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HARTS to the rescue

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From caring for a rare Patagonian cavy to wrangling a Pop Tart-addicted pig named Edgar, Sams Valley resident D.J. Longbrake said each story, each furry face leaves her wanting to find ways to do even more.

Longbrake has founded the Heavenly Animal Rescue Team to spread awareness and enable fundraising to ensure ongoing rescue missions.

Already providing sanctuary for a slew of previously unwanted critters at her Sams Valley Ranch, Longbrake, a support specialist for Medford schools for 13 years, was called on last summer to help transport cats, dogs and horses displaced during wildfires.

During the Carr fire in Northern California, Longbrake and her partner, Jeff Schulz, helped the Haven Humane shelter move some 800 cats and dogs to safety.

"We had our horse trailer full of dog kennels and crates. We had to transport critical dogs -- at one point I was holding an IV bag up to the ceiling. It was quite the scene," she said.

Longbrake and Schulz have offered solace for critters for as long as they can remember.

“We’ve both been really big animal lovers our whole lives. I’ve helped people who come up short on money for dog food and I try to reach out and help when I see a need that I can do something about,” she said.

“Anything to help the animals. That’s the focus.”

Longbrake became certified in technical large animal emergency rescue to add to her toolbelt of skills and her nonprofit status was approved three weeks ago.

More typical weekends find Longbrake being tagged on social media posts about wandering pigs, injured dogs or locals seeking advice on tiny kittens or baby horses. Her current menagerie includes five horses previously slated to die.

“A lot of older horses have medical issues and they end up being dumped at slaughter houses. When we get them, we rehab them with our vet and put them out to pasture. If we can’t find adoptive homes, they get to be with us until their time comes,” Longbrake said. One mare, for example, lost most of her teeth by age 33 and requires a special soft diet that costs some $400 every two weeks.

“She’s also got a disease called Cushing’s and was diagnosed with mouth cancer. Her name is Ellie. She’s a little Appaloosa,” said Longbrake.

“Long term our goal is to just have her be happy and healthy and give her a soft spot to land and to feel like somebody cares for her.”

Edgar the Pig was rescued after years of homelessness, being passed around and lacking a healthy diet. Edgar was lured into Longbrake’s trailer with belly scratches and Pop-Tarts.

“He’s doing well now, although he is on a no-ice-cream, no-junk-food diet. He gets the occasional Twinkie — when we worm him — but not very often,” she said.

As for the Patagonian cavy, named Diego, Longbrake admits having never heard of such a thing before she was called by Jackson County Animal Control to pick him up.

“They’re from Argentina and considered a rodent. They’re a cross between a guinea pig and a rabbit and they can jump 7 feet high and run 40 miles per hour,” she said with a laugh.

“Thank goodness, he hasn’t been motivated to do so.”

Diego was surrendered by his former owner due to extenuating circumstances and now lives in Longbrake’s house with free reign.

“I have border collies and Australian shepherds. He’s about the size of one of them,” she said.

Additional charges include rescued cats from the Klamathon fire and a solo donkey for now.

Longbrake said she and Schulz remain open to whatever is in store for their little sanctuary.

“Everything we’re trying to do was really inspired by this past fire season. When we saw how many animals were in need and how thin the resources were being spread out,” she said.

“If we can save one life, then it’s worth it. We want to do what we can.”

Reach Medford freelancer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.


A fundraiser to benefit the newly minted HART Rescue is set for Sunday, March 3, at Hometown Buffet.

The event will help raise funding for fuel and supplies during the 2019 fire season as well as provide for rescued animals housed — both short and long term — at the Sams Valley sanctuary.

Breakfast will be available from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., for $10; lunch, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., will be $15.

A small group of animals will be on hand to meet and greet the public, including the Pop-Tart-loving pig Edgar, Diego the cavy and perhaps even a donkey.

Donations graciously accepted.

Visit online, https://www.facebook.com/HARTS-Rescue-2121181474611839/

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune{ } DJ Longbrake of Heavenly Animal Rescue Team & Services (HARTS) holds a rare Patagonia Cavy at Howard school in Medford Friday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune{ } { }D.J. Longbrake of Heavenly Animal Rescue Team & Services (HARTS) holds a rare Patagonia Cavy at Howard school in Medford Friday.