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Penngrove Wonder Dog Rescue forced to look for new home

Lola was dressed to impressed.

Swaddled in a pink turtleneck sweater and a matching fuchsia bow, the senior terrier mix was hard to miss, even as an endearingly rotund bulldog and a peppered-grey pygmy goat named Patches jockeyed for ear-scratches.

Lola’s Saturday afternoon visitors, Fremont residents Kimberley Heath and John McPhaul, spotted her immediately. The pair is one of a handful of dog-lovers interested in adopting the scrappy, special-needs rescue dog housed at Penngrove’s recently-established Wonder Dog Rescue Farm.

She was undernourished when she was found outside a Central Valley animal shelter several months ago, with a broken jaw and one eye dangling out of its socket. About 10 years old, Lola also has uncontrolled diabetes and large mammary tumors. When Heath heard about the dog’s story and her heartbreakingly long list of maladies, she knew they needed to meet.

“We’ve been talking about getting a second dog, possibly a senior or a hospice dog,” Heath said. “People don’t want them, and I just love all dogs. They need love, too.”

Though it was Heath’s first time to the 5-acre farm on Davis Lane, she is plenty familiar with the organization, which has spent the last 30 years rescuing dogs throughout the Bay Area. It was only last December that Wonder Dog Rescue and its founder, Linda Beenau, moved north from San Francisco to Sonoma County.

“I’ve looked into who could take care of them if we don’t find something, but I have to believe we will find a new home. Even if we reach the end of our lease and we have no place to go, it won’t be the end of the farm for us, we’ll keep going somehow.” —Linda Beenau, founder, Wonder Dog Rescue

The 69-year-old thought she had struck gold when she found her Penngrove place, finally able to grow her operation further into the North Bay. She began to kick around the idea of hosting large adoption events and leveraging the land for future fundraisers. She even installed informational signs around the property, preparing for educational farm visits from students.

But after a year at the property, the Penngrove-based rescue operation is facing an uncertain New Year, after learning their landlord intends to sell the farmstead. Beenau says she has until Dec. 31 to find a new home for her and the animals.

“That’s what began the official search for a new place,” Beenau said. “I think we’ve built something beautiful here, with the community and volunteers, so I don’t want to leave this area. We just want someplace modest to house these animals, and a few dogs.”

In addition to a consistent flow of needy dogs, the spacious property also harbors four miniature horses, three pigs, rabbits and chickens. And, of course, Patches the goat – though his caretakers like to joke he’s more like an affectionate puppy than any goat they’ve ever met.

As the collection of various animals grew over the past few months, so has the farm’s crew of volunteers.

Kristen Blacker, director of the sanctuary, says she regularly fields inquiries about the organization, which is still relatively unknown to local residents. Opening a few months before a pandemic has also been tough, she adds.

Despite the obstacles and forced cancellation of various planned events and outreach efforts, Beenau says they’ve already met an abundance of supportive animal lovers willing to help out.

“Right before COVID, we had a volunteer orientation for over 50 people planned, but we had to cancel that,” she said. “Instead we began posting on NextDoor for people who have experience with animals, and even with that (requirement) we haven’t had any problems filling volunteer shifts.”

At Lola’s 60-minute meet and greet Saturday, four volunteers busied themselves with tasks at the chicken coop and horse stables.

Bennett Valley residents and experienced sheep farmers Peter Dodsworth and Maria Cobo inspected Patches’ hooves, declaring it was time for a trim. Meanwhile, mother-daughter pair Sylvia Neuweiler and Amanda Neuweiler made their way to the horse stables, where a few of the miniature horses were milling around.

Amanda Neuweiler, 16, made a beeline for Piper, a chestnut-colored miniature horse who gamely sauntered up to the volunteers as if to say “hello.”

“She’s definitely my favorite animal,” the Casa Grande sophomore and aspiring veterinarian said. “She has a lot of energy, and she’s so much fun to be around.”

The pair has been volunteering with Wonder Dog Rescue Farm since the spring, after learning of the operation on social media. Along with spending a few hours doing animal care at the farm, they have also opened their homes to foster dogs awaiting adoption. They have two chihuahuas in their care at the moment: Max and WeiWei.

If Beenau is unable to secure a new location, she says she will have to rely on the generosity of neighbors and volunteers like the Neuweilers to provide homes for the various rescue animals.

“I’ve looked into who could take care of them if we don’t find something, but I have to believe we will find a new home,” she said. “Even if we reach the end of our lease and we have no place to go, it won’t be the end of the farm for us, we’ll keep going somehow.”

That includes working to find homes for the roughly seven dogs available for adoption, like Lola. As the couple from Fremont packed into their car to make the trip back home, Beenau scooped up the lanky little dog and fixed her pink bow. She would have another big day soon, she told her, when she meets with another person interested in offering Lola her forever home.

(Contact Kathryn Palmer at kathryn.palmer@arguscourier.com, on Twitter @KathrynPlmr.)

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