How the Hance Family Turned Their Home into an Animal Sanctuary

They moved from Fort Worth to a farm in Weatherford, Texas, for more space. They never imagined they would start rescuing animals.

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- Posted on Feb 22, 2018

The Hance Family

Natasha and Kirk Hance took a leap of faith in 2016 and moved their family from Fort Worth to a small farm in Weatherford, Texas. Natasha, a birth-and-newborn photographer, and Kirk, an locomotive engineer at General Electric, were just looking for room for their five children and four dogs to play and enjoy the outdoors. But soon their farm became something more, a place for the entire family and their love for all creatures to grow.

How did you two meet?
Natasha: We met when I was in middle school but became friends in high school. And now we’ve been married for more than 17 years.

Kirk: We have five kids, Kirklynn, 17, Austyn, 15, Korbin, 11, Kamryn, 9, and Ryan, 7.

What made you decide to move from the suburbs to the country?
Kirk:
The city grew up around us; it felt as if it swallowed us. The decision to move started out as a desire for more space for our family and our four rescue dogs. It quickly morphed into something else.

Natasha: We wanted our children to be able to raise animals and ride go-karts and just be kids. We were searching for houses and getting outbid, until we found this home. It was outdated and neglected, but when we walked outside to the 3,000-square-foot nine-stall barn, we fell in love.

Natasha, is it true that you weren’t always a big animal lover?
Natasha:
I was never really passionate about animals until my husband came home with a big chocolate Labrador retriever named Woody. Our friends were moving and couldn’t take her with them. At first I was mad that Kirk brought her home without asking me, but he said it was just a trial stay. I’d never liked big dogs, but by the end of the first day, she was sleeping in my bed!

She came into our lives shortly after I lost my hearing, and it was as if she knew I needed her. She would let me know when people arrived at our house and would come to “tell” me things. I fell in love with Woody, and I have deeply loved animals ever since.

How did your kids feel about moving to a farm?
Kirk:
The first month, the adjustment was hard. The kids left friends behind in a neighborhood we’d lived in for 14 years.

Natasha: It was a tough decision for us. The kids couldn’t see the big picture, like we could.

How did your farm family grow so quickly? Are all the animals rescues?
Natasha:
As soon as we were able to put up a fence on part of the pasture, we rescued two goats and saw how happy that made the kids. They were excited to see life in the barn. Within a few days we adopted two more goats—a mama and her baby from someone who couldn’t keep them. The baby goat needed a friend, so by the end of one week we had seven goats in our herd! Then, unexpectedly, on a trip to buy goat supplies, we ended up coming home with 17 chickens.

 

Kirk: Only one of the chickens is a rescue. She’s huge. She didn’t get along with the farmer’s wife.

 

Natasha: The kids really started to light up; their smiles were back and bigger than ever. It felt so good to see them loving their new farm life.

How did you end up rescuing a horse and a pony?
Natasha:
Our daughter Austyn was having the hardest time with the move. She kept mentioning getting horses, but we didn’t believe that would happen anytime soon.

Kirk: We happened to be looking online and found an auction website listing unwanted horses. Most had been mistreated. If they aren’t bought, they’re sent to Canada or Mexico, where they’re slaughtered for meat. I had no idea this was going on. Natasha found the mare, Cody, and the pony, Tobias, and for an hour and a half we talked about what we should do. We knew we had to save them.

What happened when they arrived?
Kirk:
They both started out very skittish. Tobias had a duck-and-cover stance when you got near him. You could tell he’d been abused. They had bad respiratory issues.

Natasha: Tobias had scars all over his body, fresh wounds, damaged hooves and a permanent eye injury.

Kirk: After a few days of doctoring, we let them venture into the pasture. Cody warmed up faster. Tobias still wouldn’t let me near him. So I got on my knees and just sat with him for a while. Finally he walked up and laid his head on my shoulder for several minutes. He was hugging me.

What was it like to witness that, Natasha?
Natasha:
We’d taken them some carrots and apples and were just hanging out when I looked over and noticed Tobias and my husband embracing. I quickly got my phone out. I was sure that Tobias would run off before I could record it, but he just stayed there. He had his eyes closed and a huge smile on his face and he just looked so relieved. He knew this was home and that he was safe. I was definitely holding back tears.

I had been worried about our little farm growing too fast with all these animals to provide for, but when I saw that moment and how incredibly thankful this pony was, I knew we had done the right thing and that it would all work out.

Did you have any idea that video would go viral?
Natasha:
I was shocked. I never dreamed it would go viral. I’m happy we were able to spread a little joy, and I hope it encourages more people to open their homes to animals in need.

What are your hopes for your farm’s future?
Kirk:
We’d like more animals. It seems as if there’s an overwhelming need and not enough people to help save them. After we get the main pasture fenced in, we’ll get pigs and cows. We’d love to rescue more horses and ponies, maybe a donkey, too.

Natasha: Maybe one day we’ll be able to run a true rescue and help find homes for animals. Being with the animals and caring for them feels like something I was supposed to do. It brings me joy and peace. I know God will show us the way.

What do you think farm life teaches your children?
Natasha:
We hope they learn what it means to care for others and to appreciate the love animals have to offer.

Kirk: It teaches them patience and responsibility. I’m hoping they also get a sense of pride and accomplishment. There needs to be more compassion for life. We’re all on this planet, and we’re all equals.

What’s your advice to people who want to adopt an animal?
Kirk:
Talk to others, get advice, understand what you’re doing. You’ve got to be willing to put in time and have patience. Do the research, and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Instead of breeding or buying, find a rescue organization.

What surprised you about farm life?
Natasha:
I was afraid that maybe the new would wear off and the kids would go back to TV and video games. Instead they happily choose to spend time with the animals and have become good caretakers. I was surprised at how natural it came to all of us. I find myself sitting outside some evenings, watching the animals and the kids and just breathing the fresh air, feeling content and so very blessed.

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Tags: Pets,Dogs
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