POLAND, Ind. (WTHI) – Nature paints a simple picture on a farm in Owen County, but behind the scenes there is always work to be done.
“It’s normally about an 18 hour day,” said Joyce Deckard.
For Deckard, those days begin with the sounds of her many alarms, which come with several sets of paws.
“I usually get up anywhere between 1:30, 3 o’clock in the morning,” she said, “However long the dogs will let me sleep.”
The dogs are more than just animals, they are family.
“They’re all my kids, and they stay my kids, even after they’ve been adopted,” she said.
Deckard lives on the farm and while it is her home, her job is to help hundreds of dogs find theirs. Her home is also a canine-specific shelter, Our Lil Bit of Heaven Animal Rescue and Sanctuary.
“I’m constantly told you can’t save them all,” she said, “Well no, I can’t, but I’m sure giving it the best I can.”
But to understand why Deckard dedicates countless hours to the hundreds of dogs in her shelter, you have to hear her story. At one point, she faced a dark time in her life.
“I was Agoraphobic,” she said, ” I ended up Agoraphobic due to a divorce and lived in town and did not have a fenced in yard. So my sister brought me these two dogs because she knew I would have to go out and walk them, which was not easy to do.”
That’s because Deckard was battling anxiety, often times, being out in public was hard to do. However, her chance to be rescued would come in the form of two dogs from her sister.
“You had this Joe Cocker who was a hot mess, and I was a hot mess at that time, so that was instant bonding,” she said, “and then you had this Collie who was so happy, life is great, yeah come on let’s do this, let’s walk, give me a treat, let’s go…. and it worked.”
For the last 26 years, she’s been returning the favor. The rescue is not only a token of gratitude to the dogs who saved her life, but it’s also something she’s made into a full-time job.
“I did 25 years at Anthem,” she said, “You just get enough of corporate world and people, you know, and dealing with that. Oh gosh, I was never so happy to walk out of that building and know this is what I’m going to do.”
While running the rescue is a job she loves, it’s one that doesn’t come easy. Deckard says the rescue relies solely on donations, grants and generosity. Operating with a very small staff, Deckard says it’s just her and her husband that handle it all.
“It’s a wing and a prayer, it’s a constant prayer,” she said, “Pretty much he and I never leave. One of us is always here. He always used to tell people we haven’t been out to dinner together in ten years, so… We don’t.”
Through it all, Deckard says it’s been a lot of long days, sleepless nights and little time to spare, but to her it’s all just a small price to pay in her mission to say thank you.
“For choosing this? No, I could not imagine my life any other way,” she said, “It may not look like it, but it is, it’s our Our Lil Bit of Heaven, but this isn’t only their sanctuary… It’s also ours.”
Our Lil Bit of Heaven is in great need of fosters, volunteers and donations. If you’re interested in helping out or becoming a foster, visit their Facebook page or website. You can also e-mail the rescue at firstname.lastname@example.org.