Sanctuary dogs: A little patch of paradise in North Idaho

papillon with spinal injury has weak hind end

Let’s go on a little journey. Don’t worry; it isn’t far.

We’re just going to hop in the car and go up the 95 in North Idaho to that little patch of paradise in Athol.

That place where sanctuary dogs are living out their best lives surrounded by love and good care.

Heath’s Haven.

I wrote about the Haven last week when I introduced you to two puppies, Patrick and Portia, with wobbly dog syndrome, or cerebellar hypoplasia.

Still available for adoption (ahem! you guys …), they get to hang out with some other very special dogs.

Special needs dogs.

The sanctuary dogs of Heath’s Haven.

The webs we weave in our communities

I first heard of Heath’s Haven last winter when I started my rescue dogs project, doing portrait sessions with lovers of rescue dogs in Spokane and North Idaho and sharing their stories right here on this blog.

Cheyeanne was one of the good folks who jumped at the opportunity to tell her story.

And what an amazing story she has, lending her life and love to three special needs dogs: Notorious, a wheelie Corgie-Chihuahua; Shady, a blind chihuahua mix; and Kash, her old man Chihuahua mix.

She met Notorious through the Haven.

I found the Haven on Instagram and, when Jolene needed to find a home for Cashay this summer, I messaged her and said, “hey, want some images.”

The rest is history.

chihuahua stands on rocks at Tubbs Hill in Coeur d'Alene

Cashay, now Cassie

The sanctuary dogs

The dogs at the sanctuary are never put up for adoption.

They are in hospice or they have severe medical challenges that Jolene and Shawn are best prepared to handle. A 501(c)(3) non-profit, the Haven relies on donations and gifts to give these dogs the best care possible.


Phoenix started it all.

Back in 2010, Phoenix was rescued in Kansas. Just six weeks old, she was found abandoned in a pet store parking lot on a 105 F day. She was unconscious, severely dehydrated and unable to use her hind end.

The local rescue there, New Beginnings, had her tested at University of Missouri but doctors couldn’t find a reason behind the weakness in her hind.

She was placed in a foster home and her adoption advertised on

That’s where Jolene and Shawn found her. They bought her a wheelchair and gave her a home.

Next evaluated by the incredible team at Washington State University, Phoenix and her condition remain a mystery. Acupuncture and hydrotherapy worked for a while but as time wears on, Phoenix becomes weaker.

husky with hind end paralysis lies on a grass lawn


She does not, however, lose her spirit.

She is the inspiration behind the Haven, spurring Jolene and Shawn to provide a safe home for special needs dogs at risk of euthanasia for no other reason than being different.

(Are you in love with these two humans yet? I mean, honestly.)


Jake is one of the newer residents at the Haven.

He has a lot of issues. Not issues like I have issues, just physical issues.

A Papillon puppy, Jake came to the Haven with a spinal injury that has caused paralysis. He is also incontinent and a hemophiliac.

papillon dog stares intently into the camera


He not only needs to have his bladder expressed several times a day but, with the hemophilia, he needs constant supervision to ensure he remains free of injury or anything that can cause internal harm.

Jolene says his care is manageable but Jake’s best chance is to remain with the specialty rescue as one of the sanctuary dogs.

director of idaho dog rescue takes care of little papillon with severe medical issues
papillon dog has spinal injury and drags himself forward


Goose has a need for speed.

He’s one of the wheelie dogs at the Haven sanctuary. Going on 12 years old, he is slowed down by nothing.


Getting him to stand still for a portrait was an effort marked by fail. So I looked at Jolene and said, “let’s just let them run around and see what happens.”

border collie in wheelchair pays attention to strange noises


Goose was born with embolism of the spine and never gained use of his hind end. He’s also incontinent.

Since joining the Haven in 2013, he has stayed healthy and active … and hilarious.

I think it’s those eyes full of the drive and determination of a border collie that get me most.

border collie in wheelchair in north idaho
border collie in wheelchair runs through grass in idaho


Thumpty thump thump …

That’s what you hear when Terra is coming for you.

red husky stares into the camera lens


Terra, a red husky, came to the sanctuary from California via Craigslist. The people who posted her ad said she was born without the bottom half of her back legs.

When Jolene and Shawn got her, they took her straight to WSU where they learned that wasn’t true. In fact, the bottom half of her hind legs had been “traumatically amputated” just below the hock.

Ugh … some humans, right?

The Haven got to work and raised the money for a set of removable prosthetics and that’s why you can hear Terra happily thumping towards you.

She is, without a doubt, Shawn’s girl and one of the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen in my life.

(Do not tell Bella I just said that. She will never forgive me.)

red husky runs through tall grass at dog sanctuary in Idaho


I saved my special girl for last.

pyratolian mix tilts her head when she hears a strange sound


Y’all know by now how I feel about livestock guardian dogs.

LGDs are the gentle giants of the canine world. Guardians of the preyed upon. Partner to human, follower to none.

I deeply understand their personalities … their independence, their stubbornness, their aloofness.

I get it.

And so it was that Maisey and I kept coming back to each other.

She got her scritches, hugs and kisses and then moved on to allow the other dogs some attention. She sat at a safe distance along the fence, watching everything and making sure everyone was OK.

No wall flower, though.

When she saw her opportunity, she came back over for more.

Maisey is a Pyratolian—part Great Pyrenees, part Anatolian shepherd. She joined the sanctuary in 2015 with a history of orthopedic issues. Her leg bones were bowed and she needed surgery on all four legs to keep her from living a life of constant pain.

She went through months of physical therapy under the supervision of the amazing crew at WSU in Pullman and now she guards over the rest of the sanctuary dogs in Athol.

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Keep the sanctuary dogs safe and healthy

Rescues and sanctuaries rely on donations to survive and keep the animals fed and cared for medically.

Many of the dogs that are adoptable through Heath’s Haven or living at the sanctuary have high medical bills.

Surgery can be thousands of dollars.

Since Giving Tuesday is coming up on December 1, I thought I’d let you know a few different ways you can help the dogs at Heath’s Haven.

  • Donate a portion of Amazon profits via your purchase by selecting Heath’s Haven as your charity of choice on
  • Send some supplies via the Amazon wish list
  • Donate via Paypal
  • Mail donations or gifts to:
    Heath’s Haven Rescue
    1869 E. Setice Way PMB #314
    Post Falls, ID 83854

I can guarantee your help will not go unnoticed.

And I thank you, too.

All around the circle

I’ve spent the better part of the year working on a technique called off-camera flash.

I rarely make images these days without my flash, filling light into shadows or illuminating Bella in an otherwise light-averse environment.

Like sunrise at the Rocks of Sharon on Shep’s Memorial Day.

sunrise at rocks of Sharon

Sunrise at the Rocks of Sharon

All of the natural light is behind her but, with my strobe, I’m able to balance the light for a lovely, dramatic image.

And a helluva lot less work in Photoshop.

All of the images you see here from Heath’s Haven were created with natural light.

I had just returned to Spokane Valley from our annual trip to the beach in Oregon and I didn’t repack my bag well enough for my visit to the Haven. Like a dummy, I didn’t do my usual check and left home without my strobe.

So the Haven’s sanctuary dogs became a good story to tell for this week’s entry in the dog photographers’ blog circle, themed natural light.

Now you get to travel around the world and see how other pet photographers saw the light in their dog photos.

Start with Terri Jankelow, photographing pets in the Toronto and South Florida areas.

When you get to the bottom of Terri’s blog post, click the link to the next blogger and so on and so on.

Once you find yourself back here, you’re home.

Right where you belong.

3 thoughts on “Sanctuary dogs: A little patch of paradise in North Idaho”

  1. Pingback: Spokane winter: How to make light happen for dog photos | Noses & Toes

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