A home for all animals at Godot

My love for animals has grown tremendously over the past year. Last summer, I spent three months in Washington, D.C., interning at Double R Productions. I had the experience to complete a civil service project while I was there. For this project, I found an animal shelter, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, based out of Washington.

Lucky Dog is a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing homeless and abandoned animals, primarily dogs from high-kill shelters and owners who can no longer care for them.

I spent the day interviewing foster families at Lucky Dog adoption events, which have been held weekly with the help of volunteers since the rescue was established almost two years ago. I learned how this organization, unlike other shelters, does not have its own facility. Fortunately, all rescued animals stay in the comfort of foster homes until they are “showed off” to the community at these adoption events in hopes of finding a permanent home.

As I downloaded the photos of all the animals that needed a home, I knew I could not leave Washington without helping at least one animal.

Needless to say, the day I left Washington to return home, I had a three-month-old tabby kitten in the seat beside me. “Metro,” who received his name after the subway in D.C., now lives a happy life at my home, sunbathing on his favorite window seal, climbing up the screen door to catch bugs and chasing shadows on the wall.

I cannot afford, nor have the time, to care for another animal, but I hope others can. This is why I am starting this column: To feature two animals a week from the Gateway Humane Society in Falls Creek that deserve and need permanent, loving homes. I am hoping this column will inspire people to adopt, and also shine a light on community members who share the same love for animals as I do.

Sharing that same love for animals is Lana Laughbaum, a New York City native who has dedicated more than 20 years of her life rescuing animals in need.

The Godot Animal Sanctuary, in Punxsutawney, is where Laughbaum resides with more than 180 acres of land all dedicated to more than 300 animals that no one else would care for.

Every animal brought to the sanctuary has arrived with a tragic story. These animals are not healthy, or come to the shelter because their owners no longer want or can care for them. And it’s not a place for animals to be dropped off in hopes of finding a new home. Godot Animal Sanctuary is home to “the animals that no one else would ever give a chance.”

“Don’t just look away from animal abuse, or think that someone else will make the call for the abused animal,” Laughbaum said. “Animals cannot speak for themselves.”

Living by the mission statement “Helping the ones no one else will help,” Laughbaum and her staff of about eight to 10 people care daily for each and every animal at the sanctuary. The animals are basically unadoptable, from the deaf, blind, diseased, to those who were close to death from abuse. These animals might be a reason for many to never adopt, but for the sanctuary, animals such as these are welcome, and all have names to match their personalities.

Each staff member feeds the animals, cleans the pens and performs a full body exam daily to check for any problem with each animal.

“My staff is wonderful,” Laughbaum said. “They do not just come in every day and do the basics. Every animal is examined to make sure they maintain a healthy weight and great health. They also play with the animals and really give each animal their attention to make them feel at ease and loved.”

Laughbaum and her staff work with and are members of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. Godot is also certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a recognized Wildlife Habitat to help house and care for animals such as deer, turkeys, possums and many more to get them well enough to be released back into the wild.

Other services provided are Red Cross assistance for housing family pets during times of crisis; feral cat aid and rescue; a spay and neuter program; a perpetual care program; educational programs; and animal rescue.

“We try to do everything pro-animal we possibly can,” Laughbaum said. “If it doesn’t seem 100 percent pro-animal, we don’t do it.”

Throughout the sanctuary, there are “feeding houses” with birdseed and other animal grains for the many birds, squirrels and chipmunks that call it their home. There are 20 birdhouses, 15 birdbaths and a forthcoming meditation pond.

Other animals at the sanctuary include cows, horses, pigs, llamas, flightless birds, rabbits and more. Each animal has its own living space on the 183-acre estate.

The Godot Animal Sanctuary is a non-profit rescue organization that exists on donations from people within different communities. While it isn’t open to the public, it supports learning groups such as the Girl Scouts that want to learn how to care for animals. It is also open by appointment for those who donate.

The rescue’s staff also strives to be true animal rescuers for the unadoptable animals. A poem titled “I Am an Animal Rescuer” is posted on the sanctuary Web site, with lines like, “My job is to assist God’s creatures ... I was born with the need to fulfill their needs ... I take in new family members without a plan, thought or selection ... I have bought dog food with my last dime.”

“When I started to do this, I had a mission,” Laughbaum said. “This was not going to be a sanctuary that takes in the healthy. I am dedicated to helping the unadoptable animals, and giving them that second chance they all deserve.”