By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
When a guest returned from the hospital one morning after seeing her ill husband, Mitch Gray noticed how distressed she was. He was working the front desk and asked if there was anything he could do for her.
She replied, “Would you get that dog and meet me in the kitchen?”
“That dog” is Fancy, the blue heeler resident at Reba‘s Ranch House. Fancy was napping in Mitch’s room at the time. The woman lived on a ranch and had bonded with the dog the evening before when Mitch and Fancy met her during their nightly rounds.
Mitch brought Fancy to the kitchen where they sat with the guest. She told Mitch about her hard news while stroking Fancy’s head.
When Mitch went to work full-time at the ranch house as night manager, the foundation had been having conversations about the possibility of a “house dog” that could bring some comfort and love to guests during trying times.
The perfect fit came when former ranch house volunteer Cameron Bates contacted Mitch. Moving into new realms with his professional career, Cameron needed to re-home his beloved blue heeler, named after a hit song by Reba–Cameron‘s favorite singer.
Fancy went to live with Mitch in her “retirement home,” going from a country dog to the city. But Fancy is still a working dog with important jobs to do.
“She opens the house up every morning with me, and closes it up every evening,” Mitch says. “She knows every door in the building.”
In addition to comforting people in their time of grief and stress, Fancy accompanies Mitch constantly in the 27,000-square-foot house and two acres of property. Mitch mans the front desk Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and handles deliveries, errands, pickups, manages building inspectors, and changes lightbulbs.
Always, Fancy is by his side. They keep a respectful distance from guests until they are invited over, knowing that not everyone loves dogs. They are also mindful of those guests with allergies. Just about everyone who meets Fancy loves her.
“We’ll water the flowers every morning, feed the birds, open the doors for the trash pick up,” Mitch says. “At night, we walk around the inside and outside of the building. Everything I do on this property, she’s right behind me.”
Coming from the stressful corporate world, Mitch was looking for a non-traditional, non-8-to-5 job. Several years ago, Mitch started the Room for Hope Golf Tournament, an annual fundraising endeavor. After part-time work at the ranch house, he accepted the full-time position in September 2022.
“As long as I do my job in taking care of the building and taking care of the ladies who work here, I don’t have someone setting my schedule,” Mitch says. “That’s worth money to me.”
Knowing that Mitch and Fancy are here for families every night at the ranch house gives guests a settled and safe feeling, not to mention the comfort they bring. The pair serve as caregivers of caregivers.