I learned about this wonderful place when I watched National Geographic’s “Dogtown“. My heart was forever imprinted with the images of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs arriving at Dogtown, particularly the bait dogs. It was heartbreaking. I thought to myself that if I ever got the chance, I would visit the sanctuary and volunteer. I got that chance! It was quite a detour from the coast, but worth every moment. Despite being in the middle of the great wild west, folks from all over the world arrive, eager to help out or seek a new companion.
This sanctuary works with many other animal rescues for the success of rehabilitating and/or rehoming animals, or by providing a safe environment for those animals too distressed to be re homed. I had the privilege of seeing Meryl, one of the Vicktory dogs, who was court ordered to live her life out at the sanctuary. She has a buddy in her run and gets visits with the staff, but is kept low key so as to have quality of life. If you are interested in watching the success stories of some of the dogs, I recommend you watch “The Champions”. It just goes to show what can be done with love and patience.
The location in Angel Canyon is breathtaking. Each morning I would have to stop and absorb my surroundings. The rock formations are a supernatural work of art. And at night, oh my goodness, the stars! Wildlife abounds, with wild turkeys, mule deer, hawks, eagles, roadrunners spotted regularly. There are many hikes in the area. Remnants of Little Hollywood Land can be seen as many westerns were filmed in the area. I half expected Clint Eastwood to come riding around the bend! (“The Outlaw Josie Wales” was filmed there.)
I volunteered in the Puppy Preschool and Cat World and took a tour of old Dogtown, the Parrot Garden and Wild Friends. There was so much more that I didn’t see. If you are interested, check out the Sanctuary for planning your visit.
While I revelled in all of my time at BFAS, my favourite visit was to old Dogtown, where there are a number of residents full of character. Aside from seeing Meryl, I so enjoyed meeting Houdini, a fairly elderly resident known for his escape artistry. He is a Hurricane Katrina survivor and has had a rough time of it. Now arthritic, he is very sensitive and needs to be approached gently, but once he senses you are okay, he gently lifts his head to you and allows you to stroke him. What a sweet boy!
We also came upon Kaboodle out for his walk. He has neurological damage. He lives with his buddy, Kit, who also has neurological damage.
In Cat World, there are many cats who are compromised healthwise, but are given the individual attention they need. Slidell spends most of her day just hanging out with the staff. Her back end doesn’t work, but she still manages to get around. She is generally friendly, but for some reason, despises the guide who did our tour, so she turned her back on us, just like a cat!
The puppies in Puppy Preschool are trained to be accustomed to all manner of social situations and are rewarded for any sign of progress. What fun I had volunteering there!
The Parrot Garden was a real education. I had no idea about how difficult it is for most birds to be content in captivity, but it makes sense. They were born to fly. Lisa, the caregiver who showed us around, was wonderful. She truly understands how to make the birds feel safe. Considering parrots can live for 50 years or more, you better do your research before getting one! There were other birds there as well, free flying in the aviary.
This just touches on all of what there is to see and do at the sanctuary. I didn’t get to the horses, pigs or bunnies.
And I didn’t visit all areas of Dogtown. If you are planning to visit, a week is not long enough. If you stay at the sanctuary, the cabins are fully self-contained, complete with a dog run, for your pet. And Angel’s Village is open from 11:30am to 1:00pm for a vegetarian/vegan all-you-can-eat buffet lunch for $5.00. I took my food to go and had enough for breakfast and dinner as well!
I went on a little hike to the Hidden Lake and came across some small ruins and petrographs of the Anasazi Indians.
The one problem I had while there was with Nerah. She escaped out of the RV the first day we were there, got such a taste of the great outdoors and all the places to climb, that I didn’t get her back for a couple of hours when someone spotted her and showed me where she was. Then she snuck out again when we were ready to leave. This time she thought it was such fun being chased by me through bushes and over rocks. She was dreaming of being a mountain cat! I eventually gave up and waited for her to come back, which she did, twice, before bounding away again. What a great game! All I can say is I can’t wait to get her to a place where she can run around outside, but still be at home.