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Tag: montana

Rolling Dog Ranch rolling to New Hampshire

Rolling Dog Ranch, a Montana sanctuary for blind, deaf and maimed animals, is moving to New Hampshire.

Steve Smith and Alayne Marker, who founded the animal sanctuary 10 years ago after leaving jobs with Boeing in Seattle, say the 160-acre Montana ranch in Ovando will be put up for sale and that they will start moving horses, dogs and cats to a 120-acre ranch on the outskirts of Lancaster, N.H., on May 24..

Many in Montana are sad to see them go, according to The Missoulian

“My heart is breaking. I’m sobbing,”  Heather Montana of Helena, wrote in a comment on the Rolling Dog Ranch blog, where the news was broken. “Part of my love of being in Montana has been knowing you made this State a better place. You and Alayne are simply the best. Montana is losing the best. The people and volunteers are losing the best. It is crushing.”

(The slideshow above is from my visit there three years ago, which led to a five-part series on the ranch in the “Mutts” blog, now known as “Unleashed,” in the Baltimore Sun.)

Marker and Smith were among 10 recipients of the 2009 Humane Award presented by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals — and that was just the latest in a stream of tributes they have received.

Last Christmas, the ranch received the $20,000 first prize in an online National Shelter Challenge.

Rising gas prices and the hour-plus drives to the closest cities of Missoula and Helena are among the reasons for the move. In Lancaster, they’ll be three miles from the city and minutes from their veterinary clinic.

Smith said on the ranch’s blog that he expects employees and volunteers will be easier to find. “It was always a major problem for us to hire employees here, because most people did not want to move to such a remote area,” Smith said. “And of the few who were willing to move out here, most quickly tired of living so far out.”

rollingdogProperty was cheaper in New Hampshire, too, he noted, and there’s no sales tax or personal income tax.

“I think the day Alayne and I finally decided to get serious about moving, back in December, it was 22 below zero here and 24 above back there (in New Hampshire). We had just finished scooping poop that morning, our hands were frozen, and we thought, we’ve had enough of this kind of cold!” Smith wrote.

(Photo: Blind Madison, rolling in the grass at Rolling Dog Ranch’s new property in New Hamsphire/courtesy of Rolling Dog Ranch)

Dog sledding — as it’s meant to be

We may be down on the Iditarod, but that doesn’t mean we’re down on dog sledding.

As Greg Breining showed in yesterday’s New York Times, when it’s not an 1,100-mile endurance test dogs are forced to take part in, dog sledding can be an exhilarating experience.

“Dog sledding is an exercise in changed states, of chaos turning to order. One moment dogs were barking, yapping, whining, snarling, scrapping, jumping, biting and all the other things dogs do. The next moment they were straining at the gang line, and with a burst of acceleration, all turned silent but for the hiss of the runners on the snow …”

But it’s the breathtaking scenery one encounters while silently sliding through the wilderness that makes dog sledding a popular vacation choice.

“As we crested a small hill, the valley opened, and brilliant Pilot Peak burst into view in stark relief against a black snow cloud. ‘This is why I do this,’ Jason Matthews said, standing on the sled runner next to me. ‘This is why I’m out here.’

Matthews runs Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures of Immigrant, Mont., one of many sled-dog outfitters running trips from Alaska to the Rockies to Maine. Matthews offers a range of trips — from his two-hour “sled-dog sampler” on a groomed, nearly level trail, to overnight cabin stays high in the mountains.

Other outfitters listed in the Times article are the Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge in Minnesota, and Mahoosuc Guide Service in Maine. Closer to Baltimore, dogsledding is offered at Husky Power Dog Sledding in western Maryland.

(Photo: courtesy of

But did they bring him brandy?

In a reversal of roles, humans rescued a 16-month-old St. Bernard from freezing weather.

The dog, named Duke, escaped from his yard and ended up frozen to the ice on a pond at a golf course near Billings, Montana.

A maintenance worker at the Peter Yegen Jr. Golf Club, spotted the dog at about 9 a.m. Friday. Two firefighters on a sled managed to reach the shivering dog, breaking the ice around his tail with a mallet, and hauling the dog ashore — along with the chunk of ice still attached to him.

Rescuers believe that Duke, who weights nearly 120 pounds, fell through the ice on the pond sometime during the night and, after pulling himself out, sat on the ice and became frozen to it, according to an Associated Press account.

Duke was taken to Big Sky Pet Center, where he was listed in good condition after being de-iced and warmed up under a blow dryer.

Welcome home, Buck

A golden retriever named Buck who ran from his owners last summer after being spooked by a train whistle is back home in Washington state, thanks to several residents of rural Montana.

The 7-year-old dog survived despite spending six months on his own, and most of the winter exposed to heavy snow and temperatures well below zero, according to an Associated Press report.

“I’ve never had a miracle happen to me, so I don’t really know what to think,” said Kim Halter of Bonney Lake, Wash. Halter, her husband and two of their sons were on a family trip to Montana in August when they stopped at a rest stop underneath a railroad track along U.S. Highway 2 in the small town of Chester.

“We were under the trestle when the horn blew. When Buck heard the whistle, he took off like a shot. None of us even saw him,” she said.

After two days of unsuccessful searching and putting up posters, the Halters continued their trip without him.

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Seized sled dogs overwhelm Butte shelter

One hundreds dogs — seized by authorities in Montana from a man hoarding them in a broken down bus and a trailer — have now multiplied to about 150, and animal welfare officials in Butte plan a fundraiser to help pay for their care.

The dogs — up until this weekend — couldn’t be adopted out to new homes, nor could they be spayed or neutered, because of the pending court case against Phillip Brode, 60, who was arrested Oct. 5 after the bus he was driving broke down at the Rocker truck stop.

Brode, who originally pleaded not guilty, entered a guilty plea at a hearing yesterday, allowing the shelter to begin placing the dogs in permanent homes. The dogs will officially go up for adoption Saturday.

Brode told authorities he was transporting the dogs to Alaska to work as sled dogs.

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Blind Shep from Afghanistan finds a home

“This is one of those adoptions that really makes us tingle,” write Steve Smith and Alayne Marker, friends of ohmidog! (you can find them in our blogroll) and proprietors of Rolling Dog Ranch, an animal sanctuary in Montana.

Rolling Dog Ranch, which I paid a visit to last fall, isn’t so much a temporary shelter for animals as it is a permanent home. Generally, the chronically sick, disabled, discarded and unwanted animals that end up there live out their lives on the 160 grassy acres near Ovando, Montana.

But every once in a while, caring folks adopt one, or, in this case, two.

When Cristene and Duane J. from Hauser Lake, Idaho (pictured above), came out to the ranch last month to adopt three-legged Kasha, they also met — and fell in love with — blind Shep. Back home with Kasha, they couldn’t stop thinking about Shep, a little German Shepherd from Afghanistan. 

It was only a couple of weeks before they emailed to say they wanted Shep, too. Recently, they took him home as well.

Shep is a former resident of the only animal shelter in Afghanistan. In May, he made it to Rolling Dog Ranch.

“Shep is a tiny thing for a German Shepherd, a result no doubt of chronic malnutrition when he was in the womb and then a puppy,” Smith writes in the latest ranch newsletter. ”Although the shelter in Kabul had been feeding him for the couple of months they had him before he came to us, he was still terribly thin when he arrived — so we can imagine how emaciated he was originally.” 

Cristene and Duane now have two RDR dogs at their home in northern Idaho, which includes 50 acres of fields, wetlands, forest, three acres of fenced lawn, and a lake for swimming.

Rolling Dog Ranch rescues and shelters disabled animals, giving every resident — be they blind dogs, blind horses, deaf dogs, blind cats, or animals with neurological and orthopedic disabilities — a second chance.

“Although these animals may have disabilities, they do not consider themselves handicapped. They just want to get on with life and enjoy themselves,” the Rolling Dog Ranch website says. And based on my visit last year, that seems to be exactly what they’re doing.

Here’s a slide show I put together then:

(Top photo: courtesy of Rolling Dog Ranch)

A Montana memorial to Vietnam War dogs

An American Legion honor guard in Fort Benton, Montana commemorated a little-known group of soldiers on Veterans Day – about 4,000 scout dogs, most of which were abandoned after protecting soldiers in Vietnam.

“In memory of the over 4,000 U.S. military working dogs that served in the Vietnam War,”  the Military Working Dogs Memorial, unveiled Tuesday, reads. “When the war was over, these dogs were left behind in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.”

The memorial came out of the collaboration of Adjutant Ron Saville, a former dog handler, and George F. Conklin, commander of American Legion Post 26, according to the Great Falls Tribune

The dogs first in Vietnam served as sentries to guard American and South Vietnamese installations, but also served as scouts, guard dogs, trackers, messengers, and munitions and drug detectors. They also sniffed out mines, trip wires, booby traps or tunnels.

Dogs and their handlers are estimated to have saved more than 10,000 lives in Vietnam, including his own, Conklin said. He choked back tears as he read a citation in honor of the military dog, Echo, that saved his life.
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