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May. 22, 2019 | Wednesday
Local News
Dog sanctuary provides safe haven for small dogs with nowhere else to go
Christine Van Moorsel, founder of Angel's Rest Dog Rescue and Sanctuary, with two rescues. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

All dogs may go to heaven, but what happens to sick canines nearing the end of their lives?

That's where Christine Van Moorsel comes in. She operates a hospice for dying dogs, Angel’s Rest Dog Rescue and Sanctuary on Queenston Road, near York Road.

The service provides a comfortable home for small dogs whose owners have died or can no longer care for their pet due to illness, or rescues and strays picked up by the Humane Society and other organizations, with no hope of being placed with another family.

Van Moorsel says people need to know to make arrangements for their pets after they die. Too often pets are left alone in empty houses when their caretakers die or are hospitalized for extended care, she says.

The dogs can experience real grief while left alone, knowing their owner has left them.

Van Moorsel, 74, started the service casually years ago, picking it up full-time after retirement. When her son died in 1986, she says she went to the Humane Society to pick up a rescue, needing a way to manage her grief.

“After we lost him, I felt like I needed something. I went in and I got a rescue dog, and then it just seemed to blossom after that.”

With her husband Nick, the couple continued taking in any dog in need of extra care that crossed their path, transitioning to strictly small dogs after she started housing many at a time – she didn’t have the room or capacity to care for large dogs as well.

“The larger dogs, once they were gone, we didn’t do that anymore because we’re both getting older. They get into fighting, or you have to lift them, it’s harder work.”

Right now, the couple is caring for 13 small dogs, though she says her capacity is closer to 10.

“I’m just a softy. The (Humane Society) knows if they have a dog that needs help, I’ll drive down and pick it up.”

In 2008, the couple bought the house on Queenston Road, operating out of the “derelict structure” on the property until it was fully renovated two years later. Acquiring the kennel licence needed to operate the hospice took some time but Van Moorsel says the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake responded quickly after she wrote them a “sob story” about the dogs and her intentions for the service.

“I applied to Niagara-on-the-Lake, I didn’t get any response at first, so I wrote them a letter, a sad letter, telling them that these were not dogs that were going to be a nuisance to anybody they just needed a place to be until they’re gone.”

The dogs have ample room to live out the rest of their days. The property has a large fenced-in backyard with wire running across the top of the fences to protect the dogs from coyotes and birds of prey. Cribs and baby seats are scattered throughout the main floor to ensure comfort and safety for each dog in the Van Moorsel’s care.

Angel’s Rest was solely funded by the Van Moorsels until they held a fundraiser in July 2018. She says she decided to plan a public barbecue fundraiser on her property once she discovered she couldn’t personally cover all the costs incurred by the service anymore.

Her biggest expense is food and vet bills. After last year’s event, she says the organization has been able to stay afloat off monetary and food donations. Donations of wet dog food are welcome any time. She’ll be holding another fundraiser this upcoming July with hopes of covering the costs for another year.

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