They started the rescue shelter Saints of the West in 1995 and it has grown into the largest facility for the breed on the West Coast.
Lori first became familiar with Saint Bernards in the seventh grade when she was given one.
“My mom introduced me to this family with about eight kids and she thought I’d really like playing with the kids, but they had two Saint Bernards and I was more interested in playing with the dogs,” Lori said. “The family ended up moving and couldn’t take the dogs so they gave one to me and he became my best friend. I was totally in love with him.”
There was no doubt in Lori’s mind that she wanted a Saint Bernard when she moved to Nevada in 1982. After buying a Saint from a backyard breeder, she decided to become involved in breeding and showing dogs.
Soon after, the Juenkes joined the Saint Bernard club of Sacramento, where Lori said they met other dog lovers and an older couple who had been into Saints for about 50 years and ran a shelter for them.
“This couple needed to retire and while other breeders took (the shelter) over, they didn’t have enough time for it and asked me if I was interested,” Lori said.
The Juenkes set out to find a property, did their homework on dog licensing and found a perfect location 25 miles north of Reno.
“A lot of people complain about the drive, but it is hard to put 30 Saint Bernards in town,” Lori said. “Out here we are 40 acres away from neighbors. Many dogs come in and don’t understand why they are here so they bark and it would be an issue in town.”
Saints of the West is a nonprofit and runs solely on adoption fees, donations and fundraisers. The money raised is used to pay vet fees and Pedigree donates dog food. Ken is a computer engineer while Lori works two part-time jobs in addition to caring for the dogs.
“I keep very busy,” Lori said. “In the morning I sweep the kennels, give treats and talk to the dogs and midday I am out there again making sure everyone is OK. Evening time it is feeding time again and i am scrubbing pans and giving vitamins. It is basically a doggy spa.”
It costs $300 to adopt from Saints of the West, which includes all shots, a heartworm check, a spay or neuter, a microchip, a bag of Pedigree dog food and a free obedience class donated by local trainer Guy Yeaman. There also is a two-week guarantee to make sure the adoption will work.
According to the the official website of the Saint Bernard Club of America, www.saintbernardclub.org, if you are looking for protection, Saints are not guard dogs by nature.
“The Saint’s size and bark will discourage most intruders, yet he will learn to recognize your friends and receive them cordially,” the site states. “If an intruder gets by the size and barks, your Saint may decide to lead him straight to the family silver since he would much prefer to be a friend. The one exception to this is when a member of the family is being threatened. The Saint’s instinct to protect those he loves becomes very apparent at this time.”
While being a part of a rescue shelter can be tough, Lori said she takes pride in successful adoptions and the progress dogs can make.
Lori said her favorite success story is about Mo, whose owner put him in the back of a truck when he was a puppy and he fell out and severed his shoulder muscles. The owner did not amputate Mo’s leg and gangrene set in.
“He became vicious because he was in pain and we took him in and adopted him to one of our good homes in California,” Lori said, “and yes, he has three legs, but he goes on the school bus every day to check and make sure its OK for his little girl to get on the bus. He greets her every day and is the talk of the community. Seeing success stories like these keep me going.”
The hardest thing about running a rescue is the people because they don’t do their homework or think about what they are getting into, Lori added.
“Saints aren’t dogs you can just leave in the backyard, come home to, feed twice a day and go to bed,” Lori said. “They want to go with the family.”
A new fundraiser, Saint-A-Palooza, will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. April 3 at Red’s Old Grill in Carson City. An all-you-can-eat buffet will be featured as well as door prizes, raffle items, a silent auction featuring a stay at Harrah’s and a VIP set of tickets to the Reno Air races. To purchase tickets, find adoptable dogs or to give donations, visit www.saintsofthewest.com, or call 475-0420.