BURNET COUNTY, TX (KXAN) — A daydream turned concrete Tuesday morning. What was once a field in Bertram, Texas is now becoming a sanctuary for senior dogs.

The non-profit ranch officially broke ground on June 20, and crews started on the foundation July 21. It’s been a six-month journey for Rhonda Minardi, founder of Living Grace Canine Ranch.

(KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

“Grace, giving the grace, to take care of and love under any circumstances — that’s grace. Being able to move forward, right, and see the good, and take the good, and not judge — that’s grace,” Minardi said of meaning behind the name.

In her eyes, old dogs deserve the same respect as human seniors.

“A lot of these dogs, they’re senior dogs. For whatever reason, they end of in the shelters, whether it be their owners passed away, the family’s no longer able to take care of them, maybe these dogs were used, had never known love. They’re deemed ‘un-adoptable’ or ‘undesirable’ because of their age,” Minardi said. “If you think of an assisted living for your mom or grandma, that’s what this is. This isn’t a place for them to come die, this a place for them to come thrive.”

Old dogs were once just an afterthought for Minardi, but her mom set things in motion by accident.

“The seed was planted six years ago when my mom had fallen, and the doctor said she has to go into assisted living. She was no longer able to take care of herself. She had a dog named Lucy, and the first thing my mom said to me, as tears were coming down her face, was, ‘What about Lucy?’ And I was like, ‘Uh, who’s gonna take care of Lucy?'”

Then, during one Christmas season, she provided toys and blankets for more than 20 senior dogs for a gifting initiative. But it’s one dog’s story which sealed the deal on moving forward with the ranch.

Saving Gracie

(KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

“Gracie came to me from a kill shelter in Corpus Christi. Someone reached out and asked if we were able to take in this dog at Living Grace, even though we don’t have a facility open,” Minardi said. “I drove down [there] and I’ve never seen such a sight.”

Her heart broke for the old dog. Gracie suffered from many injuries as a result of being severely abused and neglected.

Here is a list of them:

  • Blind
  • Bullet fragments in her leg
  • Collapsed trachea
  • Hearing-impaired
  • Heart and hookworm positive
  • More than 100 bites to her face and body
  • Overbred
  • Used as a bait dog in dog fighting

“Someone did this to her. This little one has known no love,” Minardi said.

So she changed that.

“I looked at her and as loving as she just puts her face on me. When I come home, she runs up to me and puts her face… her nose right up into my chest, as if she’s saying thank you or hugging me.”

And is hoping the same for many others. Minardi will take in surrenders as well as the abused, neglected, and any animals in hoarding situations, but she still has a long way to go. She needs help with funding and volunteers. You can visit their website to donate as well as learn more about the ranch.