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The canyon animals are safe here; the sofas, not so much

The canyon animals are safe here; the sofas, not so much
A lamb stands next to an older golden retriever at the Modjeska Ranch Rescue. A fundraiser to help the program, which is run out of the home of Nor and Greg Killingsworth, will take place Sept. 22. (Photo by Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Russell Taylor says turning his home into the Modjeska Ranch Rescue was his wife’s idea.

She’s not so much a bleeding heart, he says, as she is a problem solver. And he offers a for instance.

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One day Teresa called Russell and told him that she just found out that 10 animals were in need of help and she wanted to give him the heads-up that she was going to be bringing them home that night.

OK, Russel said, what kind of animals?

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Thoroughbred horses, she replied.

You have to be joking, Russell said.

Nope.

When Russell pulled into the driveway that night, sure enough there were 10 horses standing there.

“If you haven’t bought horses recently, that’s not cheap,” Russell says.

And this is the point of this story. He and his wife (a.k.a The Modjeska Ranch Rescue) have taken in thousands of animals in the last 17 years. And it’s not cheap.

To help out, canyon couple Greg and Nor Killingsworth are throwing a little art and wine party Sept. 22 at their enchanting Silverado home, where iron dinosaur sculptures roam the yard. The Killingsworths, by the way, have made headlines of their own. Their express cruiser Paradise Found is an eight-time winner of the Newport Beach Boat Parade.

Animal rescue co-founder Russell Taylor gathers with a few of his canine friends, including Cooper, a great Dane, and Pixie, a French bulldog, at the Modjeska Ranch Rescue.
Animal rescue co-founder Russell Taylor gathers with a few of his canine friends, including Cooper, a great Dane, and Pixie, a French bulldog, at the Modjeska Ranch Rescue. (Photo by Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

This is the seventh year the couple will be throwing a party for the rescue. Twenty-nine Orange County artists will be there, selling their art, but also mingling. Greg hand-picked 120 bottles of wine for tasting. He also found a jazz guitarist and an electric cellist to play throughout the afternoon.

Pixie, a French bulldog, pauses after a walk at the Modjeska Ranch Rescue.
Pixie, a French bulldog, pauses after a walk at the Modjeska Ranch Rescue. (Photo by Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“The atmosphere is brilliant,” Greg says.

But back to the animals, because they are the point of the party. Many of their stories are heartbreaking.

A Dalmatian puppy whose owner threw him out of a second story Coto de Caza window because he peed on the bedroom carpet.

A dog found hanging from a fence on a freeway exit, strung up by his leg for so long the limb was dead and had to be amputated.

A cat whose ears were cut off with pinking sheers in a gang-initiation ceremony.

Sometimes the animals arrive with no story; they just appear on the doorstep. Even the canyon police bring by strays they find.

The couple keeps a cage in their driveway so that if someone wants leave an animal in the dark of night they can just pop it in there. One morning they walked out their door to find a huge pig.

“We had eight pigs at one point,” Russell says.

The couple goes through about 400 pounds of dog food a week. And another four pounds of chicken breast that they cook and mix with rice for pets that are seniors or are sick.

“We’ve got a very, very old French bulldog, Mooshoo, with no teeth; so he gets baby food,” says Russell. “We’ve morphed into being 75% hospice.”

There are 28 animals living at the ranch right now that will likely stay there until they die. Because not many people are chomping at the bit for a toothless old bulldog. (No offense, Mooshoo).

Keep in mind that “the ranch” is the couple’s home. They bought the 4-acre property in 1999 after their three daughters grew up. They took in their first dog in 2001.

The animals have the run of the place.

Recently the owners of a Coto de Caza house that sold for $3.2 million didn’t want to take their furniture with them, so they donated it to the rescue. Russell and Greg picked up half a dozen designer sofas and Persian rugs and hauled them in a truck back to the ranch.

It’ll all be gone by Thanksgiving. A couch lasts about three months in their house.

“Big dogs tear things to pieces,” Russell says. “If they’re bored … well, here’s the arm of a sofa to chew on. Sometimes I come down in the morning and it’s like I’m looking out of an airplane window at clouds. It’s just foam everywhere.”

Basically, anything made of cloth is chronically in short supply.

“Sometimes I come out of the shower and I don’t have a towel,” Russell says.

The doors to their house, by the way, remain open throughout the day so the animals can go in and out as they please. When the couple climbs into bed at the end of the day, four of five dogs climb in with them. Teresa usually picks the neediest.

“One time we had a couple of Great Danes in bed with us,” Rusty says.

They also have a lamb named Bruce in the house right now that they’re bottle feeding. And five goats. And two mini horses.

Did they mention they also have jobs?

Rusty (who grew up in Liverpool and still has a bit of an accent) is a Realtor. He actually quit an international franchising gig to get his real estate license so he would have a more flexible job for the animals.

Teresa is a vet tech in Rancho Santa Margarita. She gets up at 4:30 a.m. to make sure all of her charges are fed before heading off to work with, yep, more animals.

Lori Basheda is a contributor to Times Community News.

If You Go

What: Seventh annual Modjeska Ranch Rescue Art and Wine Fundraiser

When: 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 22

Where: 29022 Kommers Lane, Silverado

Tickets: $25 (includes wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres ). Kids are free.

Parking: Guests will park at the intersection of Santiago Canyon and Modjeska Canyon roads and shuttles will take them to the party.

Information: call Nor Killingsworth at (949) 394-0299 or Greg Killingsworth at (310) 995-0976.

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