In July of 2014 we took in our last two “guests”. Honor and Izzy are the pet English Setters of the family of Major Eric Burkett, USMC. A wounded warrior who is currently hospitalized at US Naval Hospital, Bethesda, MD.Our saddest moment was the passing of Donna McBride. She was a faithful volunteer and loved the “guests”. She made the best banana nut bread on the entire planet. There were many blessings in our experience. By far the greatest was the return of each of the owners. Some damaged but all home.
- Dr. Alan Kirmayer, VMD and Dr. Lisa Whalen, DVM and their staff donated their veterinary services free of charge to all of our military guests. Their most needed support was that which they gave to the five service members whose “buddies” lost their battles to terminal illnesses before their reunions. The doctors eased those troops through those trying times by constantly communicating with them while they attempted everything possible to return the dogs to good health.
- Governor Ed Rendell and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Develpoment who provided grants to us and took away a lot of the pressure associated with “how are we going to keep this going?”. We were especially touched by his help because many of the owners were from the Pennsylvania National Guard and were his soldiers.
- The Nestle Purina Pet Food Products plant in Mechanicsburg, PA whose manager is a US Army Vietnam veteran and whose distribution manager a former US Marine. The “guests” ate well because of their continuous contributions of food and treats.
- The generosity of the Veterans’ associations throughout Pennsylvania (especially the VFWs and American Legions of Perry County).
- The Gold Star Mothers and the Blue Star Mothers whose support was most touching of all.
- Both locations of AERC (Mechanicsburg and York) who, in the middle of the night, would tend to the emergency medical needs of any “guest” in distress. As well as provide 24-hour attended hospitalization for the most serious cases.
- Tri-County Animal Hospital (Loysville) and Dillsburg Veterinary Center who we could count on for back-up help when needed.
- US Army veteran Lenny Shaffer from Loysville who made sure we had more than enough wood to see us through each winter to heat the dog barn.
- The Amish community of Perry County who built all of our needed structures and provided invaluable advice on how to survive successfully outside the boundaries of suburbia. Crickside Barns (Amos Riehl) did all construction. Mountain View Plumbing (Steve Stoltzfus) provided their plumbing services. Martin Enterprises (Mennonite – learned the Amish don’t do electric) electrified us.
- Kellie Johnston of Sound of Shears by Kellie in Mechanicsburg for being our Shirts angel. She would have t-shirts produced and sell them from her shop to support us. Wendy, from the shop, and her husband Mark, would organize an annual golf tournament to raise funds.
- The Supervisors and citizens of Spring Township, Perry County in which the sanctuary was located for having the foresight to never have instituted zoning ordinances.
- Each of dozens of volunteers who generously gave of their time to provide loving human interaction to our “guests” – from 5lb TeaCup Poodles “Ginger” and “Cinnamon” to 185lb English Mastiff “Duke” (who was adopted by National Guard Staff Sergeant Fallyn Trayer of Dillsburg when his owner was unable to reunite with him)
- US Army Vietnam veteran Terry Tibbs from Landisburg who would show up early in the morning of snow storms to make sure everything was cleared
- Two-tour USMC Vietnam veteran Joe Burroughs of Loysville who religiously appeared four times per week to exercise the population
- Two-tour US Army Vietnam Green Beret veteran Chuck Marr who took on the responsibility of being our Vice-President of Digestive Reclamation (when there are thirty-some dogs at one place concurrently somebody has to know what to do with all of that poop)
- The Pelligrini ladies from Loysville who rivaled Mr. Clean when it came to hard work
- Lou DiLissio whose only concern was that we never had enough hunting dogs
- Alice Morgan who appeared twice each week to walk the “guests” while her son served in Afghanistan and after his return
- US Army Captain Jody Zahn, whose “buddies” “Molly” and “Moose” stayed with us during her tour in Afghanistan, would spend Saturdays after her return helping with the chores
- Laura Weller who, if the “guests” were in a listening mood, would carry on great conversations with them
- Joyce Ross would sneak away from her pack of Chihuahuas each week to visit
- Nick and Sarah Columbus of Loysville (Nick was awarded the Purple Heart while serving as a Marine in Iraq) volunteered, fostered three of our “guests” and then went above the call of duty by adopting “Bella” whose owner was unable to reunite with her
- The Hockersmiths who live a “block” away (a block in Perry County is about two miles) would provide emergency coverage when off-site travel was required as well as consistent “guest” companionship
- Steve Rensi of Carlisle who adopted 106lb Bloodhound “Sampson” whose owner was unable to reunite
- Professor MJ Zygmont from Central Penn College who, we think, liked the “guests” better than students
- Randy and Tracey Musselwhite would show up each Saturday night with pizza
- Corrine Syster (who recently entered into blessed motherhood) faithfully kept our web-site alive
- Amy Wimmersberger got us through the paperwork to secure legitimacy with the Commonwealth and IRS and kept us “legal” throughout
- Kathy Odato and Becky Griffiths who were both human cleaning dynamos
- Retired seventy-three year-old retired USAF Master Sergeant Lynnwood Ouzts who fostered seven separate “guests” over a five year period
- Kristin, Rebecca and Mandy (the Tuesday night “Perry County Miss Americas”) with an amazing work ethic added to the scenery once each week
- First Sergeant Jason and Sergeant Amber Flenner of the PA Guard who fostered “guests” while awaiting the arrival of their first child
- Elaine LeBlanc who adopted “Frank” into her home after he was found by Dr. Whalen abandoned on the side of the road
- Barbara Maliniak for her generosity and caustic New Jersey-native sense of humor
- Bachelor Brian Radkey showed up each Sunday morning no matter how much of a good time he had the preceding night
- ... and every other human who set foot on the sanctuary property to lend a hand. This list could go on for quite some time if my memory were better.
The payback for us was always the reunions. Unbeknownst to us at the beginning was the solid validity of the strong everlasting love of canines for their absent humans. At every single reunion, some after as long as eighteen months for deployments, the “buddy” would go bonkers at the sight of their returning owner.
The joy of those occasions was the direct result of the dedication, kindness and love of every volunteer involved in this endeavor. And every supporter who provided the means by which we were able to sustain our mission.
God bless each and every one of you.
The postscript of the sanctuary is that it has transitioned into the hands of the Harrisburg Humane Society for use as a rehabilitation center for abused horses.