Adopted boy advocating for senior dog adoption with help of Central Texas canine ranch

A young boy is teaching us that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve had something, or someone, for your love to be deep.

Robbie Gay’s heart is so big, maybe because he knows what it’s like for it to be broken.

11-year-old Robbie was severely abused and neglected by his biological family, at times needing to be hospitalized.

From the time he was three, he was in six foster placements before being adopted at the age of seven back in Florida.

Robbie’s new family took in a senior dog named Buffy. He held Buffy through her last moments, even when it was uncomfortable. He didn’t want Buffy to be alone, wanting her heart to be full to the very end. 

Together, their family has brought in 10 senior dogs so far. Buffy may have had the strongest connection to Robbie, but it was another dog, Randall that changed what it meant to him to trust someone. 

His mom, Maria Gay, had found Randall in a ditch and nursed him back to health. The same type of care was needed for Robbie too. He was so traumatized he had trouble sitting still. 

"Kids heal, dogs heal and they heal each other," Maria said. "The one time during the day Robbie would stay still for a second was when he would sit next to Randall."

At first, Robbie was confused by his mom’s kindness to help Randall, after dealing with so much abuse. His mom remembers his curiosity. 

"So you mean you didn't pass him by?" he asked her. "You saved him?"

"I said yes," Maria said. 

Robbie would go on to ask about Randall’s story every day. His family refers to the older dogs as their "old people". Although Robbie is just 11 years old, he sees himself in the old people he knows exactly what it’s like not to feel wanted. 

"They want babies, cause they want to see their first words and all that stuff," Robbie said. 

Robbie has dreamed of a place where older dogs have their own sanctuary, a place where they’re appreciated no matter their age or what they’ve been through – a place that makes them feel what he’s felt with his new family.

Believe it or not – a place like this exists here in Central Texas.

Living Grace Canine Ranch in Bertram is home to 128 senior dogs. Some of them are blind and deaf, and others are on hospice, but one thing remains the same, once they come to the ranch they stay at the ranch.

Rhona Minardi is the founder and Director of Living Grace. Her story begins following her mother’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

"When the doctor gave her that diagnosis that she only had a few months to live she sat there very stoic and she looked at me and said ‘but who will take care of Lucy’?" Minardi said.

Sometime later, Minardi would take her own dog Blaze to daycare while she juggled three jobs. At the daycare, there was a giving tree. She realized the need was all for senior dogs and with her mother in mind, she felt called to take action. 

"I need to build a place for them to live out the rest of their lives," Minardi said,

There are over 100 dogs here— but none of them are puppies.

"Here at living grace, when we bring dogs into our life, we stay with them forever they can never escape, we try to keep them as safe as possible," Henry Kopp, the president of the Living Grace Canine Ranch Buckaroo program said. "Dogs have bad homes, bad parents, the dogs can come here to have good homes."

And that’s exactly what Robbie wanted — an underdog.

After hearing Robbie’s story, Minardi tracked down his parents and asked if she could fly them out to Texas. In early August he spent a few days working on the ranch. 

"This is his dream to do exactly what we're doing here, so what better could I do than to bring him here to the ranch and show him he's not the only one who has this compassion but he has inspired so many more," Minardi said.\

For an 11-year-old, Robbie knows a lot about love. 

"It's not what you did do or what you're gonna do it's about what you're doing right now," Robbie said.

Robbie will change the lives of so many, dogs and humans alike because his parents took a chance on him.