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HARPS returns animals to farm after flooding

Work remains to be done on his flooded farm near Libertyville, but at least Robert Moro has his animals back.

A miniature horse named Olive, two goats (Lucky and Charm), two chickens, two rabbits and a duck were returned to Moro’s home Aug. 17 by HARPS, the Hooved Animal Rescue & Protection Society based in Barrington Hills. The group had rescued the animals July 16 as the overflowing Des Plaines River quickly engulfed Moro’s land.

Suffering from ALS, Moro had refused to leave until he knew his animals were safe. The family stayed at a hotel for a couple of weeks before returning home, said Anifa Ivanov, Moro’s daughter-in-law, who lives at the farm with her four children and husband and has helped care for Moro.

“The main thing is we got the home ready for the animals,” Ivanov said. “It felt so empty without them there.”

The animals were Moro’s first addition to the 10-acre farm, which has an address in the small village of Mettawa. Moro bought the farm two years ago, just before his ALS diagnosis, as a place where his 25 grandchildren could visit. Some of the rabbits and dogs didn’t survive the flooding, but HARPS rescued all they could, even ferrying some by boat as high waters reached a depth of at least 4 feet.

HARPS plans to return the rest of his rescued animals – two more rabbits and 10 nearly 4-week-old baby bunnies born at HARPS’ rescue facility – on a second trip back to the farm, likely next week, said Jason Bitton, HARPS executive director.

“The family worked hard over the last two weeks after the water subsisted to repair the flooded barn and fencing,” Bitton said. “Fresh bedding made from straw welcomed the animals back.”

While at HARPS, the animals were “super friendly,” he said. “They were always in great shape. [The goats] have been following us around our farm all the time. The pony we’ve had with four other miniature ponies. They’ve been getting along, and they’re all happy and healthy.”

A tremendous amount of work still needs to be done at the farm where two barns, an outbuilding and numerous vehicles were submerged in water, Ivanov said.

Through a GoFundMe.com account – www.gofundme.com/7t43p-lake-county-flood-disaster – about $36,700 of a $50,000 goal has been raised to help the family.

The family never really considered not moving back, Ivanov said. Moro’s condition has worsened and he’s told his family he wants to spend the rest of his life at the farm.

“It’s getting harder and harder just to see him basically go, just dying of ALS,” Ivanov said. “That’s his home. He’s going to stay there.”

After his diagnosis about two years ago, Moro was given two to five years to live as the disease – a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord – would take away his ability to speak, eat, move and eventually breathe.

After the diagnosis, the family drastically cut costs to keep up with medical bills. The farm’s flood insurance policy was one of many costs cut.

“We’ve raised a lot of money, but we’re not sure if it’s going to be enough for the whole property,” Ivanov said.

“We appreciate everything that everybody has done. We’re just thankful for everything. Now we’re just taking it day by day.”

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