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Red Dog Farm seeks donations to expand the number of animals it can care and find homes for, and an educational facility

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Kenneth Ferriera

Lauren Riehle, the executive director of Red Dog Farm Animal Rescue Network, pets Delicious, a thoroughbred off-track race horse, at the stables at Red Dog Farms in Stokesdale on May 27. Since its founding in 2006, Red Dog Farm has helped over 4,000 animals, including more than 55 species, find a home.

STOKESDALE — For 15 years, Red Dog Farm Animal Rescue Network has cared for and found forever homes for animals ranging from hamsters to horses, from the Triad and beyond.

Now, the Stokesdale-based nonprofit is asking the community to help it complete a permanent headquarters — a place that will function as not only an intake facility for surrendered or in-need animals, but also as an education center for the public.

Garland and Gary Graham founded the nonprofit in 2006, shortly after the pair moved to Summerfield, according to Executive Director Lauren Riehle.

“When they moved out there, they started getting phone calls from folks who were interested or needing to surrender animals that were not your typical animals,” Riehle said.

Plenty of rescues were equipped to handle cats and dogs, but when it came to sheep, horses, pigs and goats, the Grahams realized there wasn’t a local option. They told people to bring the animals to their small farm.

From their generosity, Red Dog Farm was born.

After about 18 months of housing or finding foster homes for animals, Gary and Garland Graham decided they needed a permanent facility and someone to oversee it.

That’s when Riehle came into the picture, along with an administrative office rented in Bur-Mil. All animals other than an occasional small animal were housed at private foster homes.

“We were out there for 11 years,” Riehle said. “We quickly realized in those 11 years that we were going to outgrow that space.”

In 2019, after a couple of years of searching, the nonprofit purchased a farm in Stokesdale, the location of their current intake facility and home base. They still use foster homes, mostly for small animals, but are able to care for more farm animals. Since its start, Red Dog Farm has helped over 4,000 animals, including more than 55 species, find their forever home.

The latest farm, located on N.C. 65, sprawls across 21 acres. The buildings on the property, including an office and a barn with stalls for animals, were already in place when the land was purchased, Riehle said. They’ve installed fencing, which divides the field into different sections for animals that need separation or quarantining.

“While what we have here allows us to hit the ground running in many capacities, it does not allow us to maximize what we’re capable of doing,” Riehle said.

In order to better serve the community, Red Dog Farm has launched its biggest capital campaign yet in hopes of upfitting the farm.

The Farm to Family campaign has a goal of $1.5 million. The largest donation to date has been a six-figure gift from longtime volunteer and foster mom Janet Strahan, who has fostered more than 250 animals for the organization.

As they enter the public phase of the campaign, $900,000 already has been privately raised, with most of those donations going toward an endowment fund and training programs. The endowment will act as a safety net for the nonprofit. The money will be used for upgrades and repairs on the farm as needed.

Administrators hope to use money donated during the public phase of the campaign to expand the facility to care for more animals.

“We are really needing assistance to complete the project so that we can double or triple the amount of animals out here,” Riehle said.

Things like fences, sheds, more accessible water for the animals and a covered riding area for horses will help to make the farm a perfect place to take in animals before they find a temporary home with a foster parent or a forever home, Riehle said.

Once the farm and headquarters are running smoothly, Riehle said its operation will move from being reactive to become more proactive. This means focusing more of their attention on cultivating knowledge in the community, which could lead to fewer animals surrendered.

“Really, nonprofits are working to put themselves out of business,” Riehle said, “and I would love to wake up one day and know that the animals don’t need us anymore.”

But for now, there are still animals, big and small, that need the help of a nonprofit like Red Dog Farm.

“As long as we can continue to make a difference for the ones that cross our path, that’s what’s important.”

Contact Jamie Biggs at 336-373-4476 and follow @JamieBiggsNR on Twitter.

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