Many college students start heading home for Thanksgiving today. But that poses a challenge for a Wyoming County animal sanctuary, which relies on college volunteers to stay up and running.
H.O.R.S.E. Rescue has helped save hundreds of animals, but the farm, and those who run it, now find themselves in need.
"Patch, you want to come over? Come here!"
When a horse comes here, there's always a reason. Usually, not a good one.
"A lot of these horses were abused and don't really know what it's like to be loved,” said Karena Tsareva, H.O.R.S.E. Rescue volunteer.
"There's nobody to speak for them,” said Mike Dodge.
Mike Dodge and his wife Chris started H.O.R.S.E. Rescue 19 years ago, taking in, and caring for more than 400 neglected and abused animals over that time.
"I guess the most rewarding thing is when they come in and they're emotionally or physically damaged and we can get them rehabilitated and re-acclimated and rebuild the trust,” Chris said.
"It's just a passion we've had for all these years. If I had to do it all over again I'd do it,” said Mike.
The Dodge’s don't do it all themselves.
"I'm a volunteer from SUNY Geneseo,” said Karena. She’s from Brooklyn. Come chore time she fits right in.
"We help them with feeding them and giving them clean water and all,” she said. “They really rely on us."
"Somebody's gotta take care of them. If we don't, who will?" asked Mike.
The Dodge's have a problem. With school breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, with their college help leaving town for the holidays, they're in desperate need of volunteers.
"It really leaves us in the lurch, and we just don't have the people,” said Mike.
The Dodge's say donations cover most of the cost of running H.O.R.S.E. Rescue, though they dropped by 40 percent over the last year. A little over a year ago, Mike and Chris got some news, which made money the least of their worries."
"Y'know, they say terminal, they usually mean it...” said Mike.
For all their years of helping animals, the Dodge's now need help of their own. To feed, muck and clean the horses. To make sure they're well cared for, as the Dodge's try to take care of themselves.
"As long as Mike and I are here, as long as Mike's here they'll have a place here. When it's me on my own, I'm gonna have some tough decisions to make,” Chris said.
“You know, we haven't had a vacation... ever," said Mike.
And there's still no time for that. Not with so many animals in such need.
"We'll do what we can for as long as we can,” said Chris.