Nancy Norwood Evans – 1st Volunteer at Rowdy Girl
I feel blessed to be one of the first volunteers at Rowdy Girl Sanctuary and really get to know Renee and Tommy. As a non native Texan from the east coast suddenly moving to a small Texas town for my husband’s new job in 2013, I was apprehensive about ever fitting in and surviving as a vegetarian of 15 years. Little did I know I would be so inspired to become vegan by a former cattle rancher’s wife.
As it was difficult to find like-minded people in person, I turned to social media and in particular Facebook where I came across Renee on her Vegan Journal of a Cattle Rancher’s Wife page. It blew my mind from the beginning that someone from Texas was that committed to suddenly changing the world by changing what’s on her plate, let alone as a former rancher’s wife. I learned so much from her posts on how awful the dairy industry is and the suffering of mother cows and their calves from her first hand experience of caring for her Houdini and Rowdy Girl. And I remember the bond we made when I shared with her online how gut wrenching it is to live near our local slaughter house. It was comforting to know there was a Texan who understood the plight of innocent animals so close by and who really wanted to do something to bring about change. When I realized what she was under taking I really wanted to help. And I even felt like it was a calling for me and the purpose for my move to Texas as I always wanted to do something to promote compassion toward animals since becoming vegetarian in 1998. Now I realize that when living in Maryland where I was born and raised to love animals but also condone their suffering by eating them unnesisairly, I was becoming complacent and comfortable with my ignorance and needed a wakeup call. Boy did I get one.
At first, I was naturally a little nervous about donating money to someone I haven’t met so I only gave a small amount toward her initial online campaign. At the same time I made the decision to help by getting involved with their efforts as a blooming sanctuary and meet Renee and Tommy in person to confirm my intuition that they were sincere.
We met for the first time at the Get Healthy Marshall fest in March of 2015 in Marshall, Texas where we manned the first RGS table together. There I could see Renee’s commitment in reaching out to strangers and educating about a better way to live. I witnessed her physical and emotional efforts throughout the weekend as she connected with people with her story and enthusiasm. I saw that she wasn’t doing this for herself but for the animals and becoming a beacon for Texas and the world.
From then on I along with my husband Jim who is now another converted Texan vegan, have done all we can financially and physically to help support their sanctuary in whatever way possible from donating porta potties for their first open house festival to sleeping on their sofa or in their camper to be there as early as I can for other special events (since I live two hour’s drive away). I have seen their humble abode and meager way of living all in the effort to provide for the lives of their precious residents. As with any sanctuary it is difficult to maintain a secure level of finances without support of strangers and friends but for Tommy and Renee it is especially difficult as they are in the heart of cattle-raising country where support is especially hard to find and enemies abound. But thankfully the vegan movement is growing and even in Texas their amazing transformation story rings true in many hearts.
I for one am so glad my heart heard it when it did and can be a part of even more amazing transformations to come thanks to their contagious love and commitment to compassion.
McKenna Grace Fisher
I spent 2 weeks with Rowdy Girl Sanctuary July of 2015 and found myself totally immersed in the essence of who these folks are and the care and love they give each and every animal. I volunteered, so I had the opportunity to be in the trenches and literally stand side by side Tommy and Renee in various areas of the property needing attention. I learned how to care for the cows, Herman the pig, the chickens and so many other interesting and fascinating aspects of farm animal care on a Vegan Animal Sanctuary. These folks are very hardworking and they spend every waking moment doing something for these animals, whether it be feeding, cleaning their living areas, fixing fences, laying hay, watering them all; then you get into the clerical side of the Sanctuary, phone calls, emails, interviews, donations and the entire vast area of running a Sanctuary, and these folks get it all done. With the help of local volunteers and donations, these folks are able to make this happen for the animals in the middle of cow eating and wearing country, Texas. Honored to have been able to spend time with Renee and Tommy at Rowdy Girl Sanctuary. I hope to visit again. This is history right here and these folks are exactly who they claim to be, I know, I saw, I lived it.
~In Solidarity I stand with RGS~
McKenna Grace Fisher, Vegan Animals Activist and friend.
Once I rescued a turkey who was hanging by his legs at a feed store. I knew I had to save him. He was bald/ featherless with sunken eyes. He was in a tiny cage meant for a small chicken coop.
I made the feed store move him to a larger pen.
They continued to tell me about the birds they sold. The ones they sold for fighting, sexual purposes, X-rated movies and of course, food. I went numb. I was also determined to make sure that that would not happen to this one turkey.
I went to Facebook to plea for help.
A gentleman and animal lover Michael Cooper saw my plea and responded.
He said he knew of a haven, Rowdy Girl Sanctuary that could help. We worked out a deal. I would pay for the turkey and he would pick him up and drive him to Rowdy Girl.
Rowdy Girl Sanctuary took “Cooper” him in and he flourished.
There are those very few moments in life where you know your life has to matter.
Copper was that timely moment for me.
Yes, I am an animal rescuer and will make the rest of my life about that one message.
You cannot do it alone.
Without Michael Cooper, Renee King- Sonnen and Rowdy Girl Sanctuary Cooper would not have finally had the life he so deserved.
The first time I came to Rowdy Girl Sanctuary I wasn’t a vegan or a volunteer, I was just a girl with high hopes and a pig I called a friend. The journey I’ve gone through to get here has been an emotional one to say at the least. When all odds were against me I managed to find a place that thrives with endless reasons to fight for what you believe in: Rowdy Girl Sanctuary. Renee and Tommy, the founders of Rowdy Girl have managed to create a community of a variety of people, all coming together to show compassion for all life, me being one of them.
This all began in 9th grade. As a child, I’ve always been an animal lover so when a school program offered the opportunity to raise a pig for three months, I quickly jumped on it. For those who don’t know, this program is called FFA (Future Farmers of America). FFA has high school students raise farm animals for a few months before showing and selling them for slaughter. The purpose of this is to teach students the importance of where food comes from but, as teachers have advised, without getting attached to the animal. It didn’t take long for me to notice I was different from the other kids in the barn. While I was becoming best friends with my pig, Chubbles, running with him in the training pens, people were using that space to whip and train their pigs for show. I still remember the scars left on the pigs from students whipping them over and over just because they didn’t walk a certain way. The barn would echo with painful screams that everyone took so casually. I didn’t get it. Why didn’t people care? Why was I the only one playing with my pig? The answer is simple but a hard one to stomach, I didn’t see something to hit, push around, or call my own like everyone else did. I saw a someone with a want for love and a personality, just like me and all other animals.
I gave Chubbles all the love I could give, however, he didn’t get a happy ending. I couldn’t find a way out and since he was around three hundred pounds, I couldn’t exactly keep him either. Thinking about the moment I watched my best friend get put on a truck to be sent to slaughter still makes cry. I remember all the other FFA kids asking why I was crying when it happened and I didn’t know how to answer because I knew they wouldn’t understand.
The summer of 9th grade was the next time I was given the same offer, to raise a pig for three months for show and then slaughter. At the time, I said yes, knowing this pig would die anyways and I would rather have him die experiencing love in his short time rather than scars from the other FFA kids. I witnessed all the same evil I saw when I had Chubbles, this time with a pig named Gizmo. People continuing to whip their pigs and I continued to love mine with belly rubs and getting muddy with him. As showtime approached, the more I got attached to Gizmo. I remember telling my friend that I couldn’t do this again. I also remember the day she emailed PETA, as both were determined to help me find a way to save Gizmo. After weeks of ups and downs and being told it wouldn’t work out, my mom told me about this place called Rowdy Girl Sanctuary that she heard about from a friend. Without hesitation, I got in contact with Renee, ready to beg her to give Gizmo a home. I was so used to fighting for Gizmo that I was baffled when I didn’t have beg. Tommy and Renee agreed to take Gizmo the first time I met them in October of 2015.
As soon as Gizmo started living there, I began volunteering weekly as my parents provide financial support for Gizmo’s needs. I knew I couldn’t let Gizmo die but Rowdy Girl Sanctuary is way more than I could have hoped for. I went from seeing scars on animals under a year old to seeing chickens taking dirt baths, pigs and cows eating healthier than I do; all run by two very committed people, putting the needs of animals before their own no matter how overwhelming it gets. Since then, my mom, sister, and I have all gone vegan, recognizing all the happy and loved lives that want to continue living.
I’m 15 years old now, going on to eleventh grade. And yes, being a vegan teenager in a mostly meat-eating state is hard at times due to the fingers pointed in my face and jokes made by my peers but once a week I’m reminded why its all worth it. I’m now surrounded with animals as happy as I am, getting the love and care they need and deserve. Instead of small metal pens crafted by FFA, my pig has all the room he could ever want to run, play, or take mud baths in.
If you’re considering visiting Rowdy Girl, I highly suggest you do. Not only will you see animals living as happy as they can but you can be a part of it too. I am beyond thankful for what Renee and Tommy, founders of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, have done for me and my friend Gizmo.
As a volunteer with a horse rescue in South Florida, I was asked to help find sanctuary placement for eight cows that we had rescued over the years while rescuing horses. To make a long story short, I sent Rowdy Girl an email about the story of our horse rescue and our cows and in no time, I got a call back from Renee. We had a long conversation about Rowdy Girl, horse rescue and cows. After some consultation and deliberation, Renee offered to take all of them, no strings attached. She was moved by our commitment to the cows and wanted to help us provide our cow family with a home for life with lots of space and other cows. The dream for our cows came true and I can’t describe how wonderful it is to see all of our cows out in huge pastures, chilling with other cows, enjoying the freedom and kindness all animals deserve. Renee takes the time to keep me posted, sending me pictures and lets me know how they’re doing. Sanctuary and rescue is HARD and it’s a never ending chase for funding and resources to keep going. It’s why so few endeavor to do it. It takes a heart and drive as big as Texas to have made Rowdy Girl Sanctuary even a possibility. So thank you for taking the risk, getting in the arena and providing all these beautiful animals with a wonderful home.
Cherie Holman, Volunteer
It is my honor and privilege to write about my ongoing experience at the Rowdy Girl Sanctuary. Before I heard of RGS, I was saddened at the fact that Texas was very limited in local sanctuaries. Come March, a dear friend of mine, told me there was this amazing Sanctuary just an hour away. I was so excited as we journeyed there a few weeks later. We did the initial tour and knew right away we found our home away from home. Distance not even being a hindrance, we wanted to become a part of this amazing family. Tommy and Renee accepted us with open arms and we have been coming weekly ever since. I have grown to love and care for these special animals as if they were my own. Renee and Tommy have so graciously taught me how to be a perfect Vegan cowgirl and farmer. Their love and compassion for all their animals is such an inspiration and amazing thing to watch. Through the ups and downs we stay strong as a team and continue to work harder to spread the word of “Animals are Friends not Food.” Even through the worst flood in 100 years, RGS pulled through and worked even harder to show the world that all of these animals mattered just as much as our own children. I’m proud to call myself a Rowdy Girl. I’m proud to represent the Rowdy Girl name.
I first met Renee and Tommy in January of 2015 and was immediately impressed by their compassion, warmth to strangers, folksy charm and real desire to do good in the world. They invited me into their home and described their hopes and goals for Rowdy Girl Sanctuary and introduced me to the farm animals and cats and dogs that call the 96-acres they own their home. I immediately felt like I had two new friends.
As an attorney who has worked for and advised dozens of non-profit corporations, I knew that I had a skillset that could be valuable to Renee and Tommy as they were still early on in their process of setting up Rowdy Girl Sanctuary. So, I volunteered to help them ensure that they were operating in full compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws. I helped her create a Texas domestic corporation, establish a board of directors, and develop bylaws and appropriate board policies. I met by phone with her insurance broker and accountant to discuss insurance, financial and recordkeeping needs. I completed the IRS and Texas Franchise Tax Board applications for tax-exempt status. And finally, I recently joined the RGS Board of Directors as the Corporate Secretary. One of the most impressive things about Renee is her desire to do things properly, legally and in accordance with best practices in running a 501(c)3 corporation and to not cut corners. I would not have joined her Board if that were not the case.
I am honored to know and support Renee as she works tirelessly to do good in the world and to bring the important, compassionate vegan presence and message to places like Texas.
I am an animal rights activist, heavily involved in issues within the Houston area, as well as those abroad. Campaigning against cruelty is the focus of my life.
I came to Rowdy Girl because I saw in them an above-and-beyond commitment to animal welfare, and a compassion and reverence for life that I’ve seldom seen matched in my experiences with people in the main stream. Being there is a chance to work hard for something greater than ourselves. Tommy and Renee are an inspiration to all activists. Their love for all sentient beings makes the hours and days spent at Rowdy Girl an unforgettable experience for all humans who give their time and energy there.
For the animals, it is a place of refuge where they will live out their lives in peace, without fear of harm or exploitation. We need more places like this!
Thank you, Renee and Tommy, for who you are and what you stand for. You are loved!
Houston Animal Rights Team (HART)
I have been a volunteer at Rowdy Girl Animal sanctuary for almost a year. In over 100 Hours at the sanctuary it is very easy to see Tommy and Renee spend every waking hour thinking of the four legged family members. Every animals has a name and is shown the same love as one shows their children. Think the names are easy 26 chickens, 50 plus cows, plus dogs , pigs, ducks, horses and cats. It is a daily event to walk the grounds and check on all the family members, because just like kids they find all kinds ways to get themselves into places they are not supposed to be from Frosty being in the chicken pen, to Roux and Gizmo deciding to change places with Herman and Ivy. You have heard the saying the grass is always greener in the other pig pen? For the most part for volunteers its is fun and enlightening to see the the splendid animals up close and to get to know their personalities, But for Renee and Tommy It is the life they have chosen to be the protector, voice and friend to close to 100 animals if you count their domestic animals too. Day in and day out, its food , water, care, housing,equipment, that they are responsible for. Most people would crack under the normal day to day. All days are not normal! Recently there was a flood, and the family had to be moved to a safer area–a monumental task. Lets look at that! Put your self in their shoes. Not only do you have to move the animals; but you have to rush to protect all the equipment that keeps you able to run the sanctuary. Also, you are worrying about your house with the news saying its going to be the 100 year flood. Now, you are spread out in multiple locations and the expenses keep growing. I have volunteered in many places from Ronald MC Donald house, to refugee services, And I have found no two people more dedicated to helping animals, and spreading the word about veganism and animal rights. Every group has haters that prefer to tear down instead of help–to them I say if you have a better way tell them, if you have a question ask it it will be answered. If I thought that Tommy and Renee were not in this for the good of the animals 100% I would not be there.
My experience at Rowdy Girl Sanctuary solidified my love of cows, chickens, pigs, ducks, horses and all the rest of the animal world combined.
I went there as a veganic farm-type gal, and just grabbed onto the animals; and in my holding on to it all, I became infused and steeped into Renee and Tommy Sonnen’s life. I must say we were fast friends from the start, as I am a big talker and had lots of ideas and just wanted to do whatever I could to help.
They truly are doing their best. Life is a lot more than what any of us ever know or think.
It’s a great thing they have done, to wake themselves up, save their animals, become aware of the insurmountable suffering of all the thousands of others by attempting to give shelter to as many as they can, as well as inform the greater public of what is going on with the ‘food’ they put on their plates.
It is a wonderful story how they evolved to getting their sanctuary off the ground, and then making a committed stand for those creatures.
How many people would consciously eat a steak or hamburger or drink a glass of this liquid called milk, if they knew that babies were taken away from their mothers at birth, the boys slaughtered when only a few months old—imagine your three year old son taken to slaughter because his flesh is tender–especially when we get morality shoved down our throats from practically everywhere, and yet everywhere around us these sweet beings are disregarded as trash, literally?!
Then you get someone like Renee, full of spunk and pizazz and determination to help serve and change the world in which she lives, and you’d expect backlash, especially from those who belong to the organizations like FFA (Future Farmers of America), and 4H(which stands for Head, heart, hands, and health—a real oxymoron when you contemplate that), who routinely advocate the cutting off of beaks and the docking of tails, and so much more, of thousands upon thousands of innocent creatures, while they profess love for their animals, but behave in a way that reflects the exact opposite.
By turning the sound down, they teach their children to do all kinds of hurtful things to these sweet creatures, perpetuating a lifecycle of crime and violence against those who cannot protect themselves. The whole system is set up for torture and death, all in the name of supposed food which has been proven scientifically to be unhealthy for our genetically non-carnivore systems.
So I can only shower great and high praises upon people like Renee and Tommy, who have put their money where their mouth is and have the GUTS to go up against ‘the system’ that mostly everyone has been trained to follow, eating dead bodies, dairy products, and eggs, the unborn children of chickens and ducks etc. without a thought as to who these beings are.
Please think about what you are actually ‘doing’ before you decide to criticize some one like those who run Rowdy Girl Sanctuary; people who have risked their financial security and offered their community an option to just following the status quo.
To do what they have done in the state of Texas is truly marvellous, and they should only receive applause. They have changed many lives including my own.
Animals matter. The animals under the care of Renee and Tommy matter, and they need your help. The floods in Texas reduced their infrastructure to almost rubble. Please help. Please give to support their good work. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, “All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” Don’t get caught up in doing nothing.
Please help make a difference for the animals at the sanctuary.
Love all animals don’t eat them.
Julia, Director Medicine of the Wolf
I think many of us are waking up to the reality that animals not only share the same feelings and similar desires as humans, but that they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity as well.
I believe Renee is on a spiritual journey and that her heart couldn’t deny what was staring her right in the face—LOVE. Buddha said- Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it. Please support Renee and her mission to give these beings a home that is happy, healthy and holy!
Sat Nam, With love, Julia, Director Medicine of the Wolf
Renee exudes positivity, hope, and absolute love for her cows. She has a wonderful vision and is fiercely motivated by her discovery of veganism to spread the message of compassion by creating a sanctuary where everyone can come see how wonderful cows are. I think with her passion and dedication, Rowdy Girl Sanctuary will be a great success as a beacon of hope and love.
Deep in the heart of Texas cattle country, Rowdy Girl Sanctuary is going to be a beacon of hope and love where cows will find a permanent home to grow old and enjoy life. People will come from all over to meet the cows and to learn how much they deserve to live out their peaceful existence, and these people will be changed. They will leave knowing that compassion and love are the answers to healing everything.
The compassionate mission of Renee and Tommy Sonnen has been a beacon of promise for me that the human spirit can – and will – rise and return to it’s innate propensity for respect, non-harm, and solidarity with our fellow earthlings. Rowdy Girl Sanctuary is a soulful meeting place of inter-species hearts, minds, & souls. My heart has been nourished and my soul uplifted that our world can heal and re-frame! Thank you Renee and Tommy for your dauntless courage!!
Kathy Landry, Animal Communicator/Psychic Medium, Singer/Songwriter, Vegan, Native Texan www.kathylandrypsychicmedium.com
Rowdy Girl Sanctuary is a reflection of the transformation that is happening all over the world towards a new paradigm of compassionate living. Ranchers becoming protectors reminds me of the Garden of Eden, where the lions once laid beside the lambs. And what a beautiful story that is being played out on this love filled sanctuary that reminds us that this next step of evolution has already arrived, truly, once again.
Kip Andersen – animalsunitedmovement.org
I love Renee… Her decision to go Vegan was clear and her actions were swift!!! Her Integrity is outstanding as I have seen her work diligently day and night to bring this Sanctuary to fruition. Her love for the animals can be seen by the huge smile on her face and the sparkle in her eyes when she is out in the pasture with them. Her heart is as big as Texas when it comes to protecting the precious animals. We need more people like Renee on this planet taking action to help end the suffering of our fellow beings.
Emily Moran Barwick
There is nothing quite as moving as seeing a person make the connection that the animals of this world are individuals- sentient beings- here for their own lives, not for our use. And there’s nothing quite as powerful as this connection being made by a person in belly of the beast (the animal products industry.) Renee is such a person. And her conversion from perpetrator to protector is a testament to that fact that none of use are too far gone to make the connection. The non-human animals of this world feel as we feel, bleed as we bleed, and suffer as we suffer. They deserve life, love, and protection. And the cows of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary have found just that.
Emily Moran Barwick, www.BiteSizeVegan.com
McKenna Grace Fisher
Since meeting Renee and learning of her journey into Vegansim I am more than encouraged that many more will come to the same realization as she has. To transition from cow ranchers wife to Vegan activist setting up a Sanctuary, is a life altering and amazing feat! Renee you will forever have my support in this venture of transition to a cruelty free Sanctuary where animals may live free their entire lives. Bless you my friend and thank you for being you in this world.
McKenna Grace Fisher
Renee, what an incredible journey you are on. Your family of animals is so beautiful. The pictures are awesome. Your husband is a lucky man to have a wonderful wife like you with a dream like yours. You are a blessing to everyone you touch.
Renee is the voice for the voiceless. She has an authentic way of speaking her heart and mind that implores people to awaken. She stands her ground and follows the leadings of her spirit… I have no doubt that Rowdy Girl Sanctuary will evolve to save the animals; and bring families and communities back together around vegan food preparation. Her mission is restoring the souls of family and community. When one wakes up and begins to shine their light, others are no longer in the darkness and have a beacon to follow… this light is Renee King-Sonnen… it is my privilege and honor to call her SiStar… I stand with her on this journey as she opens others to RE-Member their purpose. Heaven on Earth can be achieved with compassion like this… Afterall, in the original EDEN, love was all there was…
When I stumbled across the facebook page VEGAN Journal of a RANCHERS WIFE, it stopped me. What a paradox, I had to learn more. After reading Renee’s story of transition to a vegan way of life, I was so moved that I had to reach out to her and congratulate her for such a brave action, and offer help in a any way I could. I’m inspired daily by her words, thoughts and deeds—she is devoting her life to saving her cows and bringing vegan awareness to anyone who will listen—and even to those who won’t. Never before have I had a desire to visit Texas, but now I feel compelled to meet her and Tommy and their cows one day soon. To me, Renee is redefining the term cowgirl—for the love and devotion she gives these beautiful sentient beings—it’s all for them. Thank you Renee for being authentically you, with the eyes of your heart opened, there is nothing and no one that dare stand in your way of the truth and a better life for all beings. Yeehaw!
Lori Christopher www.saloncreativegroup.com