By Janet McAfee

Last summer we visited and reported on Living Free, an idyllic 153-acre sanctuary for rescue dogs and cats located in the scenic mountains above Palm Springs in Mountain Center. Many of their animals are rescued from overcrowded public shelters where they may face euthanasia. Others are abandoned and neglected, and begin to thrive after they receive medical care, loving training, and socialization from the Living Free staff. New beginnings flourish at this sanctuary where there are no kennels, and the buildings are especially designed for the comfort of the animals. Founded in 1980, this wonderful nonprofit organization has provided a loving second chance to thousands of homeless animals. Many Coachella Valley residents have traveled up Highway 74 to visit the sanctuary and adopt their animals. Living Free is a lovely facility with a pastoral feeling, and one can enjoy the mountain scenery while meeting some amazing animals. The trendy town of Idyllwild is just a bit further up the road.

This week Living Free is coming to Palm Desert with two back to back spectacular events on Saturday, January 25. You will have an opportunity to meet some of their adoptable animals at the Cold Nose Warm Heart pet boutique, located at 73-399 El Paseo (near Lupine) in Palm Desert, from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm. Then the festivities resume next door from 3:00 pm until 6:00 pm at the Classic Art Gallery with a reception featuring the photographs of renowned rescue dog photographer, Frank Bruynbroek.

Photographer Frank Bruynbroek will be there in person at the Classic Art Gallery reception. His wonderful animal portraits are contained in his book, “Compawssion, Portraits of Rescue Dogs”. Bruynbroek describes why he put together this collection and why he photographs shelter dogs, “My dream is that there won’t be homeless pets anymore, anywhere. My hope is to see breeders with a conscience. My wish is to see all puppy mills abolished as well as all stores that sell puppies. An important aspect of this project is awareness and education as a means to prevent innocent animals from being killed every single day.” The dogs’ faces captured in his portraits reach out and touch your soul, beautiful works that grab and transmit the essence of each unique animal. Bruynbroek has a gallery which showcases his work in Idyllwild called “Oh My Dog”.

Bruynbroek’s photography is a rousing call to action in a world that is largely unaware of the plight of homeless dogs. His photography is moving, thought provoking, and goes beyond what words can express. The beautiful faces of the dogs are captivating. Each photo is a searing missile that goes straight to the heart. Come and see the marvelous collection of photographs, meet the artist, and meet some of the folks and pups from Living Free.

With more off site adoptions at local businesses, Sharon Maguire, Living Free’s executive director, happily reports their adoption rate is up 43% over last year! Sharon attributes this to the wonderful support the organization receives from the community, and the group’s reputation for having well socialized and healthy animals. More people are learning about Living Free and their wonderful rescue work. They are grateful to businesses like Warm Nose Cold Heart and the Classic Art Gallery who open up their doors and hearts to host events like this.

Everyone is invited to attend Living Free’s adoption and gallery events. There is no charge to attend. Champagne and hor d’oeuvres will be served. A silent auction will be held and of course donations are always welcome! Call Living Free at (951) 659-4687 for more information as RSVP’s are appreciated. Living Free is located at 54250 Keen Camp Road in Mountain Center, and you can see their adoptable animals on their website at Animal lovers will not want to miss this special day.