What is an angel with misplaced wings? I asked Angels with Misplaced Wings Director, Jeff Evans. Growing up on a mini farm with lots of critters, Jeff says when an animals’ ears would get flipped back his mom called them ‘angels with misplaced wings.’ The name seemed fitting for his sanctuary, especially as it was established in Vancouver, where he had moved to care for his mom.
A unique operation, Angels is a home-based nonprofit sanctuary for animals with special needs. Here they receive lifetime care and compassion they may not get elsewhere. A former veterinary receptionist and now full-time caregiver, Jeff cares for his Angels with the help of his husband Michael, and his parents.
How does a sanctuary fit into the landscape of animal rescue? Most rescues and shelters are meant to be short-term stays for pets on their way to forever homes. The longer an individual animal stays the greater the cost, which can prevent a rescue from taking in and caring for others. Also, animals who are injured, ill, or who have long-term care needs are often not as “adoptable” as healthier animals. This is where sanctuaries come in, taking in the unadoptable, older or impaired. Jeff’s sanctuary is home to such Angels.
How it all began. . .
Living in San Francisco in 2010, Jeff met and eventually married Michael. They had two dogs and wanted more. Like many though, the couple’s home limited them to two — Cesar, a Great Dane, and Megan, a Dalmatian. A move to the Northwest to live with and help care for Jeff’s parents allowed their family to grow.
After meeting a few adoptable dogs who weren’t quite a fit, they met Vivian, a blind 12-year-old Dalmatian. Upon meeting her, Jeff knelt down, and she placed her feet on his shoulders in a hug. Taking her for a walk, Jeff and Michael considered the situation. Blind dogs can be a challenge. Could they accommodate her needs? Could they anticipate them all?
While they had many questions, they knew it was a fit, deciding what they didn’t know they would figure out. Soon after, Vivian was diagnosed with cancer, and the pair fought for her. She was gone in just six months, but her time with them was life changing. Happy, brave, zesty Vivian inspired the formation of Angels. Jeff says her joy for life, even when unable to see, helped them see they could be there for others with special needs.
Jeff and Michael began seeking out dogs with special needs. They found many were being overlooked by adopters. After Vivian came Howard, then Camo. Word spread through the rescue community, and they began receiving increasing calls about hard to place dogs.
The Angels are unique. Each addition becomes a member of the family. The dogs are not kenneled, but live as family, a pack. They come and go from the back yard as they please, sleep in the bed, take over the sofas, play, bicker, and get into mischief — all together.
Michael and Jeff are limited to who and how they can help. Michael works by day while Jeff cares for the animals. His days are spent providing the Angels with necessary treatments, and managing their Facebook page and marketing campaigns. Given the nature of each animal’s needs, much time is spent on the road for veterinary appointments, acupuncture, massage, and physical therapy.
Between Dalmatians and Great Danes, Jeff and Michael found a unique opportunity to educate the public. Since both breeds can be genetically prone to vision and hearing impairment, they are able to teach people what it’s like to live with a deaf or blind dog. They also teach about breeding practices that cause such defects.
The Awesome Truth
The dogs don’t know they are different. As long as they are free of pain or discomfort they are just dogs. Those with hind-end impairment have wheelchairs, but Jeff says they’re only really needed for walks or hikes. Physical therapy helps support their bodies and build compensatory strength, and otherwise, they just do what dogs do. They happily hang out with Jeff, Michael, and visitors, and play or lounge on the couch.
Jeff says it can sometimes be difficult to help people understand the dogs have a good life. “Sure, physical therapy and all that care is work, but it helps them stay strong. It’s what we would do for ourselves or our human loved ones. Even the ones who can’t see or hear are perfectly happy. Their noses know, and they get around fine. Other senses kick in and act in place of sight or sound.”
Of course the work is exhausting, and sometimes sad. Jeff says he does it because he loves being in service. In this case, to dogs. It doesn’t tire, drain or exhaust him, he says – it energizes him. Without the support of Angels’ followers, he says the dogs wouldn’t have the incredible lives they do.
You can help
While handling day-to-day care, Jeff, Michael and family can sometimes use help with paperwork, poop pickup, and other tasks. Anyone interested should contact them through Facebook or angelswithmisplacedwings.org. Financial support will always be needed. Each Angel’s care is extensive. Every August the sanctuary hosts an annual fundraiser, “The Flight of Angels,” opening their Vancouver home to Angel fans for a barbeque, silent auction, and raffle.
Kennedy Morgan works for a construction company by day and spends her evenings and weekends with her two 2-legged kids or three dogs and a cat. The crew enjoys hiking, nature walks, taking pictures in the city and beyond, the beach, and snuggling at home.