The oldest animal here is a standard donkey named Phinneas who is 46 years old. He gets some special care but they all do. I saw one stall set up with a bed (a real mattress), toys, and a mirror for its equine inhabitant. I met Nick, a 36 year-old donkey with three teeth who had escaped from the Oklahoma City Dog Pound – which is a whole other story. The entire sanctuary is crammed with stories. Each animal could be a book in itself. It’s a remarkable organization.
Mary and her amazing staff know how each animal reacts with others and what makes them the most comfortable. And it takes an entire village to run this village. The Sanctuary at Red Bell Run has 25 staff members. Some of those are maintenance, some are primarily in the office, and most are out with the animals taking care of their needs. The animal to equine staff ratio is an impressive 8 to 1. During my visit I saw numerous animals being groomed, walked, talked to, petted. You can see the love in the eyes of each of the staff members and that love was being returned by the equines. Mary’s work starts most days by 5 AM every day of the week all year long. And even when bedtime finally comes, she knows there’s a good chance she might have to go out and check on one of her animals at anytime of the night.
Mary has always had a heart for animals of all kinds. In addition to all the equines, there are also dogs here and there including Phoebe, an 18-year-old Irish wolfhound rescue who serves as assistant farm manager. Phoebe was happy just to sleep on a sofa while Mary did the talking. Mary says her passion for people and animals emanated from her family. She grew up in a home where taking care of others was the most important lesson one could learn. Her dad, Wally Adams, started a foundation that gave to those kinds of causes. Much of the operating income from The Sanctuary at Red Bell Run comes from a division of this foundation but eventually the Sanctuary hopes to make opportunities for “sponsoring” an animal available as well as working toward receiving grants and other gifts. The Ark Watch Foundation of Los Altos, CA provides financial support for the animals it has placed in Mary’s care. Eventually she hopes there will be a formal volunteer program. The Sanctuary is already sponsoring various workshops and in the future plans to start a program in equine agility (kind of like dog agility) and offer “read-to-me” opportunities for local kids to come out to read to an equine that is all ears.
Many of these animals are on special diets, special medications, special physical therapy… they get what they need to make them as comfortable as possible. Even the layout of the barns and pastures is with their safety and comfort in mind. The sanctuary uses a “paddock paradise system” which enables equines to move and follow their instincts to travel while having the security of a barn, plenty of water, and food. I loved checking out Longears Manor, which is the group home for several of the donkeys. Every barn has its own special name.
Mary finished our visit by emphasizing, “We are here for the community and here for the animals. If someone has an equine issue or a problem, we’re here and happy to help. We’re not vets and don’t give veterinary advice but we can steer you in the right direction. We’re all in this together. There is a waiting list for placement at Red Bell Run, and they can only accept equines through other equine welfare organizations or law enforcement agencies.
The Sanctuary at Red Bell Run is a remarkable place and they’re making a difference.
More to know
Visitors are welcome and chances are Mary will give you the tour. You need to set up a visit in advance by contacting Sanctuary Manager, Amy Powell at 828/ 863-2017. More info about Mary Adams and the Sanctuary can be found on the website at: www.redbellrun.org.
Click on each photo for an enlarged view and caption.
This is Mariah, a spotted mammoth donkey rescued by the Ark Watch Foundation of Los Altos, CA and placed with Red Bell Run for permanent sanctuary. Mariah was largely untouchable when she arrived but has now become a staff favorite and is completely affectionate and loving. She suffers from some neurological deficits but other than that enjoys her life with Snowbelle and Winston. She wears a fly mask because like many white or spotted donkeys, her eyes are susceptible to cancer.
Is starting out retirement with this new endeavor - to bring you short snippets of life through photography, videography, and audio recordings of some of the wonderful people and places of the Carolina Foothills..