This past week, I took a tour of Lisa Reid’s Ragged Mountain Dogs facility in Sperryville, a “rescue, rehome, retire, rehab” Valhalla for dogs. She greeted me with a warm embrace, and we talked for a long time.
In the many stories she told, her passion and enthusiasm for her work was so evident and transparent and I sense too that she’s in a quiet, retrospective place. I like her; I like her a lot. I couldn’t help, while meeting these darling misfits that she houses — many dogs with severe behavioral problems, mostly due to inhumane treatment, and some just “plain ornery,” Lisa says with a smile — thinking of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the beloved Christmas television special.
The cast of characters, besides Rudolph and the rather non-abominable curmudgeonly snowman “Bumble,” includes the residents of the Island of Misfits — the broken toys that are searching for a child who will love and play with them. In the program, Santa promises to grant their wish, to find them all forever homes.
Lisa Reid is a real life, contemporary version of Santa, and the dogs entrusted in her care over the years, the misfits, the broken-spirited, have found forever homes through her efforts, her sheer determination and powerful retraining skills. Those that will arrive at her doorstep in the future, who haven’t been rehomed yet, most certainly will find families to love them as well.
For many of these dogs, Lisa is their last chance to find a family, and if they are too old or sick, Lisa will retire them, keep and love them. Her compound layout clearly lifts their little souls, her place is spacious and clean, the animals all well fed, with plenty of room to run, ramble and let their spirits soar.
Her longtime veterinarian, Johnny Clark of Blue Mountain Animal Clinic in Luray, ensures that their medical care is top notch. Volunteers, Lisa’s band of Merry Elves, spend time helping with everything from poop cleanup to taking these little guys on long walks along the picturesque Nethers Road at the foot of Old Rag, and into a forest full of inviting smells to titillate and put smiles on canine faces.
While Lisa’s focus is to rehome, there are dogs who will most likely never leave her loving care. They are considered, for many, unadoptable, largely because of age and/or illness. Little Man, for example, is an adorable 18-year-old beagle, with a neurological disorder causing his little body to quiver, and he receives medical treatment to battle cancer. Seemingly oblivious to his prognosis and ailment, his tail wags with great fervor as he runs to the gate to greet us. I wanted nothing more than to scoop him up in my arms and take him home.
Lisa, to her credit and professionalism, looked at me with kind eyes and said he might be better off staying with her, what with all the care and medical attention he requires. Then there is a large, and oh-so-gentle mixed breed called Shadow, a favorite of the volunteers, not destined for adoption as he has a profound fear of closed-in spaces, precluding a vehicle ride which could transport him to an adoption event. He was, you see, as a little puppy, kept in a closet and beaten. He’s beautiful and beloved here at Ragged Mountain Dogs, and he’s so obviously happy, his wet nose nudging my open palms and his fluffy big fat tail thumping hard.
Lisa, even though the victim of numerous bites and some rather significant chomps, refers to these dogs as her love bugs. Their affection towards her is overwhelming, their gratitude visible.
It’s a special place, this canine haven and sanctuary. About 35 dogs and an assortment of kitties and a beautiful old horse, as well, are housed here. It’s a retirement home for so many, an escape from inhumane bondage, a place where they can live without fear. Lisa enjoys a relationship with the SPCA of Northern Virginia, they entrust dogs in her care and in turn she receives monetary support to help defray some of the costs of food and medical supplies.
She needs so much more help though, floors in buildings needing repair and replacement, all kinds of supplies from blankets to biscuits. Lisa lives a humble, simple life; her world is all about the animals. She lives in a tiny modular square box-like structure, the size of a living room, and doesn’t complain. She’s averse to major fundraising, not wanting to take away from RAWL or RappCats, people she knows and cares about.
Lisa came to Rappahannock a number of years ago, wanting to find a suitable place to keep her adopted, crippled five-month-old Morgan/quarter horse Lil ‘Bit, whose owners had moved away. A lost cat led her to the discovery that the county had no animal rescue organization and she set about to help found RAWL. She quit her career in the elevator industry, and tells me laughingly that her husband Gary (since passed away), said, “Dear, are you telling me you’re quitting a good paying job to pick up dog poop all day?” Well, yes … and in many ways that’s what transpired, and her love of animals had her involved with starting up RappCats as well, then working with a dog trainer specifically and ultimately opening up her own rescue.
I asked Lisa what would she would like for Christmas and without skipping a beat, she mentioned her Amazon wishlist, listing everything from pooper scoopers to blankets (facebook.com/Ragged-Mountain-Dogs-278828825532590). You can also go through iGive.com and a percentage of what you buy through 400 listed merchant, including Lands’ End, United Airlines and eBay, will be donated to Ragged Mountain Dogs: igive.com/welcome/lp15/wr34.cfm?c=33687
Well, for those of us perhaps looking for end-of-year tax deductions or charitable contributions, this one is just about as good as it gets. Merry Christmas, Lisa Reid. We wish you all the best in your unselfish mission.