"Exotic animals aren't like cats or dogs that almost anyone can care for," she said. "They are
cute babies that grow up to become an enormous responsibility. Laws regulating exotic animal trade vary state-by-state. But legality doesn't make ownership right." The Campfs' big caring family would soon include dozens of animals plus 4 children from around the world.
Dreams of camels had been dancing in Rob's head for years. But, a camel needs space, so when Rob found his camel, he wanted it to have a proper home. It took some doing, but he finally convinced Karrin that they should leave their recently remodeled home and purchased 26 acres
of virtual swampland, ground that would require a lot of work to turn into a farm for animals.
With the help of the little blue tractor he already owned, Rob drained the swamp and converted it into farmland, built roads, fences, bridges, and sheds – all in his spare time.
Arthur's new home, Forever Safe Farm, today is a haven for over 100 rescued animals of amazing diversity. All of them have a story that explains why they are here… Some are sad stories, others challenging, and some even loving stories. But for every one of them, this is where they will live out the remainder of their lives, the Campfs promise that.
When he was 13, Rob, who was born with a severe hearing impairment, began rescuing Great Danes. Later, he took in mistreated pit bulls and helped find caring homes for them. And in
Karrin he found a kindred spirit. "We like the rejects and downtrodden, both of us. That's what we gravitate to," Karrin says.
There is Hoover, an abandoned mini potbellied pig that scoops up Cheerios like a vacuum. As Karrin plucks him from her garden, he squeals like a drama queen, sending everyone else into gales of laughter. He's a favorite, and Karrin typically takes him to work.
Forever Safe Farm is home to a parrot, macaws, wallabies and Coatimundis. Marie, an elk,
shares a thicket with Rudy, a three legged white tailed deer, both rescued from a hunting farm.
Owners didn't want Andre the giant because the draft horse had two different colored eyes. Jenny, a Christos donkey, was no longer a useful farm tool.
Bosco, their three legged dog, bounds to officially greet visitors to Forever Safe Farm while
Chloe, the miniature dachshund, motors around on two wheels that substitute for back legs.
Seven pit bulls occupy quarters near the house. One, Chino, made his way to the farm with a severe stomach ailment and since that time, he and Rob have become inseparable. "Chino
sleeps with me, and goes to work with me," Rob says. "When you rescue a dog they bond with you so much more than one that you raise; I think they know."
Home to animals, reptiles, and birds,
Forever Safe Farm is also a haven for children. In 2000, the Campfs sponsored a girl from Venezuela who came to Ohio to attend college. "We took her to the zoo, on her first roller coaster ride, and on our vacation. It was like having the child we never had," Karrin recalls. Today, Raquel Ceballos remains part of their family.
The experience with Raquel helped them realize what they were missing, and in January 2003 they decided to adopt a child. That summer they found themselves in Kazakhstan holding their new two-year-old daughter Paige, a bowlegged child with rickets and not yet able to walk. "She stole our hearts," Karrin says. Today, at age 9, she excels in horsemanship and is a champion barrel racer.
Peyton came from China at 18 months of age with a severe cleft lip and palate. After multiple surgeries, she is outgoing, takes dance lessons, and, at age 5, as Karrin puts it, "is quite the
Bing, her face and hands burned in a fire, grew up in a Chinese orphanage. She arrived in 2008
at the age of 13 and today is a smart as a whip 15-year-old who enjoys soccer.
All of the girls help with chores – raking, cleaning, and feeding the animals. Bing painted sheds that Rob constructed.
The Campfs keep busy with their business and the children's schooling during the day and
spend evenings with the animals. Rob and Karrin attend all their girls' activities. "We always sit down together at the table for dinner each night," says Karrin. But, she adds, because of their work and responsibilities, "we rarely watch a movie together from start to finish."
She and Rob take turns doing barn checks at night to make sure all is safe with their creatures. "Animals are so stoic," Karrin says. In a world that operates on survival of the fittest, she explained, animals don't want to reveal signs of weakness. Sometimes an illness only shows up
All of the animals are grouped in a thoughtful manner. "We try not to have any animal that doesn't have a buddy," Karrin says.
Arthur's first buddy was Sidney, a white camel who arrived as a sickly baby, stoic and reserved. Mongo, a rare Bactrian (two-humped) camel, came kicking and spitting. Abu and Eli Fuzzy Butt,
a pair of hybrids, round out the camel family. "They are a joy," says Karrin.
Each reveals a distinct personality; Arthur is the superstar, loved by all. Sidney stands back and observes unless food is involved. Abu is a big sweet oaf and Eli, mischievous. "Mongo is the
boss but he doesn't abuse it," notes Rob. "The others respect him."
Horses and mules share one front pasture, alpacas another, and camels often travel from their pen to a pasture up near the house. Goats live in a raised shed with rocks to climb on.
And then there is medical care. The barn includes an emergency stall for sick animals. The
Campfs do as much on their own as they can but frequently call on local veterinarians and
consult with animal specialists.
Rob points to Tank, "the world's most expensive goat." When Tank suffers epileptic seizures he goes deaf and blind. He gets treatment, and a week or two later is back to his old rambunctious self. Toby, a horse, arrived with a huge tumor on his neck. After trying 4 sorts of treatments, and then backing off, the cancer appears in remission.
All of the animals are well fed and cared for, but an animal farm is free only to the animals, not
to their owners.
Food bills run $3500 a month. Many residents require special diets – corn to put on weight,
rolled oats to calm stomachs, or baked food for ulcers. For treats, the Campfs buy apples by
the box full from a neighboring orchard.
"We believe in going beyond what they require," Rob says. "Animals need to live their life out in peace."
Up to this point, the Campfs have been funding the operation themselves. When alpacas were a booming business, the herd paid for the bulk of the care. "They literally built the farm," Rob
But when the alpaca business slowed with the economy, and the auto industry their trucking
firm depends on went South, the Campfs dug deeper into reserves.
Business is starting to pick up again, but Rob won't forget the sleepless nights he spent
worrying about what would happen to Arthur and the others should he and Karrin no longer be able to care for them.
Their current plan is to limit the animals they take. "Unless we can provide proper habitat, we won't take them in," Rob says. Both have seen what happens when people with good intentions take on more than they can handle. "Having an animal in your life is a commitment," Karrin says. "That animal is not a throwaway; it's a life you take responsibility for."
Up to now, the Campfs have refused donations for Forever Safe Farm. Rob once reasoned that the care of these animals was their passion, they made a good living, and it just didn't seem
right to accept donations. But the fragile economy has changed his mind.
To protect his beloved animals and to help educate the public on their behalf, Karrin and others have convinced him that a nonprofit Education Center is the only way to keep their
"forever safe" promise.
"If we can do it right and not be a roadside zoo, then okay," Rob told his wife. This means, among other things, not charging admission for tours and keeping the farms home-like focus.
Part of the vision for the future includes becoming only the 11th certified chimpanzee rescue center in the United States. The goal is to raise $1 million to help build the facility and to care
for 6 to 8 rescued chimps.
Check back regularly to see our progress on the upcoming new Chimp Rescue Facility ...
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