Sonnywood Animal Rescue aids pets

Photo by Erin O’Neill Charlotte Curnutt, Animal Control Officer for Owenton, Ky., introduces Charlie, a pitbull/chocolate lab mix, to his new home. Charlie and two other dogs from dire situations in Kentucky were brought to Sonnywood on Tuesday to escape euthanasia because they were deemed too aggressive.

LOWELL — It’s a little piece of heaven out in the middle of the country — no better place for an animal to get a second chance at life.

Sonnywood Animal Rescue and Sanctuary is a labor of love for Keith Thomas, who named his place after the first dog he took in nearly 17 years ago. Now visitors are greeted by Roxz (pronounced “Roxie”), a golden-haired older lady who has a little trouble seeing but no problem at all sniffing you out. Yelps, panting, happy tail thumping and curious looks also welcome guests and would-be adopters.

“We’ve been here a long time but people in our community still aren’t even aware that we’re here,” said Marlene Shock, one of four hands-on volunteers who helps organize events, administrates the Facebook page and cares for the many cats and kittens that they take in.

Thomas does not call it a shelter.

Work at the animal rescue and sanctuary is constant. And now Thomas has his own health issues, which makes it all the more crucial to get the word out.

Photo by Erin O’Neill Charlotte Curnutt, left, presents Sonnywood owner Keith Thomas with donations Tuesday, including shampoo, litter boxes and treats.

“Sonnywood is a blessing to these animals,” said Charlotte Curnutt, an animal control officer from Owenton, Ky., who transported three dogs that have been deemed vicious to the sanctuary on Tuesday. “Keith has saved them from death row and gives all these animals a second chance at life.”

Call him a dog whisperer or just a gentle soul, it’s evident from watching Thomas that he has some kind of spiritual relationship with the animals.

“I came from an abusive home growing up, a lot of these animals came from abusive situations, and I’ve just always had a special connection with animals,” he said.

There are 18 dogs living on the grounds and 15 to 20 are in foster care. In most cases, the dogs are aggressive or deemed vicious, but it’s hard to tell.

“Oh she just loves this, she’s a good girl,” Curnutt said as she rubbed the belly of Spring, a pitbull that endured a six hour car ride to get to Sonnywood.

“They’re just at peace when they get here. You can tell by looking at their eyes,” Shook said.

Over the years, Sonnywood has rehabilitated hundreds of animals and has been able to house many in good homes. Others who have no chance of being re-homed will always have a home at Sonnywood. They don’t charge an adoption fee but they do look for ideal owners, both through personal reference and vet referral. Thomas and his volunteers incur much of the cost, which adds up through food, housing and medical needs.

Recent upgrades to the facility include adding gravel to the steep country road and plans to build a 40-by-40 wellness center that will also serve as a meeting place.

In August, an area Boy Scout made it his mission to help build shelters for the dogs.

“I found Keith through the Facebook page and I’m an animal lover,” said Lowell Horn, 18, a senior at Fort Frye. “He said he needed three kennels built so my mom and dad helped pay for materials and we got them built by the end of September.”

Crowdfunding has also been done to help raise money for this 501(c)3 charitable organization and Shock said that they are wishing for a corporate sponsor.

Adam Johnson, manager of We Lov Pets in Marietta, has had a good relationship with Sonnywood. They have held meet and greet events and adopt-a-thons.

“Keith has a very caring heart and a great group of volunteers,” Johnson said. “He works very hard and we are happy to help in any way. We host cats and kittens that are available for adoption and provide food donations, as well as serving as a drop-off center for the community to donate.”

To volunteer or to donate goods to Sonnywood, call Thomas at 740 538-2984. To donate money, contact Riverview Credit Union in Marietta or Green Meadow Veterinary Hospital.


Sonnywood Animal Rescue and Sanctuary

* 530 Straight Run Road, Beverly.

* Contact Keith Thomas at 740-538-2984.

* No charge to adopt cats and dogs but prospective owners must pass a screening.

* Fostering 15-20 dogs, 18 living on the grounds; two dozen cats and kittens being fostered.

* Items needed include fencing and latches, straw, building materials; seeking corporate sponsors, donations and volunteers.