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A helping paw for man’s best friend

The Brittany Foundation in Agua Dulce is a no-kill rescue that could use help from the community

Posted: May 2, 2009 7:43 p.m.
Updated: May 3, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Nancy Anderson, founder of the Brittany Foundation, spends some time with a few of the smaller dogs.

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When man’s best friends are left friendless, Nancy Anderson of The Brittany Foundation knows how to come to the rescue. As owner and operator of the no-kill, all-breed dog sanctuary in Agua Dulce, Anderson has spent the last 20 years bringing new life and new friends to thousands of abandoned dogs.

“These dogs have the biggest little souls anyone has ever known,” Anderson said. “But it’s getting more and more difficult to keep up these days.”

Anderson has a devoted team of volunteers who come and work the three-acre ranch, spending time on weekends cleaning the open-aired kennels, walking, feeding and assisting wherever they can. Otherwise, it’s just Anderson and a part-time kennel worker to take care of the dogs during the week.

With dogs being dumped in record numbers at the shelter due to the economy, Anderson has felt an increased urgency to save their lives.

Unfortunately, with donations at the foundation down by 50 percent from 2008, she is concerned for the future of her rescue efforts.

“It’s hard enough to take care of the dogs we have, let alone rescue new dogs,” she said.

 The ‘Brittany Dogs’
Before being an all-breed and mixed-breed rescuer, Anderson volunteered with a pit bull rescue. She even had a pit bull puppy of her own, which she aptly named, “Dog.”

“He was like my canine soul mate,” said Anderson. “He was the best dog in the whole world, and that was the start of it all.”

The animal quickly became the “gateway dog” for Anderson, who began looking further into the world of rescues and the dogs that needed her most. She couldn’t resist the little old dogs with failing eyesight, missing limbs or with an illness of some kind.

“The dogs may have been looked as undesirable or unfavorable, but I knew I had to take them,” Anderson said.

She began to rescue these “special needs” dogs, just as she rescued other dogs without disabilities or ailments. Word spread fast about Anderson’s eye for taking the less-than-likely candidates.

“It got so that every time someone saw a blind dog or (a dog with a disability), they would call me to come and get the dog,” said Anderson.

“They’d say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a Brittany here!’”

They weren’t talking about Brittany Spaniels, but rather, the foundation Anderson named after her Yorkie, Brittany, who died in the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Approximately half of all dogs at the Brittany Foundation today are seniors and/or have medical needs or emotional issues that require a patient human touch.

Still, they have their charm. Edie Muenster, a 9-year old Chihuahua with a widow’s peak and underbite that earned her the name, loves to roll around in the laundry that awaits folding or take a nap.

Edie was adopted briefly, but returned when potty training didn’t happen fast enough for her new family. Like all Brittany dogs, Anderson accepted Edie back without reservation, but hopes she will find an adoptive family that loves her as much as she and the volunteers do.

Many of the senior and special needs will live out the rest of their lives at the Brittany Foundation, such as Gramps, a 20-year-old Chihuahua dumped at the shelter and Faith, a paralyzed 6-year-old Chihuahua surrendered by her owners after being injured.

“They are simply not able to leave our care, not because it would be too hard for people,” said Anderson, “but because their cases are so specific, it would be too hard for the dog.”

Home on the Range
Anderson became a nonprofit organization in 1994, after 10 years of planning and writing business plans to obtain her own dog sanctuary.

Originally, after she moved to California in 1987 from the Midwest and began her animal activism, Anderson wanted an inter-species rescue to include dogs, cats, reptiles, farm animals and victims of vivisection and testing laboratories.

“I probably would have needed J. Paul Getty’s money to do all that,” Anderson said.

Instead, through private donations and support from friends in the community and rescue world, Anderson acquired the money to house the dogs in their own kennels.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled with what has been accomplished to date,” said Anderson “We hope to keep the rescue efforts going.”

As well as the dogs with special needs, Anderson’s other residents at the rescue consist of those in need of new homes. Many were abandoned, saved from euthanasia or discarded after breeding for puppy mills.

Charlie, a handsome 6-year-old terrier mix that resembles an overgrown Jack Russell, has spent most of his life at The Brittany Foundation after being rescued from the shelter. Despite his good looks and funny personality, Charlie has yet to find a home.

Kelly Mayfield, a volunteer of the foundation for the past 11 years, said it is important to remember the dog’s situation when looking at adopting. Many, like Charlie, are exuberant after being kept in a kennel and may not show as well as a dog with a regular routine of exercise and training. She hopes someone will give Charlie and the rest of the adoptable Brittany dogs a chance.

“Being placed in a home transforms the dog,” said Mayfield. “It gives them a whole new life and makes them so much healthier — emotionally, mentally and physically.”

Rene Ruston, a member of the board of directors for the past 10 years, said you can’t put a price on happiness.

“There are a lot of people who go out to buy a new dog when there are so many who need saving,” said Ruston. “I only hope that more people at least try the shelters and rescues first. These dogs are just waiting for new people to love.”
 
To be or not to be …
Maeve Mayfield, 14, has volunteered at the Brittany since she was 7. She likes the big dogs, like Loren, a sweet red-and-white pit bull that gives kisses on command, and the little dogs, like Sebastian, a tiny beige terrier that wiggles his whole body with joy whenever he sees the volunteers, equally.

“These dogs have become a part of me,” said Mayfield. “They’re like little people and they need us to open our hearts and let them in. We are all they’ve got right now. All we are trying to do is keep them alive and give them good lives.”

Anderson said there are many ways to donate to help the foundation survive, by volunteering at the ranch or at fundraising or adoption events, donating supplies or food. Specifically, she could use an experienced grant writer to help obtain funding.

Anderson encouraged all pet owners to be responsible by spaying and neutering their pets. If they are experiencing harsh economic times, she suggested asking friends, relatives or the local Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help with veterinary bills, food and other necessary pet expenses.

If re-homing is required and a family or friend can’t take them in, Anderson said posting your pet’s profile online and do a thorough home check should be your next option.

“The last thing you want to do is send your pet to a shelter. Once they’re in the system, it’s hard for them to come out alive,” she said.

Despite the rough times and hard work, as Anderson goes about her daily routine of taking care of 90 dogs that depend on her, she is cautiously optimistic.

“Sometimes I feel we may have to close our doors. But then miraculously another donation comes in and we get through it,” she said.

“However, we are operating on a shoestring budget right now, and really need the help more than ever before.”
For information on adoptions, volunteerism and donations for The Brittany Foundation visit www.brittanyfoundation.com, or call Nancy Anderson, (661) 713-5240.

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