This month, a Siskiyou County dog rescue marks its one-year anniversary at a century-old church and parish in Macdoel.
While the work of restoring derelict buildings will take years, having a rescue dog is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for a Weed woman.
In January, US Army veterans Nichole Imlay and her husband, Bud Imlay, have fewer mouths to feed than usual.
Adoptions over the past two weeks have reduced the number of pets in their Weed home from 17 to 14, Imlay said. Those remaining include older dogs who have lived with the couple for years.
Imlay, 48, is one half of the partnership behind animal rescue ‘That Place Called Home’.
Imlay’s business partner, Georgine Murphy, 62, was raising 13 other dogs when she and Imlay announced on Facebook that they had admitted an emaciated dog with seven puppies on January 5.
When they bought Macdoel Church and Parish for $20,000 in January 2020, the buildings had been vacant for 10 years, Imlay said.
They raised money and spent their savings to put up a fence, install a bathroom – the one in the parish had collapsed through the ground, covering the parish and restoring water, heat and electricity to the two buildings.
They did this while caring for over 30 dogs.
Well-socialized dogs are free to play and interact inside the fence, Imlay said. Every heated room in the church and parish is a fully equipped dog room. There is also a puppy room.
Dogs sleep with each other when they get along, Imlay said. Otherwise, they have their own room. “We don’t keep our dogs in kennels.”
All the other rooms are occupied, so Murphy sleeps in the parish hall.
Dogs are separated until tested and socialized. Then they can join the loose dogs in the fenced area, just over half an acre of space. Neighborhood children and other volunteers help care for and socialize them.
The dogs they rescue often have special needs, are crippled or very old, or have been abused or neglected, Imlay said. “We have created this shelter for the dogs who are left behind, the most difficult to adopt, (or) who are not the most beautiful.”
Running a non-profit pet shelter is part of Imlay’s lifelong passion for animals.
The Dunsmuir native said she’s been “a spastic dog lover” since she was 5 years old. It was then that her mother took her to the movie “The Blob”.
“When the blob ate a dog, I started screaming in the theater,” she said.
Imlay started saving dogs en masse when she and Imlay moved to Texas in 2014.
“Texas has the worst dog problem I’ve ever seen – dogs running on the road, dead on the road,” she said. “Within three days of our arrival, two dogs showed up at our house.”
During the two years they lived on their 5-acre farm, the couple raised around 200 dogs.
Imlay retired from the military in 2016, Imlay said, so “we bought a huge motorhome, put our 16 dogs in it, and (moved) to Weed.”
Imlay met Murphy soon after, and the two hatched their plan to open the rescue.
A year after realizing their dream, there is still a lot of work and fundraising to do to restore the old church and parish, Imlay said. Setbacks, including repairs made after a vandal destroyed equipment and damaged property last fall.
Some of the donors who helped the most were people she knew in the military, Imlay said. Four of the rescue’s five board members are veterans.
“It’s such a blessing to have people who believe in us,” she said.
When space allows, Imlay and Murphy offer free pet boarding for veterans who need to go to the hospital.
For more information, to help with foster dogs, or to make an appointment to see a dog, call 801-889-6188, email [email protected], go to Facebook or write to That Place Called Home at PO Box 217, Macdoel, CA 96058.
Jessica Skropanic is a reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook.