Amazing Advocacy for Animal Welfare
Arriving on a 30-acre working farm in Ridgeland, framed by towering pines and moss-laden live oaks, my animal immersion experience began. Chelsey Lancaster, the business manager at Dog Gone Sensational, greeted me with an exuberant smile and a persona bursting with energy. “Let’s get started,” she beamed. I asked if I could use the potty and Chelsey pointed to a space off the main office. “Sure, you’ll be sharing the room with our recently rescued baby squirrel.” After a fun stare-off with the little guy, Chelsey pointed out they were working on finding homes for several dogs, two ponies and a duck. Janet Rahn, co-owner of DGS and Chelsey’s mom, drove up in her golf cart athletically balancing her cup of coffee.
We drove off to tour the farm and the stunning natural landscape. In a few short minutes, I could sense Janet’s deep love of animals, devotion to her family and complete comfort with herself. Her storytelling style and philosophical insight was animated, yet simultaneously calming. Janet’s connection to animals goes back to when she was two and started begging her father for a pony. She got that pony at age six. Her fascination with animals grew exponentially. At age 7, she stood over her dad one morning while he was sleeping, hanging from each index finger was a baby opossum. As he opened his eyes, she said, “Can I keep them?” Through her childhood, Janet found and cared for otters, foxes, a bobcat and a baby deer. She knew her destiny. Janet opened her first dog care business, called Pet Paradise on Hilton Head Island in 1981. There, she honed her skills, developing expertise in treating dog aggression and teaching agility.
Reflecting on where she stands today, Janet narrowed it down to two things: Every dog is almost magically attracted to her and wanderlust (a desire to travel). Dogs find Janet whether she is on a beach, walking down a country road, or through the streets of a bustling city. Her greatest satisfaction comes from working with aggressive dogs. She’s never met a dog that couldn’t be loved. The key has been to recognize the trigger points of aggression. Her skills and success rate with these challenges have connected Janet with influential dog lovers throughout the world. Janet is now one of the top conformation dog show professionals in the country. Her travels, somewhat gypsy-like, have opened up opportunities in all corners of the earth. When she sees a dirt road there is a desire to explore that trek. Janet is drawn to areas of the beaten path that could lead to exciting learning moments. She forged down one of those isolated roads in Costa Rica, met a feisty Doberman, formed a kinship with a passionate wildlife advocate, leading to awesome experiences in sloth rescues. Other highlights include traveling through South America as a Purina trainer, conducting promotional events, training dogs to herd sheep, breeding and showing Spanish Water Dogs, doing a stupid pet trick on the David Letterman show and photographing snakes for major magazines.
We toured the farm in a golf cart. The design of the complex and diversity of animals blended beautifully into coordinated chaos, warmth and love. Montana, a 30-year-old horse, a delightful auburn-colored cow, chickens, pigs, sheep, ducks, roof roosting peacocks and several dogs all live on the estate. Shifting gears, we took the golf cart through the natural section of the property. Janet loves this area because it is where nature flourishes without the burdens of human influence. This treasured piece of land borders Bee’s Creek. Several trees were down because of Hurricane Matthew’s visit. Janet shared her insight and understanding of the natural world. “A blowdown from a hurricane is a struggle for human order, however a blessing for animals. Fallen and dead trees create new homes for wildlife and open up opportunities for fresh plant growth. For example, wood peckers need dying trees in order to thrive. Every species of wood pecker in South Carolina can be found on Janet’s land. As we walked and chatted, Janet thoughtfully expressed how this undisturbed plot was a source of peace for her. She talked about the importance of learning every day. It was this type of environment where people, particularly children, could learn, grow and prepare themselves for the future. She has directed this belief in the education of her daughter, Chelsey and her grandchildren.
The grandkids are homeschooled. Each lesson frames the necessity to use every part of an animal with a purpose. Also, the message is to, “Be prepared” and “Give back to nature.” Janet’s schedule is hectic but she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t got time for worries and the goofy drama that so many people allow themselves to be consumed by. “What you see is what you get with me. I’ll be straightforward with you on any topic.” This processing allows Janet to accomplish so much every single day. “I never stop learning.” Despite being pulled in many directions, Janet finds time to give back to the community. She and her daughter are always helping find homes for animals. Janet donates her time to support Noah’s Arks Rescue, working with aggressive dogs so they can be safely placed with loving families.
As our tour came to an end, we sat in the golf cart while Janet shared her thoughts about living a fulfilling life. “I don’t worry about the future. I want to immerse myself in the present. I can’t imagine a day without animals. I can’t imagine a day without enjoying life. Each day is a precious day.”