CHICHESTER -- Rising well before sunrise most mornings, Theresa Paradis spends her days mending broken hearts, both human and animal, at her Chichester farm sanctuary.
At Live and Let Live Farm, there's no telling what the day may bring for Paradis and her husband, Jerry, who founded their rescue farm on their 70-acre property in 1997.
On a recent Sunday, the only day of the week that Live and Let Live is open to the public, the farm's office - built by Jerry using lumber he'd harvested from the property decades earlier - was abuzz with activity. By early afternoon, about a dozen volunteers had arrived to assist with daily feedings and visitations.
A local horse owner who'd fallen onto hard times stopped by unexpectedly to inquire about surrendering her Warmblood cross horse, while a neighbor came to drop off a domestic rabbit she'd found huddled under a window. Soon after, a young couple dropped by to finalize the adoption of their newest family member, a goat named Violet.
Later, with an afternoon group tour in full swing, another couple arrived for a scheduled surrender of their two horses, Rocky and Bismark. The friendly pair of equines had been adopted by the couple through Live and Let Live about 10 years earlier. Sadly, the years hadn't proven kind to the horse owners; financial distress combined with a serious family illness forced them to return their two loyal friends to the farm.
Paradis said the farm never charges a surrender fee, but instead relies entirely on the "goodwill of human hearts and hands."
Helping the needy
A look at developments on the farm during the past year reveals many success stories, but also indicates trying economic times for many.
In 2013, a total of 137 horses arrived at Live and Let Live, with many of those animals subsequently placed in new, loving homes. As of last week, about 60 horses remained at the farm, including the most recent surrenders.
Additionally, the sanctuary last year rescued 21 pregnant dogs, who in turn gave birth to more than 120 puppies. In total, 176 dogs were rescued through the farm's Pennies for Puppies program.
Many of the animals sheltered at the farm in recent years came from people who lost their jobs, Paradis said. Others arrived because of an owner's chronic illness or death.
Less than three weeks into the new year, it looks like 2014 is going to be another busy one for Live and Let Live.
The farm currently has five pregnant dogs under the care of volunteer foster parents. Dog foster Becki Smith said it's not uncommon for her to have two or three expectant canine moms staying in her Nottingham home.
"How can you turn people or animals away when they're already hurting?" Smith said. "We don't turn anyone away here. Any animal that is healthy and save-able stays."
Longtime volunteer Linda Clark has been lavishing a group of motherless mustang foals with love and affection since their arrival in October. Paradis said the six foals, which have been given Navajo names in recognition of their Southwestern heritage, were abandoned in a New Mexico desert when they were just weeks old. The foals arrived in New Hampshire via the Wild For Life Foundation's Navajo Horses Rescue and Recovery Mission, which works to save young, wild horses that were orphaned after routine horse-slaughter roundups.
Riding instructor Abby Hayes is a matchmaker of sorts, introducing would-be horse owners to their most compatible four-legged comrades.
Hayes said her volunteer duties at the farm include teaching horses how to trust people - and teaching people how to trust horses.
"If you really take the time to listen to a horse, you can tell if he or she has been beaten," she said. "You can tell if they've been handled harshly in the past."
With its needs seemingly never-ending, Live and Let Live Farm is slowly expanding its space.
Jerry Paradis is building a 2,700-square-foot quarantine barn, which will be named in honor of longtime volunteer Brittany Searing, a Concord resident who died of complications from epilepsy at the age of 16 in August 2012.
Searing's presence lives on at the farm, where her mother, Debra Muse, remains an active volunteer. Theresa Paradis said the new barn would provide much-needed space for incoming animals with contagious illness, as well as for other animals in need of veterinary services and rehabilitation. Further down the road, the couple hopes to add office space and housing for exotic birds upstairs.
Efforts are underway to raise $65,000 in private funds for the building's completion, but raising money is a constant challenge.
Though Live and Let Live has a loyal army of volunteers to assist in its mission, most of the money the farm raises goes to daily necessities such as food and utilities. Paradis said the farm's electrical bill alone costs $2,500 per month. A tractor-trailer load of Canadian hay, at about $5,000, lasts just 3½ weeks. The grain bill averages another $3,000 per month.
Unlike most of the farm's residents, Crooked Bill, a Canada goose with a deformed beak, arrived at the farm of his own volition.
Knowing the creature couldn't fend for himself in the wild, Paradis welcomed him with open arms. Within days, the hapless bird was cozying up to Sassy and Winnie Mini, a pair of miniature horses rescued from a neglectful situation.
"Bill doesn't like it when the 'minis' are out of his sight," Paradis said. "He just adores them both."
For Concord resident Ginger Morse, volunteering at Live and Let Live allowed her to meet her four-legged soul mate Pogo, a spirited young pony with a troubled past.
Morse began working at the farm to fill the empty hours after the death of her husband.
"I was lost, much like some of the horses here," Morse said. "But then Pogo and I found each other."
For two weeks, Morse spent hours sitting with Pogo, often eating her lunch inside the animal's pen in the hope he would eventually realize some people are kind.
"Then one day, he came up and took a bite of my sandwich," Morse said with a grin. "We've been friends ever since."
For more information on Live and Let Live Farm, including volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, visit its website, www.liveandletlivefarm.org, or its Facebook page.