MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — The mountains of Mendocino County, about ten miles east of Willets is the home of a place called the Milo Foundation Sanctuary.
If there is a doggie heaven on earth — this looks like it could be it.
Hills for running, creeks for splashing and fellow animals and people for playing.
We touch down at the Willets Airport with a special cargo. Layla, a high-energy dog who needs a lot of room to roam. The 283-acre Milo Foundation Sanctuary has plenty of space.
Lynn Tingle, the founder of the Milo Foundation, meets us at the airport to pick up Layla.
“Layla is a character. She came from Merced from the shelter there and was facing euthanasia and she’s just a full throttle, bursting at the seams energetic girl,” Tingle said.
Tingle founded the Milo foundation in 1994.
“We’ve rescued more than 35,000 animals and found them homes.”
Layla gets quite the welcome as we arrive at the santuary as other dogs bark at her entrance.
This Australian cattle dog shepherd mix has been here before. She’s come back… because Tingle says she still hasn’t found the right family to take her in.
“She’s in charge. The person has to be really smart to keep up with her because she will challenge you all the time,” Tingle said. “She’s just active, agile and fun loving and really wants to have adventures in her life. We’ll keep her here until find the right person, active person with property.”
This is not strictly a dog sanctuary. We pass by a couple of other Milo residents. Two large pigs grunting happily in their enclosure and an aviary with chickens and a couple of peacocks.
We head to the stables that are being used as as kennel and tingle introduces us to phoebe, a playful little pit bull that is obsessed with her ball.
“These animals that were going to be euthanized get every chance that they can to get adopted and if they aren’t adopted they get to come here, and the thing about here is the dogs can be dogs. They can be out with groups of dogs and be playing and have space and be in a stress free environment until we can get them a home so they’re not sitting in a kennel.”
Our tour continues on an ATV as we explore the 280 acres covered by oak and pine trees and manzanita.
A small dog named “Nash” races ahead of the vehicle up a steep dirt road and a shepherd named “Harvey” takes up the year.
We end up at the wolf pen.
Animals like these are often the victims of trendy movies and tv shows.
Instead of dalmations or chihuahuas, the new “it” dog is a wolf hybrid… like the dogs seen in “Game of Thrones”.
They’re often abandoned once it’s learned that the reality of owning an exotic pet is far removed from the fantasy on the screen.
That’s where Lynn steps in.
“I do it because I love it. I mean otherwise I’d be a crazy person if was doing this. I got the property, staffing. It’s a challenge all the time. It’s also super rewarding.”
We continue through the rolling hills and past the neighbor’s marijuana farm and circle back to the cluster of buildings that make up the heart of the sanctuary.
This is where we find a colony of cats. It’s dinner time.
“For the dogs and cats if it fails (an adoption) for some reason in their home or just aren’t able to do the urban environment or have too much energy or they’re afraid of strangers they come here to the Milo Sanctuary.”
We stop and visit the horses.. and two of the sweetest donkeys you’ll ever find.
These were all given up by their owners. Lynn explains the horses almost ended up in a slaughter house in Mexico.
“The horses here were all rescued from a kill lot in Texas where basically all the kill buyers go to horse auctions, livestock auctions and they buy them all usually pretty cheap. They’re competitive and they will outbid people that want to adopt, save them. they cost us about $1,500 each. Then you have to quarantine and truck them out so it’s hugely expensive. And it’s just wrong, the whole set up. It’s a big scam and it’s a big problem because there has to be an answer to… what do you do with a horse that you don’t want anymore?”
There are five workers here supporting this non profit. Milo relies on donations to do its work.
The coronavirus pandemic has altered life here as well. Lynn says there have been fewer rescues arriving because more people have been working from home… keeping their animals company.
“The thing that’s the positive is that more people are looking to adopt so we’ve had a lot of adoptions from the sanctuary, a lot of adoptions at our adoption center which is being done by appointment. We’ve cleared out most of our readily adoptable animals from here at the Milo Sanctuary, which is wonderful, because people are looking deeper and harder than ever before to find an animal to adopt because it’s a hard time right now. “
It’s almost time to go but we’re going to take one more dog back, an old bow legged gentle brute named Amos.
Lynn says he’s a lovable fellow who’s seen a lot.
“Happy, easy going, bent leg, funny old guy. his person died. The family member that brought him to us tried to keep him but he had a bit of a prey drive for her cats and so she just couldn’t keep him. He came a good year ago. got a ton of life yet. We now have a foster home set up for him so he can now go down to the Bay Area and get some love and attention and either the foster will adopt and that’s a possibility or there’s someone else interested so we’re just going to see if we can get him a home.”
In addition to the sanctuary in Mendocino County, the Milo Foundation operates an adoption center in Point Richmond.
We load 90 pound Amos into our plane and say goodbye to Lynn.
She tells us she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
“We’re hanging in there. We plan on being here for many decades to come.”
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