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A home to dogs, cats, horses

Posted: December 20, 2011 3:02 p.m.
Updated: December 20, 2011 3:02 p.m.

Lisa Lambert spends a moment with Bobo, a black schnauzer mix, at St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary in Canyon Country.

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Bobo the black giant schnauzer was on his last day at a high-kill shelter. Faith the tabby cat was thrown onto Highway 14 at just 3 days old. Solo the chestnut thoroughbred was a neglect case.

All have found refuge at St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary, a nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter nestled in the hills of Canyon Country.

Featuring indoor and outdoor kennels and a large well-equipped barn, the 4.5 acre property is home to about 90 dogs, cats and horses while they seek a permanent family through adoption. Until then, the staff and volunteers at St. Bonnie’s act as if each animal was their own.

Jean Coleman, of Canyon Country, hugged a black-and-white kitty close as she transferred him from the feline wing to the adjoining “romper room,” a screened-in habitat where the cats socialize.

“I just love animals, and my heart goes out to those who have no home,” she said.

A volunteer since the sanctuary opened its doors in June 2010, Coleman is there at least three days a week, cleaning out cages and providing love to cats, such as Camille, a fluffy looker who playfully sticks out her paw for a pet.

“This way, I can help without being a hoarder. Otherwise, I’d be the little old lady down the street with all the cats,” Coleman said with a smile.

The vast majority of animals at St. Bonnie’s come from Lancaster and California City shelters, according to sanctuary manager Lisa Lambert.

“These are very high-kill shelters, and a lot of people don’t go there to rescue or adopt animals,” she said.
Lambert checks the shelter websites on a regular basis to determine the animals in greatest need.

“We try not to get puppies, because they’ll usually be adopted from the shelter. I look at the animals that have been there the longest and then walk up and down the aisles to see them. We’ll pull the ones shaking or in the isolation unit to make sure they get the attention they need,” Lambert said.

Carmine was one such dog. The young, small brown and white terrier was scared of being leashed or even being petted on his head at first. “He was probably hit or kicked,” Lambert said sadly.

Being rescued by St. Bonnie’s was a turning point for Carmine. As Lambert stroked his head softly, the little dog closed his eyes in contentment. “Carmine has come a long way,” she said.

Once pulled from the shelter, the pets are placed in one of two on-site isolation rooms for a 10-day period to treat any existing conditions, such as kennel cough or upper respiratory infections.

Some pets require more extensive medical treatment, such as Cline, 7, and Little Rascal, 2, Malteses that came from a hoarding situation in the Antelope Valley.

“They had horrific dental problems. They had probably never seen a vet before,” Lambert said, shaking her head. “They never had human contact, either.  We had our volunteers sit in their kennel until they became more comfortable.”

That attention helped Cline find a home, which he was headed to the following day.

Such success stories warm the heart of volunteer Susie Majesky, of Canyon Country, who helps clean the dog kennels and takes the canines on long walks around the property three days a week.

“Watching a dog that would shy away when I put my hand at their crate eventually come up and kiss me, that’s major,” Majesky said. “And seeing them get their forever home, well, that’s the whole goal.”

As a no-kill facility, pets that don’t find homes stay at the sanctuary forever, such as Bobi, a senior German shepherd that acts as the kennel’s ambassador.

For the most part, St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary, which is part of the Lange Foundation, a long-established Los Angeles rescue organization, is very successful at placing the pets through websites, such as Petfinder.com and word of mouth.

“Between us and the Lange Foundation, we’ve adopted out about 700 in the last year or so,” Lambert said.

The adoption process includes an application, home check, a meet-and-greet with any existing household pets and a $250 fee. All pets are spayed or neutered, micro-chipped and vaccinated.

“Why would anyone buy a pet when they’re dying in shelters?” Lambert asked. “Go to a shelter or rescue and save a life instead.”

St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary also offers a foster program to qualified homes.

“We take care of all the medical and food costs. It’s like a temporary adoption. It helps socialize the pets and provides a home environment, which some of them may never have been in before,” Lambert said. “In this economy, fostering is a great option if you can’t afford to have a pet.”

For more information on St. Bonnie’s Sanctuary, visit http://langefoundation.com/index/St_Bonnies_Sanctuary.html, email st.bonnies@gmail.com  or call (661) 251-5590.

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