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A sanctuary for pets

Two weeks ago, Joel, a white German shepherd, was in line to be euthanized by animal control officers in North Carolina. He had been abandoned by his owner.

Thanks to Robert and Renee Talley, however, he escaped his untimely death and is the 38th dog at the Abused and Thrown Away Pet Sanctuary, home to 52 animals the Talleys have rescued.

“It’s heartbreaking what people do, it’s just heartbreaking,” Robert said. “I want to change laws, but that takes time and resources. What we do now is a lot of work and financial stress, but we want to do what we can.”

Each of the 52 animals has its own story.

Snuggles was run over by his owner twice and never treated for the damage, and Gomer has to be fed three pills a day to help keep seizures at bay.

Stitches, whose ashes rest in a jar next to a candle in the kitchen, was a golden retriever with cancer.

“I guess the owners figure they’ll be better off in the wild, but they’re not wild animals,” Robert said. “Most of them come in starving, with heartworms and fleas. When we found Harley Dude, in our trash can, he was 60 pounds and had so many ticks that when we treated him it looked like we spilled pepper all over the floor.”

Five years ago, the Talleys moved with their nine dogs to a log cabin in the Somerton area of Suffolk on 20 acres of agriculturally zoned land. They’re separated by a field and are more than 500 feet from their only neighbors on the east side.

They are in compliance with all laws.

Robert built a 2,400-square-foot, two-story animal house with stalls to serve as living quarters for the dogs.

The stalls were soon filled with other dogs and a cottage with adjoining stables and 11 separate outdoor yards were constructed.

“We’re more busy now than we were then,” Robert said.

Two horses live in stables out back, six cats moved into the cottages, two fainting goats live in a small house in the front of the cabin with several ducks in the front yard. Sixteen dogs live in the cabin, and 22 dogs live in the animal house, some sharing stalls turned to “bedrooms” complete with desks, mattresses and decorations.

The cat cottage and animal house are air-conditioned and have Animal Planet on the television when the animals are in for some downtime. The horses go out to pasture every day, and the dogs take turns in the 11 outdoor yards.

Every day, the work begins for Robert at 4 a.m., when he makes the rounds before heading to work at his construction company two-and-a-half hours later. Renee holds down the fort while managing the company, and when Robert comes home he makes the dinner rounds for all the animals.

Robert and Renee see their animals’ veterinarian on a weekly basis, administer many of the animals’ shots and medications, keep the washer running almost constantly, clean the kennels and yards of waste every day and make a trip to Sam’s Club each week to purchase the bags of treats, dog bones and the six 44-pound bags of dog food they’ll go through that week.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of work and a lot of money, but it gives us joy,” Robert said. “To see them grow from the condition we found them in, it makes us happy. There’s nothing like it.”

The Talleys have the heart for the abandoned pets they find, but their wallets are wearing thin.

To help with the increasing costs of the sanctuary, they applied for non-profit status earlier this year. When and if funds permit, Robert plans to finish the upstairs of the animal house to bring in more animals.

“Our pets are our family, they’re our children,” Robert said. “We want to build a pet hotel, where we can house as many abandoned pets as we find or are brought to us.”

Visit the sanctuary’s website at www.abusedandthrownawaypetsanctuary.com or call at 986-2121 to learn how to help.