saved who?” Even more.
Safe in Austin is the brainchild of Jamie Wallace-Griner. The project took shape when he observed the interaction between his autistic son and his service dog, Angel.
“We have always loved animals, but when Angel joined our family, it was incredibly clear how love for an animal can be literally miraculous.” she said. “Angel gave my son confidence and strength beyond what I was capable of as his mother. She provided protection against her fears, understanding of her thoughts, and power over her disabilities. “
Knowing first-hand that one of the most difficult emotional challenges for children with disabilities or whose behavior or appearance sets them apart from their peers comes from the feeling that they don’t fit in, Wallace-Griner and her husband, David Griner, bought an antique ranch in Leander, Texas, with a dream of turning it into a non-judgmental animal sanctuary and rehabilitation center.
But more than that, it would also offer a safe haven for children with special needs, disabilities, mental health problems, or a history of past emotional trauma.
Wallace-Griner says Safe in Austin’s mission is to “rescue animals from severe abuse or neglect, rehabilitate and re-house those who can, and provide a safe and loving home for the rest.
“Once they are healthy enough and we have earned their trust; We present our rescues to children who come from similar backgrounds of abuse, neglect and / or special needs. Our animals heal traumatized children, at risk and / or with special needs through an unconditional friendship and a clear and loving example of what they seek most … hope. “
Over the years, as the ranch was rehabilitated, the population increased to include chickens, pigs, goats, many of which have special needs.
“We have animals that are blind or deaf, that have diabetes, cerebral palsy, deformities, missing limbs, broken spines … they all become part of our family,” Wallace-Griner said. The Washington Post.
The current collection includes 20 dogs, 14 cats, eight horses, 32 goats, four rabbits, three turtles, a parrot, four turkeys, numerous chickens, 18 pigs and four cows.
Peter, a 250-pound pot-bellied pig, is a favorite with visitors, as is Ruby Sue, a paralyzed calf who roams quite easily thanks to her own specially built wheelchair.
As with his furry and feathered friends, humans of all shapes, sizes, and descriptions are welcome at the sanctuary. “We don’t care about the decisions you made in the past, what you look like, who you love or what you eat. We focus on not judging at all, ”Wallace-Griner said.
Prior to COVID-19, Safe in Austin was open to members of the public who toured the sanctuary led by volunteer guides. The pandemic meant the enactment of security restrictions, limiting the number of guests that could safely stay. Since then, the sanctuary has made the switch to preset private tours for families and small groups.
Still, Wallace-Griner strives to ensure that anyone in need is welcome. He receives emails from potential visitors and, after delving into the specific issues they are dealing with, invites them on a “heart healing tour” to meet and interact with those animals that he believes will best meet the needs of their situations.
Having to adapt to change and challenge is part of the process, and Wallace-Griner remains positive. She views Safe in Austin as a work in progress, never losing sight of the sanctuary’s ultimate goals of healing, acceptance, and unconditional love.
“You never rise as high as when you bend down to help a child or an animal,” he said. “Saving an animal will not change the world, but for that animal, the world will change forever!”
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