It’s not uncommon to retreat to the solitude of the desert to rest and reflect, especially in times of uncertainty and sorrow. Nature can be restorative and healing as Barb Mumaugh found out. After losing her daughter in 2001, Mumaugh left Arizona behind and made her way to Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point) for the sanctuary of the Sonoran Desert.
The desert provided respite as she processed her immense grief and deliberated life’s intentions. By coincidence, a new reason for being in Puerto Peñasco showed up outside Mumaugh’s door. Stray dogs scavenging for food began to approach her desert hideout. She graciously shared her refuge with the dogs and embraced her new purpose in life.
“The first year in Mexico I took in 10 dogs,” Mumaugh said. “That was really when Barb’s Dog Rescue (BDR) began.” Fast-forward almost two decades and BDR’s 10-dog rescue haven has become an impressive full-scale shelter operation. The rescue is still in its original location, but now Mumaugh shares her home with up to 350 dogs at a time – thanks to expanded accommodations.
“The shelter has grown quickly, especially over the last few years,” Mumaugh said. “We built an intake center for dogs who are recovering from illness and momma
dogs with their young pups to stay.”
In addition to the intake facility, there are also large playgrounds and communal areas for socialization. Experienced BDR staff and volunteers place dogs in groups suited to their temperaments. They love the companionship. The dogs at BDR are happy and well-adjusted, not stuck in miserable, isolated cages. BDR’s model of rescue is an example other shelters look to replicate.
While the healthy dogs romp and roam together awaiting adoption, there are some dogs that need a peaceful place to stay permanently. BDR has a special
place for up to 50 dogs that are so emotionally and physically traumatized it is unlikely they will ever recover enough to leave the rescue. Mama is one of these lifers.
Searching for food for her new litter of pups one day, Mama became the victim of severe human cruelty that left her maimed and fearful of most people
except for a few of the staff.
“There are dogs who come to us from hoarding situations, those who’ve endured horrible abuse, those who were living at the dump surviving on rotting food,” Mumaugh said. “All of them are welcome here.”
The “all dogs welcome” policy includes disabled dogs like Frida. At 3 months old she was dropped off at the shelter with back legs that just didn’t work. After a veterinary examination it was decided her legs would never function. BDR added two ramps and a bigger doggy door so she can navigate independently; she goes down to the play area to socialize often. When she’s finished growing, she will be fitted with a special set of wheels to assist her.
“Her favorite activity is greeting shelter visitors,” Mumaugh said. “In fact, she’s so good at it that the shelter staff assigned her the title Director of Hospitality!”
BDR’s popularity has grown over the years. The rescue’s reputation for welcoming dogs like Mama and Frida is widespread and people travel across the country to bring dogs other shelters can’t or won’t take. BDR is also known to Arizona vacationers who drop off dog
food on their way home from Rocky Point and some even stop by and adopt a dog.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak caused the borders to temporarily close. The flow of tourists stopped and the supply of dog food became scarce. Rescue groups could no longer transport dogs from Mexico to the U.S. for adoption and monetary donations
stopped coming in. BDR found themselves operating at max capacity, low on food and funds.
“These dogs have nowhere else to go,” Mumaugh said. “We really need people to come by and adopt our dogs, bring dog food and send money to help us with the overwhelming demand and lack of usually available resources.”
While BDR staff members are doing the best that they can with limited resources, their dedication to saving dogs’ lives hasn’t wavered. If you’re interested in donating, visit www.barbsdogrescue.org.