By Linda Lane
It all began with one feral golden kitty.
The Hostetlers had just moved into their new home in Schoolcraft and found a wild cat, obviously hungry. So Laura Hostetler bought a bag of cat food, named the cat Custard, and got a friend for life.
“Custard told all the other cats in the area there was a free buffet on my deck and a bunch showed up, hungry and cold,” Laura Hostetler said. “These poor cats were just fending for themselves, so I put a couple of doghouses on the back of my deck with straw, started to live-trap them, took them to the humane society to get them fixed, and they stayed.”
Laura’s daughter, Rachel Hostetler, has written stories and poems about her pets for the Schoolcraft Library’s “Tournament of Writers,” getting published the past four years and winning many first place honors.
“Over the summer, I saved a life… a dog’s life that is,” Rachel wrote in her first story for the Tournament of Writers. They thought their dog, Odie, needed a companion. After searching five animal shelters for a hypoallergenic dog which didn’t shed, they headed to Cass County Animal Shelter to check out “Otis.”
“When the staff picked up Otis, he peed all over the floor… Mom whispered, ‘Strike One.’” Rachel wrote. After 45 minutes of tail wagging and face licking, the Hostetlers couldn’t put him back in the cage. A visit to the vet revealed that little Otis had a bladder infection and a fever. “He sat in the shelter for months. No one wanted a dog that pees all over the place. All he needed was some love and antibiotics,” Rachel wrote.
They next rescued Boots, a Yorkie. Typically an expensive breed, Boots was born with a hernia, so the breeder dropped him off at the shelter. “He was in a corner shaking. He wouldn’t come to us, wouldn’t play. I looked at him and said, we’ll take him. I knew he couldn’t stay there,” Laura said.
“I thought I wanted a girl dog and I was sure I didn’t want a Yorkie. But life has a funny way of showing you what you want. I guess Boots is another example that you can’t judge a dog by its breed… There are dogs just like Boots in shelters waiting for a happy ending. Every animal has a voice, only some of them are lucky enough to be heard,” Rachel wrote about Boots.
While her husband, Craig, jokes about adding a “No Vacancy” to the Rescue Ranch sign, Laura said, “Our motto is, ‘There’s always room for one more.’”
Rescue Ranch now has four cats, (“that I know of,” Laura said), four dogs and two mini-horses. Their fourth unplanned dog, Chewy, is a Shih Tzu. Laura’s defense of having four dogs? “I tell Craig, if you go by poundage, I’ve only got one huge Lab.”
The Hostetlers expanded past cats and dogs when they learned of Eli, a draft horse with an injured foot who was going to be put down. They scrambled to adopt the horse in need and soon knew he needed a companion. Next came Eeyore, a mini-horse with a bad tooth which stabbed his mouth with every bite. A vet filed down the tooth and that was all it took. Eli and Eeyore instantly bonded. Rachel wrote, “Eeyore has taught me that it’s not the size of the horse that matters. It’s the size of his heart.”
Rachel describes her family’s method of finding the animals they choose to adopt, “When searching for a new horse, everyone wants a healthy one. That’s not what we look for. We look for the ones that need us the most.”
That’s no exaggeration. Twinkie, their second mini-horse, had not been cared for appropriately at all. He had “hoof rot, worms, fleas, black teeth, a bloated stomach and cataracts in both eyes. He seemed sad, sick, dirty and had no giddy up at all,” Rachel wrote. Twinkie was perfect for Laura and Rachel.
“When animals know they’re going to be safe, they flourish. Rescue pets are friends for life. They’re grateful and appreciative. They deserve a second chance,” Laura said.
What’s next to rescue? “We don’t plan it or do it on purpose… we hear about a need. I really wanted a goat with a bell but my husband said we didn’t need one… So we’ll see!”