Richard and Gay Devoe run a Sanctuary for abandoned and abused farm animals. They call it the Double D Bar Ranch. It is located on Wading River Manor Road in Manorville, just north of exit 57 of Sunrise Highway, Suffolk County, and Long Island. I met Richard in the winter of 2001. At that time, he and his wife were taking care of 700 animals. He accepted animals that needed care, feeding, and a home. He and his animal oasis deserve not only a visit, but a contribution. They are always in debt because the e animals come first. Although Richard seems to know more than most vegetarians, he’ll pay any amount to have surgery or any other procedure on any animal that needs it. I have nothing but the highest respect for Richard and Gay who dedicate their lives to save and love the animals they take in.
The farm started with an abandoned roadside cat. Richard pulled over and Gay scooped up the cat. Richard grew up in Babylon Village and took care of horses at a nearby stable, then learned how to ride. Soon after, they bought 4 acres in Manorville and began a nonprofit organization to accept animals. I volunteered and was with the ranch for three years off and on. At the beginning, Richard needed a friend. Gay went to work each day; Richard alone fed and watered the animals. Our friendship morphed into helping a man I fully admired. I wanted a fraction of the satisfaction he gets for rescuing pain, fear, and hunger from unwanted animals.
The winter of 2001 was brutal. There was no watering system. Hoses from the basement of the house stretched hundreds of feet to reach the cow’s water trough. Often the water in the hose was frozen. Richard dragged it into the house to melt. He desperately needed help. I broke through the ice at the cow pen and filled it with water.
I learned about the farm by accident. I was sentenced to 28 hours of community service for an illegal backyard fire. I served the time at the Petting zoo which is a ¼ mile south. The petting zoo took in people who had community service. When I visited Richard, who had no community service workers, I wrote to the Red Cross. They came and inspected the farm and started sending people to help Richard. At that time, he had four cows and one bull. They went through 8 bales of hay a day morning and afternoon. Hauling hay, watering, mucking, and hanging out with Richard in his van took most of the day. Back home, sometimes I was so tired I flopped on the couch with my shoes on, muddy shoes too exhausted to untie and take them off.
There were goats, sheep, ducks, pigs, turkeys, fallow deer, lama, peacocks, and lots of roosters and hens with baby chicks following their mother. There were horses, a donkey, dogs, a pony, and over a hundred rabbits…and a few peacocks. Richard scraped by, raising donations which were never enough to be in the black. He’d go the feed warehouse and pack his van with feed. He bought hay by the truckload. Yet, he always managed to keep his head above water. Just when things looked bleak, a nice big donation would show up.
Richard asked me to muck Lucky the Bull’s pen. It accumulated three feet of sodden hay soaked with urine. It was packed down and very difficult to even haul into a wheel barrow. I pitch forked for hours. Here was a thankless job whose only reward was Lucky. Lucky, a beautiful calf was rescued from an auction in Queens by an elderly woman who sends $100 a month to Richard to take care of Lucky. When I first arrived, Lucky was a young calf weighing about 200 pounds. He had soft brown eyes that looked at me as I scratched his neck. I could temporarily paralyze him with vigorous scratching. He was charming. I always visited his stall daily. Lucky knew me and always rushed over to have his neck scratched.
On Christmas eve, I worked all day with various talks, feeding, watering, and just pausing to look at this amazing place. After dark, I brought some hay for Lucky and a few goats that were in the barn next to him. The goats were wearing bells that tinkled as they ate. I could see Lackeys breath and listen to the tinkle of the goat’s bells. That moment transformed me into the Christ child’s manger in Bethlehem. For all the work and friendship with Richard, that moment was an unforgettable moment of many.
A year later Lucky was a full grown three thousand pound bull who resided in a large corral in the back. One day, Lucky jumped and frolicked as usual. He fell, slipping the frozen ground, and could not get up. Richard had no choice but to put him down. I was shocked. He used his bobcat to dig a huge hole and bury Lucky. During the summer, I’d take empty buckets and a shovel into the pasture to collect manure for my garden. Lucky would sneak up on me from behind and nudge me. We had a relationship. I often stood and watched the cows and bulls eat hay. Their exhaled breath was loud. Their chewing was loud. Their coarse tongues sometimes licked my hand. Cow eyes are large pools of placid satisfaction for having hay to chew.
All the animals knew Richard. When he passed by a goat or sheep pen, they would run up to greet him. He talked to them, petted them, and loved them. He showed me a pen with four goats one of which was blind. The other goats took care of him, leading him to the water bucked and hay trough. It was here that I was awakened to the fact that these animals had feelings and could think on their own level.
Working in the sanctuary I felt troubled by the fact that work was endless. As more volunteers started coming, Richard became happier. He quit smoking. He could give directions and take it easier.
He asked me to help him save some chickens that had been released in a parking lot at a bank in Huntington. A half dozen chickens left to fend for themselves in a paved parking lot. Richard brought a net. “Once I catch one and put it in the van, it will make sounds that the others hear and I’ll be able to rescue them.” I saw this first hand and again felt nothing but admiration for Richard. The last chicken hid under a pile of irrigation piped. The bank lot backed up on farm land. Richard spotted the chicken that was fenced in. “Stand by,” he asked. Richard crawled under the three foot space and grabbed the bird with his cowboy had on his stomach. “Pull me out.” Slowly Richard stood with the 6th hen and we walked back to the van with all six rescued chickens. The four hours we spent was a major education for me. Compassion, determination and love all were evident.
One evening Richard asked me for help cleaning out a pig pen. The pig was 800 pounds. He opens the fence and released the pig so he could use the bucket of the bobcat to remove the feces and mud. Before long, My pants and shoes were covered. I stood by and watched and suddenly I felt something brushing the back of my legs. The pig was cuddling up to me.
After Richard finished the job, we corralled the pig back into its pen. Richard and Gay names all the animals. Naming is an act of love. Each animal is an individual in its own right and deserve love and care. They all get that at the Double-D Bar Ranch animal Sanctuary.
One day, Richard gave me $20 to drive up to the Kennedy Farm to buy two burlap bags of corn. He wanted to give three pigs a treat. “Take the leaves off. They can choke on them because they don’t waste time chewing.” I started shucking and tossing ears into the cement floor. The pigs became pigs snarling and pushing aggressively. One stood directly over an ear to claim it as his. They tore into the ears with gusto, juice dripping from their mouth. Their powerful jaws decimated the corn in seconds. I shucked and threw and they responded. For them, this was fantastic since most of the time they are sleeping or resting in their house.
Richard told me the story of Bongo the sheep. Bongo was owned by an estate owner in East Hampton. The let it feed on grass to save paying a landscaper to cut the grass. “Grass is not nutritious.” A dog attacked bongo and left open wounds on its face. The owner took the sheep to a vet who took care of it. The bill was $250. The owner refused to pay and left the sheep at the vets. Richards’s reputation led to Bongo coming to the sanctuary. “Bongo was skin and bones, weak and scared. I couldn’t get near him. We fed him and eventually he recovered. Richard though gently talking and confidence was able to gain Bongo’s confidence. “I want to show you something.” He went into Bongos pen, knelt down next to Bongo, and waited. Bongo approached. Richard put out his hand. Bongo shook hands with him. “Sheep are very nervous. It took two years for this to happen”
Five abused and abandoned horses from almost across the street arrived. Richard built five stalls and pens for each. Their ribs showed and he found sores on their skin. One he named Molly. I fell in love with her. She’d come right up to me and smell, and then back off. I grabbed a handful of grass and she’d pull it out. I was able to pat her and put my arm around her. No more abuse for any of the horses or any animal in his care.
Their business card reads: “Haven for prior abused or unwanted farm animals. Your donations are needed to help feed these animals. A non-Profit Organization 501 © (3); 344 Wading River Road, Manorville, N.Y. 11949-3444; phone 631-878-4100; www.doubledbarranch.org; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org