Just west of Springtown sits an animal rescue that is unlike most.
Instead of everyday house pets like cats and dogs, or very specific exotic animals, Sycamore Tree Ranch takes in any animal that comes their way – but especially farm animals.
Founders Koby and Chad Wegge are currently caring for 27 goats, 14 horses, seven donkeys, seven dogs, two pigs, a handful of peacocks, chickens, ducks, farm cats, two cows, and a mule – all rescues.
The couple met in Las Vegas while Koby, originally from Canada, was working as a translator at a church and Chad, an Arizona native, was employed at a nearby Air Force base.
After getting married, the couple realized they wanted to raise their kids in a different environment.
That’s when they discovered Springtown.
“We fell in love with the area,” Koby said.
So, even before securing property, the couple packed up the animals they’d rescued and drove them south in the summer of 2016.
As the couple would stop to give the animals breaks, their traveling companions attracted quite a bit of attention.
After all, it’s not every day you see goats, miniature pigs, chickens, ducks, and dogs – also all rescued animals – traveling the highways in a trailer.
“People would pull over and check it out – it looked like a traveling zoo,” Koby joked.
First Texas rescue
The couple, after relocating, began discussing the idea of having a rescue, but said that it was a long-term goal, something to begin when their two children – a 20-month-old daughter and an eight-month-old son – were older.
But the delay wasn’t to be.
“It was accelerated within six months of living here; there was such a need,” Koby said.
“We realized when we moved out here that there is huge gap for horses and donkeys and farm animals – there’s not a lot of rescues that deal with that.”
She and Chad set out to rescue a donkey to serve as a guard for their goats.
Rather than acquiring one from a breeder, they chose to save one from an auction kill pen. Instead they came home with four.
“It was all our little rental trailer would hold,” Koby explained, adding they likely would have rescued more had they had the means to transport them.
Kill pens and kill buyers
Koby said that many people aren’t aware of the reality of auctions – even the original owners of the animals.
“People bring their horses or ponies to auction thinking they’ll find a good family, and kill buyers buy them,” Koby said.
“There are kill buyers who go to auction and buy up a whole bunch of horses that are going to be shipped to Mexico or Canada and be slaughtered for meat.
“Donkeys are slaughtered for their hides. Donkeys are being slaughtered right now in such high numbers that they’re at risk for extinction,” she added.
“We have 11 mini horses that were bought from kill pens. The auction is not a good place to sell equine.”
Many of the couple’s current animals – including their 11 miniature horses – are those they saved from the kill pen and slaughterhouse.
“Those ones definitely have our hearts – the ones that are unwanted.
“We have a lot of the ‘one-eyed’ or ‘too old’ or ‘lame and can’t be ridden’ – those are the ones that have our attention.
“There are a lot in the kill pens, but sometimes you have to just focus on that one, and save that one,” Koby said.
The couple currently plans two expansions of Sycamore Tree Ranch – one at their current location, and a second that will require them to relocated to large property.
One thing is certain: they plan to stay close by.
“We love this area; we have a heart for this community, and we think this is where we do the most good,” Koby said.
The first, an expansion of the ranch to begin providing therapy services to those who need it, is a short term goal and one they can facilitate on their current land.
The second – their long-term goal – is to provide transitional housing for veterans who need help adjusting after returning home from deployments.
“For those just trying to transition back into their families and their kids, it can be hard to just go sit in a cubicle and work a 9-5 job and jump back into a family that has been existing without them there,” Koby said.
Their hope is to offer free-of-charge housing where a veteran and their family can come and receive not just therapy but participate in family activities.
“Almost like a vacation, but they’re working and they’re achieving something at the same time.
“We want it to be a place where they get to make memories again and reconnect and hopefully go through healing if there is trauma,” she added.
The meaning of Sycamore
As the rescue developed, the couple chose a name that conveys their hopes for both and animals and people.
“We wanted a place where people could get outside of their circumstances and get a different perspective on their life.
“We found that animals offer a unique way to connect to your pain – especially an animal who has been through similar backgrounds,” Koby said.
And for the Wegges, there was a Biblical passage that embodied that desire:
“We read the story in the Bible about Zacchaeus who had to climb a tree to get a different view, and we thought it was so powerful about having to change your view in order to receive your healing.”
How to help
Sycamore Tree Ranch is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
For more information about the rescue, their goals, or to donate, visit their website www.sycamoretreeranch.org.
BY CHRISTINA DERR
Koby and Chad Wegge founded Sycamore Tree Ranch – an all-animal rescue – shortly after they moved to the Springtown area in the summer of 2016. The couple hopes to expand their rescue into a therapeutic center and eventually a transitional housing for veterans.
Photo by Christina Derr