Broken Crayons: A Second Chance for Animals and People in Tombstone
These days, you're more likely to find Dr. DeLuca, or Lilla (pronounced, lay-uh), sporting cowboy boots and jeans - much more appropriate attire for feeding the residents of the Broken Crayons Ranch near Tombstone. "Yeah, Monolo Blanicks don't hold up very well when you're mucking stables," she jokes.
Broken Crayons Animal Sanctuary
Broken Crayons Animal Sanctuary is a nonprofit founded to take in sick, abused and neglected animals. A few of the horses, goats, pigs, and sundry others, stay long enough to be rehabbed and then adopted out, but most live out their lives in peace on the ranch. Their medical needs are assessed, and help is rendered whenever possible.
Broken Crayons Ranch provides help and rehabilitation far beyond horses, pigs, goats and dogs. They also work with women, children and veterans dealing with PTSD. Basically, individuals working out issues that go beyond regular therapies. "Somehow," Lilla says, "the animals are able to reach people in ways we can't explain. They often pick up where traditional therapy leaves off."
Meet The Broken Crayons
Billy Butcherson, a wily pot belly pig, managed to escape on his way to market, running around town evading police for months while they tried to round him up. When he was finally "brought to justice", he was sent to live at the ranch.
A miniature horse called LaLa, was pulled from a pen bound for a stockyard in Texas. Her hooves were in terrible shape, but with hard work, medical care, and rehabilitation, she's stable and doing much better at the ranch.
Many of the equine residents have found a second calling. The "bombproof" horses - as Lilla describes the solid, unshakeable members of her team - love to work with children and adults as therapy animals. Desperado, one of her stars, had been part of a riding show, so he learned how to "smile" on cue.
Lilla used Desperado's unique ability to teach an autistic boy the necessary social cues for smiling. Many adults had tried to help, but to no avail. Desperado was fun and unintimidating - and the boy learned in no time! He even learned Desperado's "cue" to smile, as well!
Bringing Voice to a Child in Need
The story of Buckshot is my favorite. A child who'd been through a terrible experience had become nonverbal. Many therapists had worked with the child over the course of almost four years, but still, the child couldn't speak. Lilla decided to try one more idea.
Buckshot is not only one of those rock-steady, bombproof horses. He's also a hugger. The kind of horse who follows you through the stable looking for affection. He would be perfectly content to be a "lap horse", if that were possible.
Lilla set Buckshot in the middle of the pen, and then gently brought the little one to stand next to the equine. Buckshot leaned in and wrapped his head gently around the child's neck. They stood that way, no one moving, for 45 minutes. The human practitioners stood by holding space, as the minutes ticked by. Finally, the child moved away from Buckshot.
"He hugged me." The words hung in the air, landing like a miracle.
The words were simple, yet profound. The first words spoken in nearly four years, and they said everything.
For more information, visit the Broken Crayons Animal Sanctuary at 1561 N Bent Barrel Trail in Tombstone, or call (520) 457-8043.
Special thanks to Dr. Lilla DeLuca for the interview and photographs. Some names details have been changed for privacy.