A dozen years ago, Kristie Fisher drove up to the 13-acre property in rural Windsor with her husband and smiled. All her dreams, even her foolish ones, seemed to be coming true.
Fisher was a city girl whose parents were divorced when she was 8. She spent a lot of time in apartments. She would think about what it would be like to have room, or even a wide-open, peaceful space where car horns were muffled by the wind. Then she would dismiss those dreams as folly. That, she told herself, would never happen.
Yet there she was with her husband, with the sky above and the mountains to the west, and she could picture it all. She pictured where their new home would eventually go after they lived in the smaller house for a few years. She pictured kids riding dirt bikes and having their own adventures in the fields. She pictured her own hair salon in the basement of that new home that would allow her to work and raise her kids herself.
The dream came true. The house is there, and so is the salon, and so are the kids. Yet the dreams changed, too. They often do.
Now when you drive up past that old house, to the new one, down the long driveway, a flurry of barks greets you as your tires crunch on the gravel. Bark, bark, bark. A lab puppy wags his tail at you from his kennel. Other dogs, which look as big as miniature ponies, seem OK with you but bark just to make sure. As you approach her house, some of the barks turn into howls that echo around all that space. Fisher says hello from her hair studio, where Lola, a mastiff, greets you and starts pawing you for a pat.
Fisher needs to finish a haircut, then she needs to check on the dogs, especially the great dane puppies who make messes every couple of hours. It’s another busy day, even with the 10 valuable volunteers who come regularly to help. And though she loves her Big Bones Canine Rescue, she will admit that as big of a part of her life as it is now, it was something she didn’t picture, or even imagine, when she drove on their new property with her husband a dozen years ago.
It’s safe to say her husband, Scott, didn’t picture it, either, and that’s part of the problem. It takes time to run a rescue organization with more than 25 dogs, even with her impressive adoption rate. It also takes money, and that’s the more immediate problem. She owes her veterinarians more than $5,000.
“The rescue organization is the only thing we fight about,” Fisher said and, even then, Scott helps with pouring concrete and building kennels and remodeling.
She got into rescue the way most people do, meaning she sort of stumbled into it simply because she loved animals. When she got her own place, she got three. They were all rescues. When they moved into the new house they built down the driveway six years ago, two years after her son, Gannon, now 8, was born, she turned the old place into a boarding business.
That, and doing the hair of Floss Blackburn, the founder of the Denkai Animal Sanctuary, led to taking in a few rescues herself. She and Karen Durlin started Big Bones in January 2013, just three years after her daughter, Wynsloe, now 5, came.
“The perfect dog always has a home,” Fisher said, “and yet they are all so deserving of that. It’s so, so sad.”
Following Blackburn’s lead, she relied on the strong rescue network for grooming and baths and free food and discounts on supplies. But that network, strong as it is, can’t pay vet bills. Just last week, she was facing a $700 eye surgery on another dog. She was, at one point, $9,000 in the hole, but she knocked that down by selling the water rights on their property. Scott didn’t like that, either.
She understands her husband’s frustration. She keeps two English mastiffs and two crazy puppy great danes that are deaf. She also keeps a crazy, messy house, and that’s because of the dogs both inside and out in the kennels. She has cats, too. A couple of very friendly, very patient cats.
It’s hard to say why some people like animals and others share a deep connection with them. Fisher can’t explain it herself. But what she does know is there are times when she can go out to the kennels, away from the newer house and the kids and her business and talk to the dogs. She pets them. She lets them know they are loved. And then she can go back to being a hair stylist, and a wife, and a mom, and she can do what she needs to do to keep her dream alive.