Homes on the range

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Photos by Al Key
Doggy Dude Ranch owners Mark Aller, left, Jon Scruggs and Tammy Smith pose with Trooper, center, and Sir Henry at the facility Friday in Aubrey.
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Doggie Dude Ranch gives pooches room to roam without cages

AUBREY — It is the place where Wags had her start.

Wags, a miniature dachshund, arrived at the Doggie Dude Ranch — a canine foster ranch — because no one wanted her.

Wags is now the ranch’s mascot and has a well-earned reputation.

“They [another facility] were about to euthanize Wags because she was born without a tail and she was only four and a half weeks old,” said Jon Scruggs, 52, co-owner of the ranch. “I put her story on craigslist, and it blew up. A nurse wanted to adopt her.”

Wags was adopted earlier this year and was the inspiration for a new business dedicated to pets that are in transition until they find their “forever home,” the owners said.

Scruggs said he began taking in dogs at his Celina home, and wanted to build the business there but could not do so because of deed restrictions.

“I had to go through the state because they said I could not be a nonprofit without being a rescue or a shelter, so I filled out the paperwork and they finally agreed,” Scruggs said.

On March 14, the Doggie Dude Ranch became a nonprofit with the mission to provide the very best cageless safe haven for pets.

What Scruggs is building, along with his sister, Tammy Smith, 48, and her husband, Mark Aller, 55, is what will become the first foster nonprofit ranch in the state, Scruggs said.

“I just want a place without cages,” Scruggs said. “We want a sanctuary where if you bring your pet — your family member — and all of a sudden you have to leave or there is something medical and you can’t keep the dog, you would have the option to bring it to us.”

In May, Scruggs found the Diamond H Ranch located off Fishtrap Road on the border between Prosper and Little Elm. The six-acre property was a great location to house the business, he said.

Smith said the building, owned by Dick and Pat Handly, once was a horse stable. It has two floors, and the second floor was the owners’ main residence. The owners had been there for 30 years but could no longer live there.

“My wife could no longer go upstairs,” Dick Handly said. “So we had to find a new location, and we did not want to sell the place.”

When Scruggs told him about his concept, the Handlys agreed to lease the building.

“When he told me what he wanted to do, it gave me goose bumps.” Handly said. “My wife and I love animals. I think the idea is outstanding.”

Scruggs has an ongoing lease with the Handlys.

Scruggs, Smith and Aller have been dividing duties.

“Jon finds the dogs — he drives everywhere to get them,” Aller said.

Smith handles the venue and rents it out to the public.

“We host fundraisers and use the money to rebuild the Diamond H Ranch,” she said.

The goal is to raise $10,000 this year for needed updates and new paint.

“We are going to raise money to put in a Western general store, but the back of it will be for the dogs, and it will be air-conditioned.” Smith said.

Scruggs said he is doing more than just helping the pets. He said people can rent the property for events, which helps them get a tax-deductible donation, and the funds will be used to help the ranch.

As people have been finding out about the facility and what the three are doing, many have volunteered to help. Local veterinarians contribute their time and assistance by providing immunizations for the pets. When dogs are taken to the ranch, the staff only charges for the immunizations.

When 14-year-old singer-songwriter Madi Davis found out about the project, she held a benefit concert for the ranch.

“I think the whole thing is just a beautiful idea,” she said. “There are dogs in shelters and in cages and that is inhumane.”

Her next volunteer activity is to write a song about Wags to provide the business with more exposure.

“I have not met Wags, but only heard her story,” she said.

Wendy Walker Davis, Madi’s mother, said she learned about the ranch from a neighbor and got interested in helping. She and her husband, Scott Davis, are supporting their daughter’s career and her volunteer efforts to help the ranch.

“It is great to have a purpose and to do something you enjoy,” Wendy Walker Davis said. “For Madi, that is singing, and it is more exciting for her when she is performing for a great cause.”

As Alder, Smith and Scruggs come up with ways to let others know of their foster ranch and raise funds, they also deal with daily maintenance.

Smith and Aller live on the second floor of the 3,000-square-foot building, which still needs a lot of repairs.

“It is totally a work in progress,” Smith said. “The upstairs is totally ripped up. We got builders donating their time, and we work on their schedules. We just got hot water last week. I thought it was Christmas, I was so happy.”

When visitors go to the Doggie Dude Ranch, they will be greeted by Trooper, the leader of the clan, who, like Wags, has his own rags-to-riches tale.

“He is Rotten Aussie. His mom was an Australian shepherd and his father was a Rottweiler,” Scruggs said. “I get a call, and Trooper has a broken leg, so that is a double-whammy — no one wants him. He was going to be taken to the pound and he was not going to make it.”

For two months, Scruggs gave Trooper physical therapy while singing “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John.

“I never put him up for adoption because he was my baby at that point. Trooper was two months old when I got him in March,” Scruggs said.

As a rule, the staff decided to only keep dogs less than two weeks for fear of getting attached. But at the time, Scruggs said, they had a Labrador retriever puppy and two blue heeler puppies, and Trooper did something so amazing that they decided to keep him.

“Lab puppies and blue heeler puppies fetch. They were two to three months old, and I kept on throwing tennis balls at them. The lab would not go get it, the blue heeler would not go get it, but Trooper looked at it,” Scruggs said. “He could barely walk and he also had his cone over his head so that he could not gnaw at his cast. He got up and he hobbled all the way to the tennis ball. He nipped at it and brought it all the way back. I thought he was such a trooper, which explains his name. He is our house dog and he takes care of the puppies.”

Smith said Trooper is so thoughtful that he goes to the equestrian center, located next door to the ranch, and brings her flowers each morning.

In addition to Trooper, visitors might also see Sir Henry, an eight-week-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Aubrey, an eight-week-old shepherd-beagle mix — Smith’s two dogs — during the business’ Yappie Hour, which is held from 4 to 7 p.m. each Friday.

“People can bring the dogs and have free margaritas and beer,” Smith said, “or they can hang out with our pets.”

Smith and her husband also own a cat.

“We have the cat upstairs,” Smith said. “Her name is Mikey, and she runs the place, but only upstairs.”


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