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St. Bernard rescue group awarded grant

Sandi Hoover
shoover@nevadaappeal.com

The St. Bernard – a dog originally bred for rescue – sometimes needs rescuing itself, and a group with members in Carson City and Reno want nothing more than to find homes for the super-sized canines in their care.

Ken and Lori Juenke founded Saints of the West Rescue in 1997 north of Reno, but their lead volunteer, Lisa Helget of Carson City, said there are nearly as many volunteers from Carson as there are from Reno.

Helget, who doubles as the group’s mascot, Sally St. Bernard, fell in love with the breed after adopting Bear Bears, and said she doesn’t know how she got along without them before that.

“I adopted in 2002, and he was the greatest dude, but I lost him a year and a half ago, and I was aching for big love so I started volunteering so I could get my St. Bernard groove on,” she said.

About a year ago, she adopted her second St. Bernard, Bruin.

Saints of the West Rescue is the Northern Nevada affiliate of the National Saint Bernard Rescue Foundation. Recently, it was one of 1,000 animal groups to receive a grant from the The Pedigree Foundation.

“Our $891 grant money was used to help with our veterinary costs for the health and medical maintenance required by our rescues. Our yearly average vet costs are between $10,000 and $15,000,” Helget said. “We have been averaging about 10 to 15 St. Bernards in the rescue program for the last five years.”

Adoption fees for a St. Bernard are $300, and can be less if adopting a mature rescue dog – which comes with its own 50-pound bag of Pedigree dog food.

“Also, Saints of the West Rescue is there for you throughout the life of your rescue, and will always take the dog back into the program should the need arise. If your rescue does not work out within two weeks of adoption, you will receive your money back,” she said.

“After that time, we will take the dog back into the rescue but you do not get your money back as it has gone toward the care of the remaining dogs. We subsist on donations,” Helget said.

When thinking about adopting a St. Bernard, people need to realize they aren’t talking a small commitment – most weigh around 120 pounds, she said.

“But their temperament is very loyal and loving. Both of my boys have gone crazy over babies. If they see someone pushing a stroller, they start whining to go see the baby, and when they see kids out in the yard, they start whining because they want to go out and play. They’re so gentle and they love kids,” Helget said.

But there are other hazards.

“If they decide to lean on you, which they like to do, you’re going down,” she said, laughing.

Saints of the West Rescue receives its dogs from shelters, breeders and individual dog owners.

“There are a lot of stupid reasons, and there are a lot of valid reasons,” she said.

“We just want people to know they can get an expensive full-blooded breed for just the adoption cost,” she said. “And there are other adoption options out there besides the Humane Society, SPCA and animal shelters.”