Dog at Home

Challenge Cecil is a Utica-based rescue that takes in and rehomes canine

Lorna Good and Tom Denton will always remember the evening in 2019 once they determined to drive to Mount Vernon from their Utica-area residence for ice cream.

They might have gone to Newark — it was nearer, in spite of everything. However that night, for some untold purpose, they pulled the truck onto the nation street headed north.

On the best way again, as darkness was starting to fall, the couple noticed six pairs of eyes off the aspect of the street, staring expectantly at them.

They slowed their truck and barely had time to measurement up the mom labrador and two pups earlier than all three jumped in.

The canine have been severely malnourished, crawling with bugs and reeked of urine; the vet the place the couple later took them for an examination theorized they’d very not too long ago been dropped off by the aspect of the street and left for useless.

However that wasn’t going to occur on Lorna & Tom’s watch, and the three canine — Bonnie, Dobby and Shadow — grew to become the primary of lots of to come back via the rescue that has now turn into referred to as the Challenge Cecil Rescue Ranch.

Tom Denton, left, and Lorna Good are the founders of Project Cecil. At the Project Cecil Rescue Ranch in Utica, they have saved hundreds of dogs in addition to farm animals.

Lorna and Tom know they’ll’t save each animal, however they’re decided to do their half.

“We will not change the world, however we are able to change what’s domestically proper right here in entrance of us,” Lorna mentioned. 

The couple have at all times been obsessed with animals. Tom, previously a meat cutter for Kroger, left that career after greater than 30 years to turn into a union consultant. He ultimately gave up consuming meat altogether after spending a lot time round cattle and growing bonds with them. 

His work with the canine and different animals on the Challenge Cecil property have led to a way of success Tom mentioned he was lacking earlier than.

“Now it is like I am actually doing one thing, as a result of I am serving to canine. And you do not understand how massive an issue is till you get entangled in it,” Tom mentioned. “And it’s miserable as a result of you possibly can’t assist all of them.”

Tom Denton, of the Project Cecil Rescue Ranch near Utica, stands new a few cows the ranch has saved. It also has rescued hundreds of dogs.

Lorna, an elementary college instructor in Whitehall, was the one who got here up with the title for the rescue, collectively together with her fifth grade college students. It’s rooted in a 2015 information occasion — the killing of an African lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe by an American trophy hunter. The occasion sparked outrage throughout the globe, together with in Lorna’s classroom, the place she and her college students spent weeks discussing what they may do to assist in the scenario.

They wrote letters to the President, attended marches and hosted loads of dialogues seeking solutions to the query “What can we do?”

And someplace alongside the road, Challenge Cecil: Save 1 For Me was born.

It started as a approach to elevate cash for conservation — promoting T-shirts, for instance, and donating the cash to organizations resembling Born Free USA, a nationwide animal advocacy nonprofit. 

These efforts continued for years, and nonetheless do. However in 2019, Lorna and Tom realized they wished to do extra.

Their hearts have been drawn particularly to canine, as they grew to become more and more conscious of the variety of uncared for and deserted pups within the space.

“There’s an entire lot of canine which can be in want, and we might in all probability have extra capability to assist them right here domestically than we’re capable of assist distant,” Lorna reasoned on the time.

The Project Cecil Rescue Ranch near Utica has rescued hundreds of dogs.

So that they set to work, securing their 501 (c)(3) standing and planning for what the following steps can be — which is once they occurred upon the three labradors on the best way to Mount Vernon.

And, in the event that they’d had doubts about whether or not a canine rescue was one thing they need to pursue, that was the evening their plans have been affirmed.

“That was the nudge we wanted to go, ‘Yep, we’re doing the precise factor,’” she mentioned.

One kennel, numerous yards of fencing, a shed-sized “canine home” (full with actual furnishings) and lots of adventures later, the couple has rehomed greater than 500 canine ad infinitum. They’ve additionally welcomed cows, horses and pigs to their five-acre property on Johnstown-Utica Street, and the result’s an upbeat cacophony that retains them on their toes — however they wouldn’t have it another approach.

Whereas the couple has skilled heartache on this line of labor, the sense of success they get when a pup finds its “furever residence” is grand as compared.

In late October, the couple obtained a shock whereas they have been out of city: An area heater had brought on {an electrical} fireplace to interrupt out within the kennel, the place 10 canine have been being housed.

Grayson Good, 16, is shown with a pony who resides at the Project Cecil Rescue Ranch. Grayson recently saved several dogs from a fire that broke out in the kennel.

Good’s 16-year-old son, Grayson, acted shortly to place the fireplace out and make sure the canine’ security; by the point the fireplace division arrived, the flames had been doused and all of the canine had been moved away from the broken kennel.

Grayson, a Utica Excessive College scholar, is humble about his function within the incident; Tom and Lorna, nevertheless, admit if he hadn’t been there, the end result might have been tragic.

“His fast considering is what saved these canine,” Tom mentioned.

Dealing with the price of repairs to the broken kennel in addition to mounting veterinary payments for a gaggle of sick pups, the monetary burden of sustaining the enterprise can really feel insurmountable at instances, Lorna mentioned — however the household is dedicated to caring for as many pups as doable and stay grateful for the help their assets enable them to supply.

Sometimes, Lorna’s previous college students will cease by to go to with the canine and cattle, and on these joyful reunions, Lorna and Tom are reminded of why they bought into this enterprise:

“For me, it comes full circle once I see my college students come out to the rescue and the enjoyment that they get from seeing these animals,” she mentioned. “And the identical from the animals — what they get from the youngsters.”

For extra details about Challenge Cecil, go to

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