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Living Grace Canine Ranch in Bertram digs up big donation for second structure

Garey Big Dog Bunkhouse at Living Grace Canine Ranch in Bertram

The Garey Big Dog Bunkhouse at Living Grace Canine Ranch in Bertram was built with a $290,000 donation from Jack Garey of Georgetown. Courtesy photo

Georgetown resident Jack Garey not only opened his heart to Bertram’s Living Grace Canine Ranch but also his wallet.

The 91-year-old benefactor donated $290,000 to the nonprofit animal rescue, which built a second housing structure on the property, the Garey Big Dog Bunkhouse.

Living Grace Canine Ranch takes in displaced, unadoptable, and unwanted senior dogs. The facility celebrated its official opening Oct. 15 but has been operating since December 2020.

“Mr. Garey loves the mission,” said Rhonda Minardi, the rescue’s executive director.

The second building can house 30 to 52 big to giant dogs, depending on each animal’s size, and has two lounging areas for cuddling and an inside storm shelter. 

Minardi said the storm shelter is the first of its kind in the country.

“We’re on the cutting edge,” she said. “What happens if a tornado comes or a storm comes? In an emergency, dogs are put in crates. The crates are stacked and bolted into the concrete (within the storm shelter).”

Currently, the ranch has a total of 63 dogs in both buildings, but it can now hold up to 109, depending on size, with the new addition.

“These are the best years of their lives,” Minardi said of the older dogs. “Seventy percent are re-homed to us. That means something happened to their owners: They died, are in hospice care, are homeless. Thirty percent come from shelters.” 

In April, Garey sent his son to the facility to check it out and report back to him. That first visit resulted in a second, this time with Garey making the trip.

“He wanted to see if I was the real deal,” Minardi said as she recalled the conversation she had with him. “The son went around and took pictures because (his father is) not able to walk around. Then, he asked, ‘How can I help?’ I said, ‘Jack, I’ll tell you the truth. We need another building. We’ve only been here since December.’ He said, ‘I want to help. You are doing a wonderful job. I’ll buy the building.’”

After that, Garey began sending checks: $10,000, $50,000, etc., to purchase materials and pay for labor. 

Living Grace Canine Ranch is fundraising to build a third structure so it can take in more dogs.

“I’m honored to be the face of home, the face of safety,” Minardi said. “It’s a peaceful feeling when I go to bed at night. I know I did everything I could to make these beautiful animals enjoy the best days of their lives.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com