Unconventional Healing 4

Ranch Hands Rescue Offers Hope for Animals, People

Just off Ft. Worth Drive in Denton sits a small, bright yellow house surrounded by animals. Passersby who don’t know otherwise may think it’s only a charming farm. But those who have been there know it is so much more. It is a safe haven, a soft place to land for those who have fallen through the cracks of society.

“It’s people helping animals, and animals helping people.”

That’s the motto of Ranch Hands Rescue, a unique organization that rescues animals who, in turn, help rescue humans. 

Ranch Hands Rescue CEO Bob Williams began rescuing special needs animals more than 10 years ago, after suffering a debilitating health scare.

“In 2007, I had a stroke—a direct result of my previous history with drug and alcohol abuse due to my own trauma suffered as a teenager,” Bob says. “People mask pain in different ways. The stroke was my wake-up call. I wasn’t sure how much time I had left, but whatever it was, I wanted to devote the rest of my life to doing something good, but I didn’t know what. So I started saving animals. 

“As I started researching animal rescues, I found there were a whole lot of places that took healthy animals, but none that helped special needs animals. Just because they are different, doesn’t mean they are less than,” he says.

Bob began taking in animals that had been severely abused, neglected or born with disabilities.

As he continued rescuing animals, Bob says his body began to heal. He says his doctor was astounded by the improvements. Bob began researching the power of incorporating healthy animals in mental health therapy and found much data but was shocked at the lack of data on the impact of partnering abused and neglected animals with mental health therapy. He decided he could fulfill this need in the community for others seeking healing.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” Bob says. “As a survivor, I was able to overcome my addiction and learn to have a full and powerful life with PTSD and anxiety.”

But Bob says it was a difficult path. He did not respond well to traditional therapy. He designed Ranch Hands Rescue to help others like him.

“There are a lot of people who have faced serious trauma that need a different, more proactive approach to counseling,” Bob says. “These individuals are not responding in current treatment programs. When clients regress in their treatment, they start to exhibit additional issues, such as self-mutilation, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol abuse and many more issues. They don’t respond to traditional therapy. When I started Ranch Hands Rescue, I wanted to be another resource in the community for these types of individuals.”

This year, Ranch Hands Rescue began a partnership with the University of North Texas psychology department to validate testing results and create testing to measure the success of therapies offered at Ranch Hands Rescue. Because the organization is doing such unique work, Bob says it is important to evaluate its efficacy.

Ranch Hands Rescue provides free non-conventional treatment that works, he says. The ranch has seven full-time licensed professional counselors on staff who observe clients’ interactions with the animals. Counselors specialize in trauma-focused therapy, Equine and Animal Assisted Counseling, and other therapies. Clients include some veterans and many children who have undergone extreme trauma.

“When kids come in, they pretty much want to be invisible,” Bob says.

But as they interact with the animals, he says something powerful happens—they are able to communicate openly and honestly.

“Some kids and adults will tell an animal something before they will tell an adult,” he says.

In return, the clients soothe and help the animals with their own healing process.

“The animals always pick the client. All of our animals develop a special bond with the people,” Bob says.

Between its two locations in Denton and Argyle, Ranch Hands Rescue houses 57 animals, including horses, chickens, mini horses, sheep, goats, llamas, donkeys and dogs. 

“In many cases, we are their last hope. If we don’t take them, it’s euthanasia,” Bob says, adding that no animal is too far gone to be rescued.

Ranch Hands Rescue has gone to great lengths to save animals in the community, from performing the first open-heart surgery on a sheep to fitting the first horse with a prosthetic leg. He says every animal deserves a chance at life.

“Just because an animal is different doesn’t mean they don’t have a purpose,” he says. “Our animals’ purpose is to help others.” 

Bob’s House of Hope

Next year, Bob is planning to open Bob’s House of Hope, one of the first safe houses in the country exclusively catering to male victims of sex trafficking. 

He says statistics show that boys and men may represent nearly half of all sex trafficking victims, but agencies have difficulty identifying male victims and catering to their specific needs. Few shelters serve boys who have been commercially sexually exploited.

Bob says Ranch Hands Rescue is working to have land donated for the home. Once it is open, he intends to provide services to boys across the country. He is currently reaching out to grant partners and donors for support.

Treating special needs animals, underserved victims and veterans and building a new facility require much community support, Bob says. On Oct. 27, Ranch Hands Rescue will hold its Ignite Hope fundraiser. Community members also can lend support by sponsoring a child, veteran or animal. In addition, Ranch Hands Rescue sells stuffed animal versions of Midnite, the organization’s mini horse with a prosthetic leg. Each purchase provides a stuffed animal for seven children treated at Ranch Hands Rescue.

For more information about Ranch Hands Rescue, the Ignite Hope Fundraiser or to donate, visit RanchHandsRescue.org.