As a child, Ann Goody loved visiting museums, always leaving behind her smeared nose and handprints as she pressed her face against the glass to get a better look at the exhibits. It was there she dreamed of having a museum of her own. But the Big Bear, Calif., native wanted a different type of institution, one where children could touch rather than just look. She knew she would build a place one day, she just didn’t know when or how it would happen.
Then lightning struck. Literally. In June of 1997, the day after her wedding to Dr. Norm Goody, Ann was cleaning up the garage from the reception they had the night before. The garage cement pavement was wet from a little rain earlier in the day but there was no sign of harsh weather to come. Then suddenly, without warning, a flash of light screeched down from the sky, striking Ann, knocking her down and causing smoke to billow out of her nose and mouth. By all accounts, she should have died.
After she was taken to the hospital for treatment, doctors weren’t sure if she would ever learn to be herself again. Her entire left section of her temporal lobe had been destroyed. Along with learning how to walk and talk all over again, she’d lost the ability to recognize faces and names. Ann, a once “high-functioning, multi-tasking person,” couldn’t even find the right words to ask for a cup of coffee.
“I had no idea of the neurological damage the lightning had done,” recalls Norm, an anesthesiologist who moved from Boston after “trialing” out the island a couple of times for work. “I was just worried if she was going to live.”
Lonely and depressed, half of Ann’s brain was paralyzed and she could barely find the words to communicate how she felt. She had become a stranger to herself; everything she had once known had become foreign. Nothing made sense. Her convalescence was difficult and long. But Norm was by her side. One day in 1998, he asked what he could do to help her. She answered, as a joke, “I’d love a zebra.”
“I’m sure I meant I wanted a trip to Paris or something,” laughs Goody, who was able to almost completely rehabilitate whilst accidentally establishing this Big Island sanctuary. “Never in a million years would I have thought we would be doing what we do today. But here we are happy, busy and completely nuts.”
Ann laughs now but at that time Norm didn’t think she was kidding about the zebra. He remembered an article he read about the Moloka‘i Ranch Safari Park being shut down and decided to reach out to them for help. Soon he was able to get in contact with one of the lawyers and gave Ann the number to call.
“It was like a challenge,” she says. “I was so withdrawn at the time but it was one step that needed to be taken for me to get my zebra, as well as to start speaking in front of people again.”
She did speak again. And again and again. She spoke to officials at the Department of Agriculture, the Attorney General and countless others in order to obtain the necessary licences to have Oreo, the zebra from Moloka‘i. They were given the permits and soon after a tumultuous brood of more than 50 animals — each one with a heartbreaking story — followed. The Goodys’ 5-acre dream home quickly became a place where broken animals could be fixed and rehabilitated. It had become symbolic for Ann’s own recovery. And when the Goodys tried to think of a name to call their new space, Norm suggested it be named after a circus.
“Three Ring Ranch stuck,” Norm laughs. “Everything around us was like living in a circus so we thought it was a perfect fit.”
Today, their circus has become a safe haven where hundreds of animals are “taught to be an animal again.” They are creatures who were abandoned or abused by their owners, seized in raids or rescued from failed zoos — from alpacas to zebras. There are also a few native birds who suffered injuries so severe that they can never live in the wild again.
“Many of these guys are here because of the mistreatment from humans,” Ann says. “People get these animals and they don’t realize the amount of social, physiological, emotional and physical needs it (requires) … just like a human needs all of those things, our animals need constant stimulation in order to be happy.”
Unlike a zoo, the Three Ring Ranch hosts visitors by appointment only and requests they abide by their rules: Listen to Ann; listen to the animals.
“The animals rule here,” she says. “This is an animal sanctuary for a reason … the animals are living their lives how they choose to live. We are merely a visitor in their home.” And she means it. The ranch is legally entrusted to the animals, some of whom will more than likely outlive their human caretakers.
Today, the Goodys’ home has grown into an educational facility. It’s a place where after-school children come and learn about the similar logic of a monkey’s brain compared to a human’s. It’s a place where visitors get to see and learn the tragic stories of each and every animal cared for on the land. They are stories that could have been easily prevented if certain precautionary measures had been known and enforced. Ann hopes to one day do for the animals what she has been able to do again: Have a voice. Norm says, thanks to Ann, they’re already making headway.
“Before a recent E.I.S. was made, Ann was contacted for advice on how they could protect the Hawaiian Hoary bat,” Norm says. “People are becoming more aware of their impacts and that’s all we’re trying to do. Not just with animals but with each other as well. To be more respectful and conscientious of one another. That’s the overall message of the Three Ring Ranch. That we’re all in this together.”
And that includes Oreo, Zoe and Cody, along with a feral donkey, a capuchin monkey, 26 different native and exotic birds, eight turtles and five tortoises, Italian honeybees and a Mexican salamander.