Carol McKenna was surrounded by pigs, dogs, goats and a llama within seconds of entering the paddock surrounding her barn. They had watched her eagerly as she walked down from her house on the hill with a bag of Goldfish Crackers for all.
The goats jumped up begging for more and the ponies nuzzled her persistently while the llama and pigs waited patiently nearby for the treats to come their way.
All of these animals come with their own rescue stories and all of them came to McKenna by fate.
One winter day McKenna was working on the farm near Pond Hill Ranch when two snowmobilers came to her and asked if she was missing a llama.
She didn’t have a llama at the time, but jumped onto the back of the snowmobile with a stranger who took her a mile into the woods. She ended up bringing the llama home having to herd her all the way there. She located the owners three days later and they agreed to let her keep the llama, which had become bonded with McKenna’s goats.
McKenna named her Dolly.
Carney, one of her pigs, she found at the Rutland State Fair. He was transported in a trailer overcrowded with pigs from Florida and they called him a micro mini pig who would never be bigger than 30 pounds.
McKenna asked to buy the pig, knowing they wouldn’t just give him up, and the owner said she would give him to her if she could find a snake for her husband’s birthday.
McKenna’s neighbor at the time bred snakes and agreed to give her one, which she then brought to the fairgrounds in a bag in exchange for Carney – who is now 300 pounds.
He lived in her house for the first three years and was completely house broken.
These are the stories of just a few of the animals McKenna has rescued.
She and her wife Linda McKenna have saved over 30 animals and almost every single animal was there to stay once they arrived.
“Once they’re here, they’re here for good,” McKenna said. “When animals come they have our promise.”
Their farm is not a non-profit and they do not consider it a business, they just do it for the love of the animals.
They pay for all of the veterinary care, feed, and supplies completely by themselves.
“We fund it by not taking big vacations, not driving fancy cars,” McKenna said. “It’s just by choice that this is what we choose to spend our money on.”
They say they never planned to rescue as many animals as they have over the years, but it just happened.
“It’s become a lifestyle. It just happened one by one and it continues two by two,” Linda said.
McKenna has always taken in animals that need to be saved though, even when she was a child.
“She and I used to bring home just about anything; squirrels, birds, anything that needed help,” Chrissy Grimes, her older sister, said. “I think it’s something that we were born with.”
McKenna has performed CPR on frogs and chipmunks she found struggling to survive and also took in a goose, a black vulture, a crow and a one-legged duck in the past, Linda said.
Linda’s sister calls the farm ‘From Ants to Elephants.’
Sometimes they can’t save the animals they take in, but to them it’s about making their lives comfortable, even if that means keeping them comfortable as they die.
Linda works in oncology at Rutland Regional Medical Center so she has always been in the business of helping others, she said.
“It’s just natural. If someone needs help, you’re going to help them,” Linda said.
Mary Dedino, McKenna’s mother, is amazed by what McKenna has accomplished from raising one day-old kittens without a mother to taking in wild animals that just needed a temporary place to stay.
“Carol is wonderful. She does things I never thought you could do,” Dedino said. “Carol, she’s a miracle worker.”
McKenna’s first truly emancipated animal was an Arabian stallion named Sir Magic Amir. He was sick his entire life and had multiple surgeries.
But she kept him comfortable and alive until he was 26 years old. On the top of the hill overlooking her land she has a granite bench dedicated to him with a picture of him printed on it above his name.
McKenna currently has a baby hair sheep named Bummer. He is just 4 weeks old and lives in her living room in a fenced off area next to a pen with her three giant rabbits in it. He was given to her by Sarah Todd, who owns a local sheep farm.
Todd gave him to McKenna because he needed to be bottle fed every few hours and McKenna has taken a few of her sheep and goats in the past who needed a little extra TLC.
Bummer was born extremely underweight, the runt of three, which is how he got his name. The runt of three lambs is called a bummer because the mother cannot feed all three so the baby has to get its milk from other sheep.
“Her life’s blood are those animals and I think it’s great,” Todd said. “It’s really hard. A lot of animals she takes in have issues, health usually, and she’s got to deal with it and that really can be quite heartbreaking.”
McKenna’s vet of 20 years, Bruce Le Gallais, said that not many people would do what she does because they don’t have the financial means or time to do it.
“It’s amazing the job she does. She’s all heart and she loves to rescue,” Le Gallais said.
He said that she has become so knowledgeable and sometimes she brings things up to him that he wouldn’t have expected her to know about in terms of caring for her animals.
Lois Stella, McKenna’s other sister, talked about how McKenna will do anything for her animals.
In the summers, she loads the giant rabbits into a wagon and wheels them out to their outdoor pen where they will stay until she brings them in at night, Stella said.
But she doesn’t just take care of the animals, she does almost all the work on the farm by herself too.
“She does the barn work, she does the mowing, she takes care of that whole place,” Stella said.
Linda and McKenna have created their own paradise, so much so that Linda jokes with her coworkers that she’s going on vacation at the end of the day when she’s going home.
The animals are members of the family.
“Our kids are the animals,” Linda said. “We’re very gracious for what we have and are happy to share it with the animals that need it.”