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Tag: haven

A dog park for the dogs of the homeless

A Seattle-area church that offers its parking lot and other facilities to homeless women has added a mini-dog park — so the dogs belonging to those women can romp off leash.

Volunteers with the non-profit group Fences for Fido put up the fencing Saturday at Kirkland’s Lake Washington United Methodist Church, KING5 reported.

The church runs a “Safe Parking” program, and 40-50 women and families a night sleep there in their cars.

The women, after registering with the program and getting a background check, can use the church’s kitchen, bathrooms and Wi-Fi, and if temperatures outside get below freezing the women can sleep inside on the church’s pews.

They also have access to food and toiletries donated by church members, community resource information and counseling services.

“We recognize that people who are homeless and have a vehicle face challenges in where to park their car without fear of tickets or harassment,” the church explains on its website.

“We also recognize that homelessness can be isolating and the benefits of community and relationships can be life-transforming. We at Lake Washington United Methodist Church offer our parking lot to guests as a safe place to park, sleep in their cars, and become part of our church community.”

Now the church has recognized that many of those homeless women also have dogs, which can often be a reason they haven’t found space in shelters.

The fenced-in dog run was constructed by Fences for Fido, a Portland-based non-profit that provides dog houses, spay-neuter services, veterinary care and fencing to families whose dogs are chained or tethered.

“The fact that the church has stepped up and is utilizing their facilities to help these women makes it even more important that we step up and help them keep their pets because their pets are their family and their friends,” said Michele Coppola, a member of the group.

One of the safe parkers, who identified herself as Cheryl, lives in her VW Jetta car with her dog, Shiloh. Her own health issues make it hard for her to see that Shiloh gets enough exercise.

She said it was a “huge deal … to be able to get her out of the back seat, to have her be able to romp and play and run free for a while.”

A piglet and a pit bull

For some reason, Pigalina was rejected by her mother, but she’s found a substitute in a member of another species — Levi, a four-year-old pit bull.

The piglet, three-weeks-old when this video was made, lives at PIGS Animal Sanctuary in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Levi, a rescued dog, was living there when she arrived — and obviously is used to being crawled upon by piglets.

The sanctuary, founded in 1992, specializes in the care of potbellied pigs and farm pigs, and it shelters other farm animals and pets as well. About 400 animals — pigs, dogs, cats, horses and goats among them — are living there.

You can learn more about out what’s going on at PIGS Animal Sanctuary by visiting its Facebook page.

Utopia Ranch: Kinky Friedman’s dog haven


Yesterday, as can happen in life, I took a wrong turn on the way to Utopia, ending up instead on a dead end dirt road.

So I turned around, drove back through my own dust, took a different road and finally spotted the driveway I was looking for — the one into Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, founded by mystery novelist, musician, social commentator, humorist, columnist, guru, gubernatorial candidate, good old boy, singer, songwriter and purveyor of both cigars and salsa, Kinky Friedman.  

Mr. Happy

The prolific Texas author — with more than 30 books to his name — funded the rescue organization when it started up 12 years ago in Utopia, Texas; then he offered a good-sized hunk of his family ranch in Medina, Texas, allowing the rescue to relocate and expand three years later.

The shelter’s day-to-day operation falls to Nancy Parker-Simons and her husband, Tony Simons, who, with help from volunteers tend to the 47 (as of yesterday) dogs under their care until permanent homes can be found.

That doesn’t always happen quickly, as the case of Mr. Happy attests. He’s been at the shelter all 12 years since it opened. “He just always seems to get overlooked,” Parker-Simons said. 

Among the other residents, some of whom Parker-Simons has taken to naming after celebrities, are Bob Dylan (that’s him to the left), Ben Stiller and Mister Rogers, who spent years as a stray on the streets of Kansas City. 

All now spend their days in large and shaded fenced lots, enjoying walks with volunteers, dips in the swimming hole in the summer, and homemade garlic and cheese quesadillas in the winter. Garlic seems to relieve their stress, Parker-Simons says.

She says Friedman has been rescuing strays for most of his life — and people, too, she says, counting herself among them. After she became the unofficial caretaker of some strays Friedman had found — not to mention babysitter to his dog Mr. Magoo — they decided to make it an official rescue organization.

Annie Oakley

The no-kill shelter gives dogs another chance at life, she said. “The way our world treats dogs, sometimes I feel so sorry for them. People just dispose of them.” That casual attitude caused her to fly off the handle once, she said. She’d gotten a lot of calls from women, surrendering their dogs because their boyfriends didn’t want them around.

“Finally I got fed up hearing that,” she said, and suggested to one woman that any man who demanded something like that wasn’t worth keeping around, ‘Why don’t you euthanize him,” she told her, “because the guy doesn’t have a clue about love.”

Utopia is slightly picky about who they let adopt dogs, wanting to make sure they are destined for good homes. “I think most of the dogs are living in better homes than we are,” she said.


Ben Stiller

Even Friedman — tune in tomorrow for our visit with him — lives in an unassuming cabin, which served as the lodge for the summer camp, still operating, that his parents started for Jewish children.

The undulating Hill Country of Texas made a perfect spot for that — just as it makes a perfect spot for dogs. While waiting for adoptive homes, the dogs enjoy acres upon acres of land, and an inviting looking swimming hole. 

While Utopia houses primarily dogs, it has also taken in horses and some other animals, including wild hogs, two of which were adopted by bed and breakfasts, not to serve as breakfast, but to serve as mascots.

Mister Rogers

Among the friends of Friedman that have helped support the rescue are Dwight Yoakum, former Gov. Ann Richards and Willie Nelson.

‘”Every dream has to start somewhere. This may not be the slickest operation, but these dogs are all loved and cared for,” Friedman told the Austin American-Statesman back in 1998. 

More recently Friedman has donated all proceeds from the sale of his new Kinky Friedman’s Private Stock Salsa line to the rescue organization.

Parker-Simons has written two books about life at Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch. You can find more information about them and about the ranch on her blog.

To read all the installments of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.