Rhonda Minardi was dropping her dog off at Camp Bow Wow in Austin in December 2019 when she saw a Christmas tree hung with paper requests asking for gifts for animals in the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. She took a few and noticed the gifts were for senior dogs.

The next week, doing the same errand, she noticed a few more left on the tree and decided to take them as well. They too were for senior dogs.

Minardi then said she went to the WCRAS website and noticed many of the dogs were older and therefore less likely to be adopted.

“I stood in my kitchen, and I said, ‘Well, I just need to buy some land and build them a home,’” Minardi said. “It was just that easy.”

Minardi bought land in Bertram and started the Living Grace Canine Ranch, a nonprofit, rescue sanctuary dedicated to caring for senior dogs who are deemed unadoptable due to age, medical condition or breed. It will also accept animals whose owners have fallen ill or died and have no one to care for their pet, Minardi said.

It is all with the purpose of providing a loving, stable home for the animals to live out the rest of their years, she added.

“We're going to enrich the rest of their lives,” Minardi said. “Nobody wants to die by themselves; nobody wants to be left behind.”

The first building will have 16-20 dog apartments, each with access to their own outdoor patio space. Dogs who come from the same family will be able to bunk together, Minardi said.

There will also be an intake room, a dog grooming station, and an indoor and outdoor play area, all staffed by a volunteer who will stay overnight in the staff quarters.

But the building is only one piece of the entire plan Minardi has for the 4.5-acre property, she said.

Additional expansions include a second set of animal apartments as well as a bridge over a waterway on the property that will lead to a garden where the animals will be buried after they die. All of this will be added once the money is raised.

“I had someone ask me, ‘Why didn't you wait until you have all the money?’ I said, ‘Because I would never have got it started,’” Minardi said. “I have to just do this in little bits and pieces.”

Minardi started the nonprofit in January and plans to hold a soft opening for the ranch Dec. 12, a year after she stumbled on the animal Christmas wishlist tree.

“I could not have done this myself,” Minardi said. “It’s bigger than me. It’s all Lord inspired.”

Living Grace Canine Ranch

723 W. University Ave., Ste. 110-142, Georgetown