LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — While sitting on a bench surrounded by unfamiliar people, animals and noises, Round Rock High School student Elizabeth Winfield felt something she wasn’t expecting.
She turned and saw a great white Great Pyrenees named Halo, which was being pulled away by Jamie Griner, the founder of Safe in Austin Rescue Ranch in Leander.
Both Winfield and Griner shared a laugh.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I should have given you a heads up on that,” said Jamie Griner, the founder of Safe in Austin Rescue Ranch in Leander.
“I’ve got to see a lot of different things I didn’t think I’d see, and I didn’t know they made wheelchairs for dogs,” Winfield said.
With just one working leg, Halo rides in a wagon. She’s among the 120 disabled animals, from 17 different species on the Rescue Ranch, a non-profit Griner started two years ago.
“It gets to an entirely different level when a blind child meets a blind pony, or a deaf child signs to a deaf dog, or a kid that has come from years of trauma hears the story of abuse in another animal,” Griner said.
But the Ranch isn’t just a place to meet animals. The kids help take care of them, too.
The classes from Round Rock ISD’s visually impaired and orientation and mobility programs spent part of the day planting lettuce for the animals to later eat.
“They’re being part of the process, about the healing process, and it’s this cool circle of, they’re helping the animals and the animals are helping them,” Griner said.
It offers a valuable lesson that can be hard for teachers to replicate in class.
“Our students get a lot of opportunities to receive services, but not necessarily to give back,” said RRISD Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments Erica Cairns.
This is the second year in a row that Round Rock ISD students have visited.
The non-profit holds both public and private gatherings year-round and is funded entirely by donations.