Far from a happy ending, is the story of Ron Fach, a man that many know as Captain Ron, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Originally from Calgary, Canada, he had several highly successful careers including airplane pilot, national sales manager for 2nd largest printer in the North America handling accounts like TV Guide, TIME Magazine and Reader’s Digest, Marine Captain and owner of a fleet of mine sweepers converted to Chartered Yachts, and marine electronic device patent holder and manufacturer. Captain Ron then became involved in animal rescue, and after rescuing a Doberman Pinscher named Toma from imprisonment inside a sealed wooden box, the extraordinary bond they formed changed the course of his life. Though it was decades ago, Toma’s pawprint still remains on his stationary and business cards nearly 30 years later.
His experience with Toma changed him. He found himself an advocate for misunderstood and mistreated animals. Dobermans were the Pit Bulls of the 1980’s, and were killed in shelters by the tens of thousands nationwide. Captain Ron became President of the Alliance of Persons for Dobermans, Inc., and he founded the North American Pet Owners Alliance (Pets 911), which operated a lost and found database of all micro-chipped animals in Florida and all known tattoo prefixes in North America, handled thousands of cruelty investigations, rehabilitated abandoned, abused, or lost pets, trained “problem” dogs to save them from certain death in shelters and handled disaster preparedness and relief for animals. He became a state authorized animal cruelty investigator for the Alliance, and he also became a founding member of the Broward County Animal Advisory Committee which helped change shelter practices to lower the euthanaisia rate in his local community. He organized a phone bank to field thousands of calls on missing animals as a result of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, which operated for over over 9 months helping homeless family pets to reunite with their owners or find rescue. His group became a pet food donation distribution point for south Florida, which helped supply rescues with thousands of pounds of food donations. What many did not know about Captain Ron, was that most of his efforts were SELF-FUNDED. He had worked hard, established himself as a successful business executive, and now that he was involved in rescue he had funds to help make miracles happen, and he was stubborn enough to do it. In fact, he personally fostered and trained over 800 dobermans and other dogs in his own home over the years.
Fighting for animals is no easy task as any rescuer knows, regardless of the financial cost. It leaves you emotionally exhausted. Rescuers are left with lifelong friends, enemies and more unhappy endings than happy tales to tell. But the successes outshined the failures, that that fueled his motivation to continue as did the calls to save helpless animals in need. Captain Ron did things his way, as any captain would, all with the animals’ interests in mind. This was not always popular with friends, family and colleges but he continued, always doing what he thought was best for the animals. As the years went on and the animals he rescued came and went, so did his beloved Toma, along with his financial nest egg. He developed macular degeneration, and extreme Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Ultimately, he was vision-impaired and on oxygen, while left with only a small pension to cover minimal living expenses. Yet as any captain would, he continued as a champion for the animals from a humble home office in recent years.
In early Fall this year, after scrimping to have his older home unavoidably tented for termites, he lost another furry family member he had rescued when Pookie, an unadoptable small dog who had been in his care for about 5 years, was struck by a car after getting out through an open door just after they returned home. Unfortunately, losing Pookie, all the tenting preparation and 3 days in a hotel with his oxygen tanks took its toll even further. It led the Captain to weakness, low resistance and, of course, he got sick. In his condition, this resulted in an ambulance ride to Florida Medical Center, where he spent over a month and lost his ability to walk. Medicaid helped get him home with nursing care, physical therapy and a hospital bed for a few weeks. But that ship has now sailed.
Things changed yet again for Captain Ron this week. It seems there is a waiting list for long term care, and the nursing care has now been cut back from 24 hours/7 days a week to 1 hour and 5 days a week. What’s a Captain to do? Pay for home health on a small pension? Not likely. Just two weeks of home health care would leave him with no funds for electricity or groceries. A plea for help asking animal advocate volunteers to stop in through the day went out on social media, which luckily resulted enough responses to have someone stop in daily to check on him. Unfortunately, this begins the first week home with no substantial nursing care. After decades of unselfish dedication to the animals, hundreds of thousands of dollars of self-funded rescue efforts and the kind of dedication rarely seen even in the movies, the animal rescuer who gave it all away for the animals is, himself, in need. He now lives alone with his companion Ruby, a sweet red doberman, who watches over him tirelessly. His muscles are weak, but trying to rebuild and he is still unable to walk.
If anyone has paid it forward, Captain Ron Fach has. Ginny Wargo, Vice-President of the Doberman Rescue League Inc. expressed that she thinks “a man like Captain Ron, who has a legacy of helping so many of our homeless pets, deserves the same from the animal advocates who have since taken over as he has aged. He deserves the same dignity and respect as the animals he spent his life helping.” Helene Jones of Fort Lauderdale, supporter, volunteer for the Pet Owner’s Alliance during the 1980’s and good friend, recalls: “Ron is so cavalier, he is the original dog whisperer. The police called him, Animal Care called him, he took care of dogs no others would touch. He always felt every dog was worth saving. Even those that were emotionally scared – Ron always knew that he could help them and he never gave up on them. 3 o’clock in the morning, in the rain, it didn’t matter – you called Ron when you needed help. Many times, he would hide sometimes 30 dogs all over town in what seemed like minutes when he got word that code enforcement was coming and then bring them all back after they left and it was safe to return. He could have easily abandoned them, but he would never do that. He would go anywhere in town any time of day or night and get a dog. Those that couldn’t be adopted, he kept. He was an amazing man. He knew how to take care of the unfortunate ones. He spent every single penny he had. His dogs always came first. He is a remarkable man. I even recall him giving shelter and food to the ducks to keep them safe while they were nesting. He was not only a rescuer, but a savior for the animals.” Lil Sayre, Animal Activist of Fort Lauderdale remarked: “I’ve known Captain Ron for about twenty years, meeting him when we both were appointed by the Broward County Commissioners to the original Pet Focus Group. We became fast friends and worked on many projects together. Ron always put the animals first, devoting all his time and most of his money to helping them in disasters, promoting laws and regulations to improve shelter outcomes, and with ongoing rescue operations. I hope the community will step up now and help him in his time of need.”
In animal rescue, we tend to react most to the injured dog or cat in need. We rush to the rescue of the forgotten and abandoned. All too often the rescuer we all called for help is cast aside when they can no longer perform that miracle “save”. Let’s hope that is not the case this time. Those in south Florida who can spare the time to volunteer and lend a hand, are encouraged to reach out in response to the plea on Facebook.
Given the time of year, Captain Ron himself recalls that at Christmas time in 1985, while going through 40 lbs. of dog food every 3 days himself, he rescued an eight year old doberman named Ty, whose owner had died and how an older dog had virtually no chance of survival in a shelter. Coincidentally, a local man had just lost his 8 year old german shepherd, Champ, to illness and was completely devastated stating that he had lost the best friend he ever had. The man’s son could not bear to see his father so broken up over the loss. He contacted Captain Ron about Ty, and arranged to give him to his father on Christmas eve. Ron recalls the grateful updates he received from the son, describing that Ty had literally given his father a renewed interest in life. Ron said that he has always believed that “rescue is for all of us, not just the animals. Rescue helps all the people it touches too.”
A fundraiser to contribute to Captain Ron’s needs entitled Help Rescue Captain Ron has been set up, in hopes he can hire nursing care and other assistance until he can progress to walking again, get long term care or sell his home to fund his own care. All funds will be held in and disbursed through a trust account in accordance with Florida law. Contributions are not tax-deductible.
Captain Ron has been part the the rescue community and in the news for years as can be seen in stories where he is mentioned and quoted like Alliance Leader Works with Courts, Doberman Rescue/Adoptions, unwanted animals, Doberman Dogs Alliance, shelter fees for rescue groups, Florida Animal Emergency Assistance, Pet Emergency Preparedness, Pet Overpopulation, animal legislation, shelter emergencies, Ty the Christmas Rescue Dog and Hurricane Katrina.