MURCHISON — Catherine the rhesus macaque monkey was not in the best shape when she came to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch.
The 18-year-old was more than 40 pounds. Her previous owner allowed her to eat a poor diet and a lot of human food, which led to obesity, said Ben Callison, director of the sanctuary. But through some love and attention, he said she was able to lose weight.
Now, Catherine is among the many animals that enjoy the sanctuary's tranquil surroundings. Animals there include horses, bison, chimpanzees, ostriches, pigs, sheep, monkeys and iguanas.
Noelle Almrud, director of animal care at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, said most of the animals there have had terrible lives, but the sanctuary is able to offer respect and quiet.
Callison said the sanctuary's mission is not to be an entertainment venue but rather a facility for education.
"We want to make sure these animals can tell their story," he said.
The Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch was founded in 1979 and started with burros from the Grand Canyon that were going to be exterminated, Callison said. Horses, primates, exotic animals and farm animals followed. Nim Chimpsky, a famous chimpanzee who knew sign language, even lived there for years, according to the sanctuary website.
Today, the sanctuary, which is an affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States, has 1,310 acres with more than 1,000 animals.
Callison said hundreds of equine are on the property, and once the animals are at the sanctuary, they are there for life.
"He wanted to create a place where animals could come and live out their life and never have to worry about anything again," Callison said of Amory.
In fact, on display by the entrance gate is an excerpt from Anna Sewell's "Black Beauty," which reads, "I have nothing to fear; and here my story ends. My troubles are all over, and I am at home…"
The sanctuary's three chimpanzees — Kitty, Lulu and Midge — came from research labs. Callison said Willy, a pig-tailed macaque, bit his owner, who was not able to keep him.
Then there are two siamang gibbons — Val and June Bug — who were rescued from the exotic pet trade as babies, he said. Callison also pointed out white-handed gibbons Princess and her mother, Sarah.
Additionally, he noted Sunshine, a rhesus macaque that was used in dental research.
He said sheep and goats there came out of a hoarding case in Mississippi, and it took more than a dozen blades per sheep to get them shaved to where they could regrow their coats the way they should.
Among the sheep and goats last month was a pig, Darren, which Callison said is "friends" with one of the goats.
"We have other pigs, (but) he doesn't think he's a pig," he quipped. "He did not do well with the pigs. He wanders the goat pasture."
He said the sanctuary's ultimate mission is to no longer be needed, and one of its big goals is to address private ownership of animals.
In the meantime, he said, the sanctuary does offer open houses — one was held Oct. 12 and another Oct. 19 — and has a fantastic volunteer program. Two more open houses will be held in the spring.
Additionally, the sanctuary offers an internship program for students, and community members can provide in-kind or financial donations.
For more information, call 903-469-3811 or visit www.blackbeauty
ranch.org. More information also is available on the sanctuary's Facebook page.