See the trailer for the movie starring Danny and Ron, Life in the Doghouse
Last year we visited the duo at their home which is also their dog rescue operation. Danny & Ron’s Rescue (DRR) has overwhelmingly won the dog-rescue category in every EQLiving Gold List since the awards began. Many people know of their organization, but few know the details of Danny and Ron’s life with up to 86 dogs living with them in their “Dog House.”
How did you meet each other?
Ron: We met back in the ‘80s through the horse world because we’re both horse trainers by trade. When I moved to South Carolina, Danny was based here as a professional rider, and I got him showing some of my clients’ horses, so that’s how we met.
How did the dog rescue start?
Danny: Each of us rescued dogs on our own, even when we didn’t know each other socially. It’s something I grew up doing; my mom always encouraged it when I was growing up. Ron’s parents did somewhat the same thing, perhaps not in the numbers that we’ve grown to do, but the inclination had always been there. Then, when we started working together, sometimes I would go to the shelter, or he would. We would just adopt a couple dogs that were on the euthanasia list just to make sure they had a place to go, and we’d work with them and try to find a home for them. We have saved over 10,300 dogs so far.
How many are in your house at any one time?
Ron: I think the max we’ve ever had in the house was probably 86 dogs in the house and up to 35 or 40 at the farm. We keep a lot of the bigger dogs at the farm, where they have space that’s all completely fenced. They have 22 acres to run and play, and there’s a pond, big fields, and shed buildings with cedar shavings and fans for them if they want to go in and sleep.
The farm and the house are about two miles apart. What we call the Dog House—where the hardcore part of the operation goes on—is where we have quarantine rooms and rooms for the dogs that are being treated for heartworms and need to stay quiet. Over the years, we’ve transformed our entire house, adding on additions to make different rooms. The dogs, for the most part, have the full run of everything. They’ve got doggie doors in all sections of the house to go out to the yards. We crate train them, we teach them to use the doggie doors, and to walk on a leash, but they live as our family. There is a film crew doing a documentary here who asked Danny, “Where do you guys live?” because it’s just solid dogs.
Danny: At the farm, we also have about five or six different small yards and pens. Some of the dogs that we rescue have been living outdoors, so to bring them into a house with a whole lot of yapping going on will only make them nervous. Some stay there too because there are people that want big dogs for farm dogs. We had an example this year, a lady whose husband died; she lives alone on a big farm and wanted a dog for protection. She adopted one of the dogs that does great at the farm but also great in the house. He has become a perfect safety companion for her.
It must be pretty noisy at your house when the UPS guy comes.
Oh, you wouldn’t believe!
How long have you had so many dogs in the house?
Ron: Even before we became a nonprofit in 2008, we had lots of dogs in the house. In 2004 or 2005 there were maybe eight to 10 dogs in the house.
Do you ever rethink and say, “What did we get ourselves into?”
Ron: At times you do. You know, the thing is that we’re horse trainers by trade, so we train 30 show horses and go to the horse shows. But the hard part is that life is easier for us on the road at a horse show. When we come home, we still have to train the horses, but we also have to feed all of the dogs, medicate them, put them up at night, and get them out in the morning, before we go to the barn.
Danny: We have more people who work for the rescue now because of the large number of dogs. There’s a system, and two or three people come a day. Every day there’s a house cleaner that comes and mops and vacuums the fur and all of that. Then we have the feeding rituals, and then there’s the trips to the vet and back. I’d say that’s at least twice a day, no matter what. The dogs keep coming in. We don’t let them leave until they’re all spayed and neutered, heartworm-free, on the proper medications, and microchipped, the whole nine yards. So the trips to the vet go on every single day.
Ron: One interesting thing is we have never had a person visit the Dog House not say, “How do you keep this house so clean, and how does it not smell like dogs?” They all say the same thing. We bathe the dogs every day and we have a huge commercial washer and dryer. I’m six-foot-eight, and I can climb in the washer or dryer! That’s how big they are. We do 18 to 20 loads a day, because we wash all of the bedding every day. Every dog bed is washed, every crate pad is washed every single day. It’s vacuumed, it’s mopped, the yards are picked up three times a day. Water bowls are scrubbed three times a day. We’re very strict on the cleanliness part.
Do all the dogs get adopted?
Ron: When Danny and I started this, we always vowed that whatever dogs we bring into the rescue, they will all be safe, whether they get adopted or they don’t. If they don’t get adopted, then they’ll live out their lives here, so they’re always safe.
Danny: Our promise to them is that they will never have to be in a shelter again.
Ron: We feel that, if a dog can’t have as good a life as we can give them, or better, then they don’t leave. So we’re very, very strict to ensure that adopters are able to care for the pet properly, able to put them on heartworm preventative, make sure they’re on flea/tick preventative, make sure that if they get sick they could go to the vet, that the owners could afford to take them to the vet, or if they get into trouble to let us know. That’s why our contracts are so strict. Our contract reads that you can never give the dog away—you can’t even give it to a family member. If 10 years after you adopted that dog, you decide you don’t want it, all you do is dial my cell phone and we will send transport, and we will pick up the dog. If you give the dog away or take it to an animal shelter, you agree to pay Danny and Ron’s Rescue $5,000.
Where do the dogs come from?
Ron: They come from all over. Today I have a dog coming from about six hours away that was found on an interstate. We get a lot of abuse cases; we go to many shelters and pull them off the euthanasia list. We brought the bus down to Louisiana, loaded it up, and brought dogs back from there. We get a lot from puppy mill busts and from hoarders. We had a lady with 22 Shih Tzus who lived in a single-wide mobile home. The dogs had never touched the ground outside. Our guys went on that mission with us, and when they walked into the mobile home, the urine sprayed all the way above their knees as they stepped on the carpet. That’s how bad it was. It’s pretty sad.
Danny: Another thing we get often, especially being in the South, is that people get a little Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Yorky, or poodle, and then when they lose interest in the animal, they put them out in the backyard, and they don’t care for their coats whatsoever. So we end up getting a lot of dogs that are almost bald from being bitten to death by the fleas. We end up getting them because, when they finally get them to the vet, and the vets tell them what it’s going to cost to get through this, they don’t want to do it. Then the vets call us to see if we’re willing to try to save the dog.
You must have huge vet bills. Where does all the money come from to pay for the vets?
Ron: Strictly from donations; we do not have an adoption fee. The dogs have all the medical work they need. We’ve gotten older dogs, or younger dogs that were blind and had juvenile cataracts, and we had the cataracts removed and all of a sudden, they have sight. It’s very expensive. We’re very fortunate—our vet gives us a huge discount off of our bill each month. We’re also very fortunate that Merrick is giving us a great discount on dog food.
How big is your house?
Ron: When we first started out it was probably around 3,000 square feet. Now with all the additions it’s probably 5,000 square feet. All of it is devoted to dogs. Well, there’s one bedroom upstairs that the dogs can’t go in, but other than that…