Sometimes a notion settles into your mind and your heart and you simply have to follow through on it.
Such as the work of Jan Wise.
The 100 or so acres she and her husband, Jeff, own in the northeast area of Hamblen County is not only their home, but the home of horses and dogs that otherwise would have nowhere else to go.
Born in New Mexico and following a full life of career and family in Connecticut, Wise began looking into the idea long fostered in her mind – providing a safe space for abandoned horses. Dogs fit into the picture, too.
“We began doing rescues while we were still in Connecticut. We began rescuing in 2003 and became a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 2014. We started looking for a more rural area when we knew we had a good handle on our careers and the children were grown. We came looking in Virginia and North and South Carolina, but then we crossed the mountains (into Tennessee) and fell in love,” Wise recalls.
Now here more than five years, Wise knows her decision to settle in the foothills and rolling pastures of East Tennessee was the right one – not only for the couple but for the rescued animals they’ve helped.
She’s fiercely adamant of her disappointment in how horses are treated in this country. Once a horse has out-lived their usefulness for many owners, they are often carted off to slaughterhouses. That includes work horses, pleasure horses and even race horses.
“I really got jaded on the horse circuit. Here in this country it’s all about the money. We should be appalled at the number of horses sent to the slaughterhouses. In Europe you don’t find horses, or dogs, mistreated like this, abandoned or slaughtered.”
As for the horses (right now the sanctuary is home to 10 horses), they’ve found a place to live out their years. Some may have come from farms in which the owners can no longer care for them, yet others have been brought from abusive or abandoned situations.
“This is their final destination,” Wise says. It is a safe place with plenty of pasture and care when it is needed.
It is also one with a long lease provided for each equine resident: horses can live to be 30 and 40 years old. Sending a horse to a different farm isn’t always practical, simply because that same horse could return to the sanctuary because of any number of unforeseen circumstances. It makes sense to get them settled in at the sanctuary and let them live out their years in peace.
Four dogs currently call the farm home. But they’re not getting too comfortable.
“We try to find a home for each of (the dogs),” she says. “I just rehomed one a few weeks ago, and I posted one just today (on social media).” Part of that rehoming is being a part of a nationwide network of individuals or teams who can transport a dog to a new home. That network, Wise says, opened up a great opportunity for placement, far more than strictly local adoptions.
“It (cross-country placement) really exploded when groups dedicated to adoption were created on Facebook.
“We always try to put a dog with good people. It’s a multi-faceted approach to adoption. If a dog really can’t be rehomed, most are fostered so they can be socialized and adjust their behavior to increase their adoption potential. Most of the adoptions go through Petfinder.”
Wise is keenly aware of the dangers of becoming too attached to the dogs.
“I could get attached to each and every one of them. But my motto for years has been, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about them.’”
The farm provides spay-and-neuter services for the local community, especially for puppies dumped and found. Then they can be rehomed or kept on the farm until they are ready for more permanent placement.
The farm enjoys occasional help.
“We might get a college student in the summer. There’s mowing, mowing, and more mowing,” Wise says with a chuckle. That pasture maintenance is only a portion of the chores required to keep the farm up, running and sustainable. There is always someone needed to care for the dogs if the couple has to be out of town for a few days.
While 100 acres might seem to be a large enough space for the sanctuary, Wise says she is satisfied with the spread she calls home.
“The size is just fine for now.”
Jan and Jeff still enjoy full-time careers with their own businesses in addition to their devotion to the sanctuary. The majority of funding comes from their own pockets, but as with any nonprofit entity, they will gladly accept donations for the continued care and protection of their four-legged charges. Adoption fees are charged.
The satisfaction felt is worth the effort for Wise.
“It give far more back than it takes. We’re ready, willing and able to help. The one message I have that there is a lot of misinformation about dogs out there and I advise anyone with questions to contact their humane society or rescues. Most importantly spay and neuter.” She also stresses that anyone considering a dog or horse to understand the decades-long length of commitment dogs and horses require.
The fluid status of her herd, both indoor and in the pasture, is the culmination of Wise’s long-held vision of rescuing and helping animals.
“I can’t imagine not doing it.”
For more information about the sanctuary or to donate to the cause, visit www.lastchancefarm.org and click on the Donate button.