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Air Force Academy Spirit

Cadets spruce up sanctuary, make new friends

Cadets install walls for the sanctuary’s new barn which will house horses, feed and equipment. (Photo by Ann Patton)

Cadets install walls for the sanctuary’s new barn which will house horses, feed and equipment. (Photo by Ann Patton)

By Ann Patton

Academy Spirit staff

Cadets in Squadron 3 picked up hammers, shovels, leashes and brushes Saturday to help brighten the lives of the residents of the Black Forest Animal Sanctuary.

The sanctuary is home to more than 100 animals, including horses, goats, birds, dogs, cats, Wilbur the pig and small mammals. Most are awaiting their permanent “forever homes.”

“We wanted to get the whole squadron involved,” said Cadet 2nd Class Rachel Arthur of the service learning squadron’s project.

She explained the squadron represented a variety of skills, including carpentry, construction and experience and compassion for animals.

For more than three hours 100 or so squadron members installed walls for a new barn roof, loaded wooden palettes which are repaired for a sanctuary fund-raising project, cleaned kennels and bedding, mended fences, installed heated water troughs and groomed and gentled horses. Others brushed and walked with dogs, providing them with always-needed companionship and socialization.

The cadets also dismantled and collected temporary fencing around the bird coop in preparation for a much-improved permanent enclosed facility.

“Operation Chicken Catch,” as it was dubbed, required cadets catching and carrying the birds to a temporary location while the new enclosure is under construction. The chickens, ducks and geese finally declared victory for the cadets after putting up their best struggle to avoid being caught.

Cadet 3rd Class Alli Marx was unsure what to expect of the project but was pleasantly surprised.

“It’s a lot better than I thought it would be,” she said. “It’s rewarding to see dogs jumping up and down when they’ve never seen you before.”

Other cadets also enjoyed the project for its opportunity to interact with animals.

“I love animals and grew up with dogs,” said Cadet 3rdClass  Sheila Sherman, an Ohio native.

Cadet 1st Class Erlyn Rudico recently felt the difficult loss of her mixed breed dog at home but appreciated the chance to get off the Hill for a while and play with and walk dogs at the shelter.

“I love dogs,” she said. “I wish I could adopt them all.”

Cadet 2nd Class Phil Ramcourt also said he loves dogs and has plans to have one of his own after graduation. He appreciated the dedication of the sanctuary volunteers.

“It’s awesome there are people who take care of animals that other people don’t care for themselves,” he said.

Vic Duckarmenn recently purchased 10 acres next to the sanctuary and allows rescued horses to graze on his land.

“It keeps it mowed,” the neighbor and sanctuary volunteer said with a smile.

He was impressed with the cadets’ enthusiasm and hard work.

“This is fantastic,” he said. “Holy cats, they’re doing a tremendous job.”

Mr. Duckarmenn is expecting an especially difficult winter, which  is always hard on the animals, but hastening construction on the new barn and bird coop will help the shelter and protect the animals from the cold.

Tracey Van Pelt is a member of the sanctuary board of directors and she also expressed her appreciation to the cadets.

She also encourages others to become involved with the organization by volunteering and adopting the animals.

“We always need fosters,” she said. “The more foster homes, the more attention the animals get.”

The shelter has animals of all ages, including young dogs and horses which would be great companions with loving care and training. Several of the animals are older but still would be loyal and affectionate companions.

The sanctuary also needs donations in many areas, including cash donations which are always needed for food, supplies and medical care. The cost of feeding one horse a month, for example, is $100.

For more infomration on the animal sanctuary, visit

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