When the Rescuer Needs Rescuing: A Story of Gratitude, Caring, & Compassion

Story by Rebecca West

If you’ve been reading The Tucson Dog since its inception, you’ll likely remember that it was founded by animal advocate Ann Herrington back in 2017. The magazine was one of three publications dedicated to promoting the human/animal bond and raising awareness of shelter and rescue animals. The other two were The Prescott Dog and The Flagstaff/Sedona Dog. Within their pages, she worked to educate the public on such vital topics as overcrowding in shelters, backyard breeding, puppy mills, and the need to spay and neuter pets responsibly.

Outspoken and always up for a challenge, in December 2019, she regrettably faced an opponent that no one ever wants to come up against: cancer. But she did, and she faced it head-on like all other obstacles in her life, beating it into submission — or, in this case, what was thought to be a form of remission. Unfortunately, the reprieve was short-lived, with more bad news on the horizon in 2023 requiring a higher level of care.

Worse yet, one of the things that brought her great comfort in life and always served as a welcome distraction during the first go around with the dreaded C word was more than she could handle on her own by April 2024.

We’re speaking of her beloved horse, Miss Pauleena, and her concern about being unable to care for her properly during her latest health battles. That’s where Kimberly Meagher, founder of Wildhorse Ranch Rescue and co-author of Alternatives to Auction and Slaughter, came in.

Headquartered in Gilbert, Wildhorse Ranch Rescue, Inc. is a 501c3 charity celebrating 30 years of rescue this coming January. With a certified foster facility in San Tan Valley and 100 acres in Ash Fork on old Route 66, they are a one-hundred percent volunteer organization that’s helped all types of animals. The list includes horses, donkeys, mules, cats, rabbits, gophers, snakes, pigs, rats, dogs, barnyard fowl, a peacock, wild birds, and a few humans along the way.

Meagher kindly shared her part in this emotional story of rescuer being rescued with us here.

“Ann and I met when I had my art gallery, The Beastro, in the McCormick Arts District in Prescott. Both rescuers, we became fast friends. The Beastro was an art gallery where the proceeds went to help animals in need. We did a lot of events, not only for Wildhorse but also for several other animal rescues.

“When I met Ann, I felt like I’d known her my whole life. I’m sure most people feel that way about her. She has such a wonderful and joyous way of life. She’s always filled with ideas on how to help make the world a better place for everyone! She’s always focused on the positive and creative and fun solutions.

“As a rescuer, she helps others, especially animals. When she called me about her recent diagnosis and not being able to provide care for Miss P, I immediately wanted to do anything I could to help. Ann’s first thought was that she had to give Pauleena up, and she wanted her to go to a safe place. As Ann and I talked, we came up with a practical solution. First off, Wildhorse would take ownership of Pauleena. But rather than bringing Pauleena to our ranch in Gilbert —we are short on space all the time — we’d keep her in Northern AZ.

“It would be better for Pauleena, who has always lived there and may not do well in the Phoenix heat for her first summer. It would be better for Ann and her healing process to be able to see Pauleena during a very stressful time in Ann’s life. It would also be better for Wildhorse due to space issues and not having to bring our veterinarians up to speed on Pauleena’s recent therapy needs.

“In the past, we’ve kept some of our horses in Northern AZ, due to various reasons, but this solution seemed like a great plan for everyone involved.”

And so far, it has been. Since the agreement was reached, the rescue has provided Pauleena with the kind of help they’d offer any animal under similar circumstances, such as food, water, shelter, supplements, and veterinary care — all the things needed to keep them healthy and safe. Because Pauleena technically belongs to Wildhorse now, the rescue takes on full responsibility for her care and upkeep, and all expenses are paid in full.

It allows Ann to spend time with her horse while removing the physical and emotional stress of doing it all herself and instead focus on her recovery. According to Meagher, the goal is that when Ann is healthy again, she can take Pauleena back. The arrangement is a temporary situation where the parties sign a release document similar to a legal bill of sale. As Kim noted, keeping horses in the homes they’re already in is the best way to keep them safe and is the rescue’s goal.

“I’ve been involved in animal welfare and rescue since 1997 and have met some of the most amazing people who give so much to help animals in need. I love all animals, and my focus has always been helping shelter and rescue animals. I met Kim Meagher over 14 years ago and found in her a kindred spirit. We immediately became fast friends and shared an immense love for horses,” Ann explained.

“What Kim and Wildhorse Ranch Rescue have done for me and my beloved horse is nothing short of a miracle. I love giving, but it is very difficult for me to ask for help in return. When I found myself in a health crisis and had to leave my full-time job, things got really tough for me. And horses are expensive. Pauleena’s been with me for 12 years, and we have a very deep connection. She’s been part of my healing journey since Day 1.

“When it recently became clear that I could not provide for her at this time, I was beside myself and didn’t know what to do. So, I called Kim to see if she could help. She was so incredible and did not hesitate for one second to say, ‘Yes, we will help you!’ Thank you just isn’t enough for what she and WHRR have been doing for me. With Pauleena’s suspensory injury, the vet bills started growing, and WHRR has taken care of everything for her. And the best part is that she has been able to stay here with me!

“Cancer has taught me to make every day count and to count my blessings every single day. My animals — including my dogs Gracie and Andy — have been my constant companions, so I’m never alone.

“I’m also so grateful for Santori Ranch in Chino Valley, where Pauleena boards. Traesa and Marco Santori are incredible people who love and care for all the animals in their charge as if they were their own. I owe a great debt to them for all they have done to help and support me and Pauleena during this time. It’s a wonderful place with lots of friendly people who love horses, and they passed on a generous charity discount to Wildhorse in connection to Miss P’s boarding fees.

“We also have a wonderful resident trainer, Elizabeth Bennett, who was training Pauleena for a local show that I wanted to participate in. It is clear how much she cares about horses. When she noticed that something was off with Pauleena, she suggested I have the vet take a look at her. That’s how we found the injury to her back leg. I am so thankful for her!

“In a very short time, WHRR has spent so much money to help Pauleena, and I would like to ask for donations to WHRR in Pauleena’s name to help with her bills that I know are already in the thousands. I don’t know what I would have done if they had not stepped in to help. And they help so many other animals in need, which is very costly. They are the real deal when it comes to being a rescue and doing it right!

“I’m so fortunate to have the love and support of so many incredible people, including my family and especially my two daughters, DeeAnn and Gina, and my sister Barbara, who are always there for me. I also have to say thank you to my dear friend Heather McShea, who has taken up the mantle at The Tucson Dog. She loves it just as much as I did, and I am so happy it is in her capable hands.”

On a side note, Ann is looking for volunteers in the Prescott/Chino Valley area to help out with Pauleena at Santori Ranch when she’s unable to be there. If anyone knows of someone who could pitch in, please contact us.

Finally, if you’re curious as to how WHRR pulls all of this off, it comes down to regular donations. Their Herculean fundraising efforts include enlisting celebrities to help whenever possible, as they tend to draw large crowds and attention to worthy causes like this one. For more information about the rescue and ways to help, visit wildhorseranchrescue.com.



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