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by Tumbleweed Smith

When Melanie Gambrell was growing up in a small town in Iowa, she spent a lot of time on her aunt and uncle’s pig farm. She’d sing to the pigs and feed them apples. Her uncle raised ducks and she would get in rotten duck egg fights with neighbor kids.

“When those rotten duck eggs hit you, they explode all over you,” says Melanie. “I had to ride in the back of the pickup a lot because I stunk.” She used to pick up garter snakes and put them in her pocket.

“My mother never could figure out how those snakes kept getting in the house,” says Melanie, who now has as many animals as some small zoos. “People just drop them off or they call me to take care of them.”

Growing up in town, she never had all the pets she wanted. Now she does. Her place east of Big Spring is a menagerie.

“I have a pet steer named Spot that lived in the house with us for three months. I have a llama named Brock. We’ve got two barbado sheep named Barbie and Doe, I have a fainting goat, a meat goat, two horses, rabbits, birds, seven of my own dogs, six of my own cats, two bobcat kittens, a possum, some chickens and roosters and a husband.”

She has made a business of taking care of animals. She grooms and boards them, trains them, uses them as therapy for people in nursing homes, teaches people how to be better pet owners through her weekly radio program (Pet Talk) and puts some orphaned animals up for adoption.

“I’m pretty particular about who gets my animals,” she says. “I want to make sure they get good homes. When they do, I get a real satisfied feeling.”

Her business is called All Creatures Sanctuary and Rescue. She is licensed to examine animals to see if they’ve been abused. People bring her injured wild animals and she helps them get better so they can return to the wild. By the way, she says you shouldn’t put feed out for stray cats.

“It’ll bring colonies of feral cats, skunks and raccoons and becomes a breeding ground and a place for disease.”

Melanie got a new dog the other day and named him Bob Barker. She did have a pet mule deer that rode in her car.

“We raised her from a baby. When she was about a year old she started visiting the neighbors, which were a mile away. They would call and tell me that Big Girl was on their place. I’d drive over there and she would come to the car, get in and we would drive off.”

Her pet steer Spot slept on a comforter in her house and had his own blanket.

“Have you ever bought Depends for a steer? That’s no bull.”

more articles by Tumbleweed Smith

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