A Rescue Program – Saving Calves & Kids

Guest Blogger
Clinton Dorny
Executive Director
Discovery Ranch for Boys

Having worked in the helping profession for over 15 years now, I am constantly amazed at the value of Experiential Therapy and the use of animals in the healing process. The students who come to us at The Ranch, struggle in life due to early childhood trauma of some sort. They often fight the good fight against anxiety, depression and other mental health or developmental concerns.

The use of animals in the therapeutic process has been a part of what we do at Discovery Ranch
since its inception. I have always tried to share the value, respect and care we place on the animals in our care. They are just as much a part of the “treatment team” as our clinicians.

For this reason, I’d like to share some details about the integration of animals into the therapeutic process. It has come to my attention that there is a misperception or misunderstanding about what we do with our calf program. 

Please allow me to educate you on what the normal process is for the bulls at dairies and how we save and adopt them.

When bulls are born at dairies they are normally discarded, in other words…bopped on the head and killed at birth.  Dairies see them as a waste product and don’t want to waste their mother’s milk feeding them.  However, they keep and raise the females to garner a return on their milk production.
Dairy cows need to have a calf every year in order to keep their milk supply going.  So, dairies are constantly in the process of increasing their herd.  We purchase the day old bull calves from the dairies and raise them until they are 5-6 months old. Our students are the ones responsible for raising them. They feed them each day, clean their hutches and care for them medically. The calves are then sold to local farmers and ranchers. We’ve had some students, along with their families, adopt their calf and place it in an animal sanctuary.

We have found that the calf program is highly therapeutic for all of our students, especially those who have adoption issues (not reactive attachment). This therapeutic initiative provides opportunity for the students to experience the principles of service and sacrifice.  Therapy is very egocentric in nature and this gives a child the chance to care for something else and become the surrogate parent and caretaker. There have been therapeutic breakthroughs with the students too numerous to mention as they work with their calves.

Something of note is that bulls go through the maturation process in a short period of time.  They go from dependence to independence to interdependence in a period of a few months.  Our students get to be part of that process and experience those transitions and relationships in a very natural way, but do so from a parental perspective. It allows the students to gain some insight and perspective of what their parents have been going through with them. It is so powerful and real!

While the hard costs (over $600,000 since we opened) of the Calf Rescue Program is a substantial expense, the clinical value and investment is priceless.

Thank you for taking the time to educate yourself about this innovative and progressive therapeutic endeavor. You can learn more on our website at www.discoveryranch.net


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