When we began, we set out four main focuses for our mission. The four classes of sheep we had a desire to help were:
- Abused / Neglected
We opened our doors by making it known we were a sanctuary for the abused and neglected. We additionally made it clear to authorities, that we could help with emergency feed, shearing, and physical help for good shepherds that were in dire straights and needed help. We have never been interested in being part of the legal process or of making determinations, we just want to be there for the sheep if a determination by proper authorities is made. However, there have not been any formal abuse or neglect cases in our immediate vicinity. We have seen a couple of suspected cases in our area, but the sheep were been spirited away before anybody could do, or prove anything.
The lost and the homeless we have seen, and have had opportunities to be part of the solution. This is how all the sheep in our care have come to us, either as unclaimed lost sheep, or pet sheep losing their homes. We want to continue to expand our service area, working with regional volunteers who can capture lost sheep, and arrange temporary housing and care while lost and homeless sheep are waiting for transport to our facilities; They can also be the contact for the good shepherds in their region that may need help. The story of Bo Peep is a good example of this. We are hoping in the coming years to keep expanding and serving more of the lost and the homeless.
The remaining and as yet unrealized goal is to help orphans. I know it is hard to believe, and painful to consider, but there are many orphaned lambs that are not cared for, and suffer for it. They fall into a limbo between uselessness, embarrassment, and inconvenience in the commercial setting. Saving them is the most difficult of the goals, because orphan lambs are both amazingly resilient, and very fragile. If you are like me and participate in online groups with people who are working to save orphan lambs, you may have noticed a fairly high mortality rate. The people trying to save these lambs are good souls trying their best, with the resources they have. The good news however is there are also shepherds in these groups who are successful year after year, and lamb after lamb in their care goes on to a long healthy life. What makes them so successful is a very well developed skill and knowledge set. Our plan is to bringing fosters of all skill levels together under our program. We see mentorship combined with access to physical resources as being the key to saving the greatest number of lambs. As a note, when I originally wrote this paragraph, we had never dealt with an orphaned lamb. About two weeks later, we had a two day old in our care.
The Caldwell pasture is an example of the stewardship we feel for the land and environment. It has been a real treat to see how an entire ecosystem can develop if given a little push. We have been surprised how many more plants, insects and animals have moved in on their own, and established a home. Another surprise has been the people who have come out to the pasture just to hang out and watch the sheep. There is something therapeutic about sheep being sheep. We are going to continue to demonstrate how sheep, a large variety of plants, and intelligent grazing can heal the land, and help to improve the world in which we live.
How do we grow? The scaling formula is pretty simple.
Volunteers + Land + Funding + Sheep = Growth
All four of the above conditions have to increase proportionately before we can expand our programs, or create new programs. A benefactor once looked at the 70 acres next to the Caldwell pasture and asked me “They lease that land, what if you had that area to work with?” I told them, “I could fill it with sheep in no time, a thousand sheep would be easy to come by.” That is true for most all sanctuaries. That is why if one looks around there are so many sanctuaries with more animals than the land can provide for, days away from insolvency, and/or staffed by owners/volunteers that are overworked and over stressed. We never want to be in that situation. Even if we took in just 10 more sheep we would need another shepherd for them. One of the great things about the scaling formula above is that those sheep would not even have to be in Idaho, or even in the United States. A shepherd who has access to some land to graze, a few sheep in need, and volunteers in the area to help when needed, can found a new RescEwe flock under our umbrella.
So, with the coming year being more uncertain than the last, how far will we go? Well, who would have dared to guess that in the COVID year we would have continued to grow. I guess the Lord only knows where we will be this time next year. But, we will be ready to take on anything that He brings to us.
“The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” Proverbs 12:10 (NIV)