A wonderful symphony fills the room.
Not a symphony of violins and flutes and trumpets, but a symphony… of barks. Excited and eager and energetic bars; barks full of happiness from being alive and comfortable and well.
Welcome to the song of Luke’s Hidden Haven.
LHH is a local no-kill rescue/sanctuary sheltering elderly, abused or homeless dogs from near and far, run by volunteers. It focuses on two types of dog: first, those who have lost their owners through death or are unwanted or abandoned; and second, those with extreme medical needs who might otherwise be put down. And “near and far” means just that – anywhere from Bradford County to Texas, to Canada, to the Middle East.
Run by Maunallen Gregory, the shelter is about 5 miles from Rome, in the hills of northeastern Bradford County. Right now, it cares for about 60 dogs and also some horses, donkeys and other animals. Maunallen and her helpers de ella love them all.
“You’re born that way, don’t you think?” the 87-year-old says to some helpers one day. There was no single incident in her life that made her want to shelter animals. “You’re born that way.”
But how could anyone resist them? These puppies, large and small, young and old, yapping happily and looking up with those huge dark eyes. You have Betty, big and black, with her paws up on the side of her cage. “She loves everybody!” volunteer Linda Harvey of Nichols says. Cooper, the chihuahua, relishes belly rubs. Then there’s chubby little Stormy, who was homeless. Olivia has only three legs – someone ran over her on purpose. But she gets around quite well, thank you.
Growing up in England, Maunallen rescued her first animal, a red cat, as a young girl during the World War II Blitzkreig. Her grandfather de ella, a British government employee, received two Saluki dogs from the famed Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. “It went from there!” she says. Her grandmother de ella began breeding the large dogs and the family also showed them. According to the American Kennel Club, the Saluki is the royal dog of Egypt and “perhaps the oldest known breed of domesticated dog.”
Today Maunallen still harbors a special love of the slender, elegant Saluki and cares for several at LHH, along with many other breeds.
She moved here around 20 years ago, bringing 57 animals with her. About a year ago, she received her official rescue license and Luke’s Hidden Haven was born, named after her own beloved and devoted Saluki, once owned by a Marine killed in Afghanistan. The shelter fills a large barn behind Maunallen’s house and includes several kennel rooms, a living area for dog socialization, and space outside for walking and running. Quite a few dogs also live in Maunallen’s house.
Today, some of them are available for adoption, but many will remain here.
LHH works in cooperation with other animal rescues but also offers services they cannot – like providing permanent homes and care for the severely injured, disabled and abused as well as those left alone. Maunallen is especially passionate about caring for animals whose owners die, move into a living facility or become unable to care for them. “Because that’s what falls through the cracks in rescue,” she states.
And that’s exactly what happened to Cleo and Suki, Salukis from Texas, whose loving owner passed away. They have two “siblings,” Ragnar and Khaleesi, who came with them on a long road trip organized by multiple helpers. Finally, they’re here. And in good hands.
Then you have Nora, an English Mastiff who was also orphaned, and Chance, a poodle given up after developing epilepsy (now available for adoption). And Cyrus, whose light-colored coat shows burn marks. Someone did that deliberately.
Pasha was also abused. “Very common in the Middle East,” Maunallen says.
Jack’s owner was a drug user, so neighbors rescued him and got him to LHH. Ivy was deserted. Rocco’s owner died. So did Armani’s, and the mini-pinscher was trapped in a crate a week before anyone discovered him. Riley came from another local shelter, which he thought was unadoptable. Linda begs to differ. “He’s a wonderful dog!”
Harry, tan and gray, has cute, furry ears. Layal does not. Someone cut them off.
And then you have Toto, the dark, furry, innocent little Yorkshire terrier. He had an owner once. “He broke every bone in his body from him,” Maunallen recalls.
“This is what humans do.”
But Toto, now 15, is better and living safely at LHH.
“We spay, neutralize and responsibly rehabilitate all animals,” the shelter’s brochure explains. “We support other rescues by fostering animals, donating and providing transportation. We are also committed to protect, feed and sustain wildlife.” The shelter also occasionally takes dogs for nursing home visits.
Besides all this, LHH is doing renovations right now and hopes to again offer boarding services.
Everything, of course, takes money. Last year, for example, the shelter spent almost $20,000 just on vet bills. It always needs cleaning supplies and heat – the main building and house go through 16-20 cords of wood a year. And those shelves of dog food don’t fill themselves.
“Luke’s Hidden Haven Sponsorship Program accepts donations for a specific dog or dogs of your choice or for the general fund. Donation is $10/month,” the brochure states. If they wish, donors may contribute to the LHH Additional Veterinary Assistance program, which provides medical care for more-extreme needs.
LHH has held various fundraisers, too, such as a dinner at Beeman’s Restaurant, in Athens, which Linda praises and says is very community-minded, and a skating party last winter at Bonin’s Roller Rink, in Orwell. It plans a spaghetti dinner/Chinese auction this fall in Rome.
And perhaps most exciting of all… there could be a wedding!
Yes, Oscar the Saluki and a little mixed-breed terrier, Mary, have fallen in love. Mary was in the next cage and actually dug a tunnel through Oscar’s to be with him. Someone filled it in. Mary dug it out again.
“They’re together now,” Linda says.
So someone got the idea: “Why don’t we have a wedding?” It could be a celebration and a fund raiser. But all is not certain yet. Will Oscar propose? Will Mary bark “yes”? Will someone get cold paws?
All the events and just the simple daily work take a lot of hands. Besides Maunallen and Linda, LHH has four other volunteers: Billy Kolbeck, who formerly worked with You Too Animal Rescue; Edie Wright of Rome; Linda Doscher, who came on board after her husband passed away; and Linda Wheal, their expert spaghetti-dinner chef.
They all love the animals. And as they give, they get.
Linda Harvey, for example, taught school for 30 years, then retired. “And I felt my life had no purpose anymore.” So she came to LHH. “And now I feel like my life has a purpose again.”
Billy has a big heart, she says. “It’s rewarding to save all these dogs and animals,” he comments. Eddie feels the same way. “I do it because I love the animals,” she says, and believes the pets, too, have a purpose in life.
Maunallen thinks about her own feelings. “Why would you want to pick up poop all day?” Well, she has an answer. …
“I think that the human beings have made an awful mess of this world and I’m depressed about this world. And this is a little corner where you can make a difference.” No, you can’t save the whole world.
“But it’s worth trying.”