When my family first got a dog in 1997, we didn’t imagine that nearly twenty years later, we would be spending our lives devoted to canines and sharing our home with 45 dogs and a Grey Wolf. Nonetheless, this is what has happened as our home has become a shelter for dogs we have brought back to Canada from as far way as New Mexico.

Although we do find (and transport dogs) for others, if a dog comes to us, it has a permanent home and we wouldn’t dream of moving them on to other places. However, people are often surprised to learn that we do not have any kennels or cages. The dogs all live indoors with us as family members, with access to a fully enclosed and safe 4-acre play area. They have open fields to chase in, thick forest to roam and mountains to hike. We feed them a raw food diet, and yes, the food bills are colossal. Not without good reason do our friends refer to our home as ‘Racho Relaxo for Dogs’.

Most of the dogs we take in are giant breeds, and in total, we have been the parents of more than 60 so far: several have come to us sick, infirm and dying, but we have been able to offer them the happiness of having a loving ‘forever home’. Our alumni includes multiple St Bernards, Leonbergers, Great Danes, Malamutes, Mastiffs, Poodles and mixed breeds; as well several ‘one-offs’ such as an Irish Wolfhound, an Afghan Hound, a Maremma Sheepdog and an Akita. And of course the Wolf!

People often ask us how they all get on, and in all honesty, we can say that we seem to have less trouble with all of them than people who have only two dogs report. Of course, there are occasional ‘spats’ and the play is raucous to say the least. But the healing effect of the pack is overwhelming and they all co-exist in relative peace and calm. We have taken some seriously ‘damaged’ dogs and the incumbents seem to automatically know that they need to treat the newcomer in a certain way. In turn, those arriving here seem to sense their sad journeys are over, and they relax and become part of the pack in no time.

It isn’t always easy and having this many dogs presents a life full of never ending challenges. It’s hard work and the strain has been as much for our hearts as our pockets. We struggle a great deal, but we cherish every dog that has passed through our doors and losing them can be brutal, as any true dog-lover knows. Overall, the experience of being ‘true dog people’ has enriched our lives and made our days fun filled a joyous.

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The dogs roaming their field with ‘Rancho Relaxo’ in the background

The Poodle pack playing together, with a PWD as an unofficial member

Despite appearances, these two are great friends!

The snow is welcomed with joy by the whole pack

But summer’s pretty good too!

Our Afghan hippie just chillin’

Husky grins

You can tell how tall the meadow grass is by looking at the dog – an Irish Wolfhound

Standard chasing games

A real snow lover

Fall excitement

One of our Danes

And here’s the other, whose missing rear left leg never holds her back

One of our Standard Poodles

Snow play

Tibetan Mastiff takes a snow bath

An ever watchful Maremma

One of 3 St Bernards we share our lives with

Our youngest and oldest

A gorgeous ‘antique’ Malamute

Fall jungle exploration

Hassling the collector

Our Grey Wolf

Up close and personal

The first time the dogs ever got to be in their new 4 acre enclosure