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Peninsula mushers to the rescue of homeless dogs

Posted: Friday, May 25, 2007

Sled dogs aren’t the only creatures that run in packs. So do some of their owners, as a small group of sled dog rescuers will demonstrate this weekend.

Ashley Irmen and Stephanie Burns of Sterling, and Jill Garnett of Kasilof, will make the drive to Salcha on Saturday to each take home at least one sled dog of the more than 30 left behind after their owner, Martina Delp, was accidentally killed last weekend when a tree she was cutting fell on a powerline.

Delp operated Long Haul Kennel, which, according to her Web site, was a no-kill shelter devoted to rescuing and rehabilitating shelter dogs. Delp said in the mission statement on the site, “We strive to provide a healthy, stable environment in which we can help inexperienced young sled dogs learn the skills they’ll need to be great companions.”

None of the local mushers heading north knew Delp but they were familiar with her work saving sled dogs, since all of them have taken in homeless huskies before.

“For everyone who owns dogs like this, this is your worst nightmare,” Irwin said.

Irwin maintains a sprint racing/recreational mushing kennel with 18 dogs, nearly all rescues from animal shelters or surrenders from other mushers. She said she felt compelled to help.

“It’s one of those situations where I wasn’t looking for another dog, but under the circumstances I can take one more because I know you can’t easily place this many dogs, especially dogs that have already been rescued. And, if the situation were different, I would want someone to do this for me,” she said.

Burns, who has nine sled dogs — mostly rescues — echoed that sentiment.

“Although I did not know Martina, she and her dogs are a part of a community that I am part of and they have a need for community support. It’s a situation that opens our hearts to the preciousness of life and the interweaving of people’s lives and the need we have for one another. She was very noble in her work to rescue dogs and to give them a good home. Now her dogs have a great need for others to step in to help them,” she said.

Burns said she will likely be able to give two of Delp’s dogs a home.

“We have already built dog houses for them,” she said.

Garnett operates Husky Haven Rescue, which houses 13 rescued sled dogs that have been rehabilitated to compete in sprint racing events.

“My family of dogs is 100 percent rescue, so I feel very passionate about this woman and what she did, and I feel the need to respond to her passion for her dogs,” Garnett said.

Dona Buck-Davis, a friend and co-worker of Delp’s, is helping spearhead the effort to find homes for Delp’s dogs through Loving Companions Animal Rescue, and she said so far it is going well.

“The public has been great about expressing an interest in the dogs, but we want to make sure they go to permanent homes, so we are currently scheduling to meet with people interested in adopting, not just fostering, dogs. We want make sure people understand what they are committing to, to make sure the dogs don’t get dumped in two weeks, since they came here because they were dumped in the first place,” she said.

Of the original 37 dogs, only 24 remain in need of homes, Buck-Davis said. All of these remaining dogs have been spayed and neutered since Delp’s death, as per her wishes. There also are other animals that need to be placed, including horses, a cat and an exotic lizard.

“She had a big heart and these animals were a big part of her life. She wouldn’t want them just discarded or ending up back at the pound,” Buck-Davis said.

For more information about adopting one or more of Delp’s dogs, contact Buck-Davis at (907) 488-0516. Anyone interested in riding up with Irmen or Garnett, or having them bring a dog back, can call them at 394-4585 (the barking dog is her answering message) or (303) 898-3281.



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