Tawnya Reber holds her 11-week-old kitten, Mishka, close to her chest.
“She’s my baby girl,” says Reber of one of the newest additions to her menagerie. Her macaw, Conan, squawks nearby, as several roosters strut around at her feet. Maggie May, a nearly blind boxer/bulldog mix greets the crew at the table, as does Peanut, the “therapy Chihuahua.”
Reber, 50, runs Giddyup Horse and Animal Rescue, a non-profit organization, out of her house in Liberty. Her love of animals started when she was young. Her mother would rescue stray dogs, and Reber remembers taking care of snakes and kittens. Happily, she grew out of her allergies to cats, given her profession now, she says with a laugh.
But she clearly recalls her first real “rescue.” When a cousin died, she took over the care of her dogs.
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Her road to this mission began after an accident at Ford. She rolled a truck, she had to have several surgeries, and had to go on disability.
That’s when her true passion for rescuing animals kicked in.
“That was my therapy and that’s what gets me up every day,” said Reber who raised two sons as a single mom.
Ten years after the accident, she has sheltered pigs, alpacas, cats, donkeys, horses, chickens, squirrels, hedgehogs, peacocks — and even skunks.
“I would take any animal if it needed help. I get calls every day,” she says.
Word has spread about Giddyup Rescue by people searching online for a place to bring animals that have been neglected, abused, or found wandering. She nurses them back to health and either finds a good home for them, or adopts them herself.
“It tears me apart to see any animal abused or neglected. Animals are so forgiving. I can rescue one that has been in a bad situation and it trusts and loves right away,” she said. “They have no voice; we are their voice.”
On a recent August week, she took in a sick dove, and her ninth peacock — found in a parking lot.
It takes quite a bit of funding to take care of all of Giddyup Horse Rescue’s creatures.
“It’s hard to guess (how much), because I never know what animals I’ll have,” she says, guessing that feeding cost is around $300 per month.
She has been fortunate enough to get hay donated in the winter months. Other expenses include trimming horse’s hooves every 10 weeks, vet costs for regular checkups, emergency visits, worming, shots, and flea medicine. To help cover everything, she accepts donations through her website. She is in the first stages of promoting the rescue, though, so she has yet to receive much funding. She helps offset the cost by selling crafts on Etsy and other items on Craigslist.
Reber is currently facing her highest hurdle yet: She needs to find a new home for herself and her animals. She says she is losing her rental because her landlords have plans to bulldoze her current house. It has been a challenge finding an affordable property to rent, as she needs acreage for her two horses and space for her other creatures.
“I just can’t imagine giving up my horse rescue,” she says. One of her horses, Shi Boy, was a roping horse, and is blind in one eye.
Reber has had to downsize her animal population drastically, in preparation for her move. She speaks fondly of her three alpacas, who were adopted out to three different homes.
“I miss them,” she says with a smile. “They would hum at me when I saw them.”
She also recalls her giant potbellied pig, who is now a a companion to another pig. Her donkeys and two other horses were also recently adopted by her friend, Malana Kimmel.
“I had the pleasure of adopting two donkeys and two horses from Tawnya,” Kimmel said. “She is very compassionate about animals and always tries to find the right homes for them.”
Some have suggested Reber stop taking in rescues alltogether to make the house search easier. To that, Reber simply says, “If God led me to rescue, it’s what I need to do.”
For more information on Giddyup Horse and Animal Rescue, visit facebook.com/giddyuprescue.