11 years ago, Alison and Steve Smith decided to open a sanctuary farm for unwanted miniature horses. But it quickly became much more than that.
Two days after opening the Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue in North Dakota, they welcomed Pebbles and Cocoa — their first two horses. Today, they've rescued well over 500 along with many other wayward animals including cats, dogs, goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, rabbits, and pigs that were cast out because of a disability.
Alison with several residents of the Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue. All photos courtesy of Alison Smith.
The Smiths made it their prerogative to save as many as they could — using every minute and dollar they could spare.
"We realized we had to expand our horizons and do more," writes Alison in an email.
For example, they drove 120 miles to rescue G.I. Joe — a small dog who was paralyzed from the waist down, and had to drag the lower half of his body around.
G.I. Joe on the farm with his patriotic wheelchair.
They took in a 10 week old kitten named Mowgli who'd lost his eyes to an infection, as well as a pot-bellied pig named Wanda and a Labrador named Martin, both of whom are also blind.
Mowgli and his dog friend Scarlett.
They also bottle-fed orphaned goats and saved a little poodle named Roy who was left at a mall because of a bad haircut.
Little Miss Chevious, the goat.
Needless to say, they're animal heroes.
Thanks to the Smiths' tireless dedication and love, their disabled animals recuperated and started thriving on the farm. And that's when Alison had an ingenious idea.
Why not bring this loveable squad around to local schools to help teach kids about empathy?
Just like that, the Compassion Crew was born.
The Compassion Crew — able to stop bullying with a single lick!
Alison took the Crew to Highland Acres, a local elementary school. She told the kids that the Crew “all have superpowers and they're called empathy and compassion," and then let them interact with her animals.
The result was nothing short of magical.
By using the animals as representations for people who look different, she was able to help the kids understand why bullying others is wrong.
“If you would not want to hurt this animal, why would you want to hurt a person with the same disability?" says Alison.
Dog members of the Compassion Crew, Scarlett (left) Roy (center), and G.I. Joe (right).
The lesson resonated with the kids so much, they wrote a number of letters to Alison thanking her for bringing her animal superheroes by.
Mowgli, the blind cat member of the Crew, made one of the biggest impressions.
A letter from one of the Highland Acres Elementary School kids.
In fact, Mowgli was actually the inspiration for Alison's dream project for the farm — their cat sanctuary Kitty City.
“We realized there was a big need in our area despite the great rescues that already existed," explains Alison.
So Kitty City acts as a fully-functioning adoption center, but it also provides a forever home for cats that, for whatever reason, can't be placed.
They also make it a priority to step in and take cats off death row at various local kill shelters when they run out of time. And once in the hands of the volunteers at the sanctuary, the cats receive nutritious food, medical care, and, most importantly, love, and attention.
Almost all the cats in Kitty City are adoptable, except, of course, for Mowgli who is a permanent member of the Smith family and the Compassion Crew.
Mowgli with another sanctuary animal friend.
That said, if you're interested in rescuing a blind cat, they have 15 others. Yes, they have some limitations, but they are just as loving and hilarious as any other cat.
While this new rescue endeavor has made it difficult for Alison to bring the Compassion Crew out to schools, it doesn't mean she's stopped.
In fact, she's beginning to offer on-site visits for kid groups like girl scout troops.
She hopes that this way, the Crew can continue to spread their anti-bullying message while she holds down the farm and all its working parts.
Atticus and his goat friend.
They're also always looking for volunteers, so if you happen to be in North Dakota, and want to spend a few hours surrounded by animals, now's your chance.
Or, if you don't live nearby, donations are always appreciated since the Smiths' have more than just a lack of helpers to worry about. They're up against brutally cold winters, which means they have to move their cat brood indoors from October through April. They're working on building out their indoor habitat, but the funds they can allocate are minimal.
All you have to do is look at what the Smiths have done to know they're brimming with empathy. And as long as their endeavors, like the Compassion Crew, prevail, they'll keep showing the next generation why compassion always wins.