“Within the heart of every stray lies the simple desire to be loved. He is your friend and partner; you are his life, his leader. He will be faithful and true to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.” — Danny and Ron
By Betsy Stein
Photos Julie J. Prickett
(Published Summer 2013)
Years ago, tack rooms at hunter/jumper shows used to be inhabited by fancy purebred dogs. Now you’ll see a motley assortment of mostly mixed-breed canines, proudly sporting Danny and Ron Rescue (D&RR) bandanas. It is not unusual to see a golf cart cruising the show grounds or parked by the schooling areas with the D&RR logo, driven by volunteers and teeming with dogs looking for homes.
Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta have devoted their lives — as well as their home — to rescuing and finding homes for abused and abandoned dogs.
Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta were well known in the horse world long before they started rescuing dogs. Together they operate Beaver River Farm in South Carolina, and they have trained or ridden many successful show hunters over the years. They serve as judges and committee members for the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) and the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF).
Dan and Ron have been able to build upon their reputations within the horse world to further their mission of saving and caring for dogs. Aside from rescuing abused, abandoned, and starving dogs, they are passionate about educating the public on the importance of spaying, neutering, housing, and caring for dogs, and opposing puppy mills and dog fighting. They also provide medical help for those who cannot afford vet bills and would otherwise not be able to keep their pets- — in many cases elderly owners, to whom the companionship of their dogs is so important.
Many riders have jumped on the mission bandwagon, helping to raise funds by donating prize money or organizing events. Young juniors set up boot-polishing stations to help the cause. Dr. Betsee Parker and Charlotte Jacobs are some of the well-known names on the circuit that have taken the cause to heart and donate their winnings to D&RR. This past season, Jennifer Chopping organized a silent auction that raised $24,000. Bidders could take part online or at the Aiken Spring Classic, where the auction culminated with a Mexican Fiesta.
Horse shows help too. For example, The Vermont Summer Festival ran a raffle, and the show matched the $5,000 raised. Horse Shows by the Bay in Michigan ran a kick-ball game night and the Lip-Sync Gala in Wellington has become a favored annual event of the circuit. Danny and Ron started in the early 1990s, visiting a local shelter and pulling dogs from the euthanasia list. In 1996, Dan suffered a back injury, which kept him out of the saddle for a while but allowed him the time to get more involved with rescue work. After Hurricane Katrina the need grew, and by 2008 D&RR was officially created as a 501(c)3 non-profit.
Beaver River Farm in South Carolina, where nearly 6,000 rescue dogs have lived in Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta’s home with them. That way Danny and Ron get to know each dog personally and can best find them the perfect forever home.
To date they are nearing the mark of having helped their 6,000th dog–most of which have actually lived in their home with them. That way they get to know each dog personally and better plan every dog’s rehabilitation treatment and placement.
When asked how do they do it all, they answered in unison, “Teamwork! Our team is made up of one full-time friend/employee, Karen Odom, who lives on the property and helps care for the dogs, and Michael Schofield, who does all of the driving of our bus and comes in during the days to help socialize the animals. The local vets help by donating their time.”
The dogs themselves are also part of the team. There are no foster families or kennels. The dogs live as a pack and, according to Ron, “they work it out among themselves.” Confident dogs help shy ones and resident dogs teach new ones the routines. Each dog gets their own assigned eating space in different rooms. They learn where and when they are fed, and that they can’t be food aggressive. “And,” Danny added, “needless to say, there are a lot of vacuuming and cleaning chores that go with keeping all of the dogs in the house!”
With the 6,000 dogs that live at or have been through Dan and Ron’s home, there are so many stories to pull at your heart strings. These stories often start with malnourished, frightened dogs chained outside, or puppies found in boxes by highways, or dogs used for fighting or as bait, or other unimaginable abuses. But thanks to Dan’s and Ron’s combined commitment and tireless efforts, there are also 6,000 stories of dogs finding loving homes, working as therapy dogs, and traveling to horse shows. There’s “Pee-Wee,” now helping a family by alerting them to their son’s seizures. Or “Little One,” who lost an eye and lived with them for three years before finding her forever home. Or the one left from the over 300 Katrina dogs, still too shy to be petted but sleeping on their bed every night. (See more about D&RR in the EQ Barn Dogs stories in the Winter and Spring issues.)