By john darling
Horses, donkeys, dogs and many other creatures eat, heal and wander in peace on the 55 acres of Sanctuary One, an animal haven in the Applegate Valley that opened last spring and is now focused on showering the critters with the love that's been missing in their lives.
Founded by Ashland developer Lloyd Haines, the shelter takes at-risk, domesticated animals from certified rescue groups or government agencies and nurses them back to health for adoption or, if that's not possible, to live out their lives in peace, Haines said.
Originally founded as Oregon Animal Sanctuary, the nonprofit organization has started raising funds, and it plans to hold retreats for humans, including vulnerable adolescents, military families and veterans who, like the animals, seem to find healing and grounding in nature, said Stacy Bannerman, Sanctuary One's executive director .
"This place is a whole different animal," Bannerman said. "We are a sanctuary for people who come here. Stewardship means commitment, just as parents are stewards of their children. We provide a safe place for animals — and for a lot of them, it's the first safe place they've ever known."
The sun-dappled, fenced sanctuary, a farm homesteaded in pioneer days, has become home for 12 horses, four goats, two donkeys, four dogs, six cats and a flock of chickens, most of whom bear scars from accidents or human neglect or mistreatment.
One horse, Paulo, is healing from many cuts and scrapes and has almost doubled in weight since he arrived.
"He came from the county (animal control). We started to put some groceries in him. He used to kick anything that came near him, but now he's settled down," Bannerman said. "We're not just doing it because it's the right thing to do, but because we love this land and love these animals. Every living thing responds to the frequency of love."
Julie Fritz, the sanctuary's resident manager, said the animals "live up to or down to what we expect of them." A friendly, one-eyed, gimpy blue heeler named Bucky "chased a car and caught it," Fritz explained. A horse named Little Larry was recovered from a research lab, where he was used for learning surgery techniques, Fritz said, and "he will be here forever."
"He'll never be adopted out because of the trauma he's been through," says Mark Heminger, a member of the sanctuary's board of directors.
"It would betray his trust to ship him out. He needs our support," Bannerman said.
Haines said the sanctuary is the first place of its kind that he knows of in Oregon, and it's one he's envisioned all his life as a place to get abused or abandoned animals and humans together in nature to help each other with the healing and trusting process.
Sanctuary volunteers provide care for the creatures unconditionally, to get them healthy and stable and eventually adopt them out to "parents" who have been carefully checked for criminal records, their experience with other animals, and their relationship with a veterinarian, Bannerman said.
The stewardship strategy also includes a "plan B" for what to do with animals if the sanctuary is hit by wildfire or other unforeseen disasters.
"Stewardship means being committed to the whole animal, not just the physical wounds but also to their psychological and soul wounds," Fritz said.
The staff recently brought a group of vulnerable adolescents from Southern Oregon Child Study and Treatment Center to the sanctuary for "eco-therapy," which, simply put, means putting them with animals in nature with a task to do. Using only hand tools they built several picnic tables and, in doing so, Bannerman said, they forgot about their defensive personality masks.
"The disconnect from nature is a disconnect from the self," she said, adding that the rise in attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder correlates with the time kids spend in front of a TV or computer screen.
In late October, Sanctuary One plans to start a series of weekend retreats for military family members. Later, they will do the same for women veterans and other "forgotten populations," said Bannerman, whose husband will soon head to Iraq for a second tour with the National Guard.
"Wives of combat vets consistently report trauma, anxiety, stress and caregiver burden. When veterans come back from war, they bring that war with them," said Bannerman, who is the author of "When the War Came Home: An Inside Account of Citizen Soldiers and the Families Left Behind." (Continuum Publishing, 2006).
Sanctuary One will hold a fundraising event from 1 to 4 p.m., Oct. 18, at Applegate Valley Chiropractic, 7370 Highway 238 in Ruch. Donors of $10 will get a free chiropractic adjustment or scan credit and new clients donating $50 will get a free exam with X-rays. For more information, call 899-7467.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at email@example.com.