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New ranch aims to rescue animals and help people connect


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A Berrien County couple is trying to turn their ranch into an oasis for animals in need and people who need connection.

The Paws for Humanity motto is: People helping animals, helping people.

It is an animal sanctuary on 10 acres of property in Three Oaks where people can go to reconnect with themselves and nature.

Pepe the horse greets guests as soon as they arrive. Pepe is 15 years old and came to the ranch after his original owners had to move.

Now, the sweet, charismatic horse is helping Dale Welling and Beth Bollenbach with their Paws for Humanity mission.

“He likes to say hi,” says Bollenbach as Pepe comes bounding over as we walk up to the fenced pasture.

Pepe loves carrots and people equally. Bollenbach and Welling say, there is a huge benefit to this.

“Actually being around an animal for a while can actually change your body chemistry and create less stress,” says Bollenbach.

The couple met each other in 2007 and realized their dreams aligned. Four years ago they bought the Three Oaks property.

“His dream has been about the horses working the animals and especially with kids,” says Bollenbach, “and I’m a social worker and therapist and my dream has been to have a place in nature for respite, retreats, and workshops when people weren’t in their busy days. So when we met, actually our dreams really coincided. So we decided to make a bigger plan.”

The ranch came with several elderly alpacas. The couple has since expanded their animal sanctuary with goats, cats, chickens and more.

Now they want to make a difference in the lives of people.

“It doesn’t matter what the age is, it doesn’t matter what the background is, in a very holistic way, animals can help people mirror their feelings,” says Welling, “when we see that we can help guide and direct them with different exercises to get them through things.”

There will be animal training classes offered at the ranch this fall. There is already animal therapy opportunities happening. Pepe is helping with Equine Assisted Learning. This summer there will also be community education and support options.

The couple says they have already seen a difference and have watched the animals teach patience, boundaries and friendship.

“When kids come up and they see this love and that they belong it is amazing,” says Welling, “we had one parent come up and say that for the first time, without coaxing or anything, her son turned around and told his mom that he loved her.”

Paw for Humanity is looking for volunteers right now and the couple wants to expand by building a barn on the property to help animals and people year round.

To raise money, every Sunday evening through August there will be a concert at the ranch. People can listen to music and tour the ranch themselves.

Pepe certainly wouldn't mind more visitors.

“You see how you effect each other. That is how we are going to change the world by remembering that. We all affect each other,” says Bollenbach.

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Check out the website for more information on the ranch and how you can get involved:

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