Talk about being married to your work.
Laura Martin and Allison Kocak, of Companion Acres in Rochester, are planning to launch a non-profit operation geared at supporting shelter dogs to ultimately end the cycle of the returns. The nonprofit is called Companion Homestead and will include a dog sanctuary where the Martin family will live.
The dynamic duo hopes to open their dog sanctuary by 2027 and are raising funds to do so.
“Sanctuaries, in general, aren’t found very often,” Martin said. “In southeast Minnesota, there are no sanctuaries solely for dogs.”
She said at Paws and Claws Humane Society in Rochester, 49 dogs were adopted from PCHS and then returned in a year’s time. That figure doesn’t reflect dogs who have been surrendered by their owner.
“The overall mission is to support shelter dogs and their families, specifically the dogs with behavioral or health needs,” Kocak said. “With humans, when there are behavioral or medical issues, there are support groups and community support,” she said. “When you have a dog who has behavioral issues or medical issues, there’s just shame and judgment.”
One piece of the nonprofit will be community outreach. The outreach program will provide support via education, funding, and/or networking to a family who has adopted a higher needs dog.” Kocak said there’s a lack of community for people who have a high-needs dog. The outreach will provide not only resources but also that community that is so desperately needed.
When education and outreach are not an option or have been exhausted, that’s where the Sanctuary piece of the mission comes into play. The Sanctuary is for those dogs, along with dogs who have been in the system for a long time, and who don’t have a high probability of finding/thriving in a forever adoptive home. However, the Sanctuary is the forever home, meaning the dogs will not be up for adoption. “The dogs who come to our sanctuary are not for adoption, because they’re home,” Kocak said. “The Sanctuary will be the final home for dogs who come in as residents.”
They hope to find a property near Olmsted County that is 10 acres or more. They’ll devote a parcel of the land for the current business, Companion Acres, and the remaining acreage for the sanctuary, Companion Homestead.
Companion Homestead will be a smaller sanctuary, housing 12 to 24 dogs. “Our goal is to have 12 10-by-10-foot indoor rooms that will house each dog,” Kocak said. “There will be some dogs that are dog selective, so they will have the opportunity to socialize, and even possibly have a roommate in their living space.”
“There are some that absolutely cannot be with other dogs, so they will go from their 10-by-10 room to play outside, go for a walk or whatever will bring them joy,” Kocak said. “Then they will return to their space without interacting with any other dogs.”
The Sanctuary dogs will be able to spend as much time as possible outside. Kocak said they want the dogs to have the chance to travel and sniff, romp and gallup in nature. “Being outside is so important for dogs,” she said. “And so is exercise and sunlight.”
Martin and Kocak’s new nonprofit will begin providing community outreach programming next year, with a $2,000 fundraising goal. Within the next five years, the fundraising goal will be $80,000 to go towards building the Sanctuary.
The dynamic duo have started the fundraising process by collecting aluminum cans, but in the future will have various events: dog shows, plant sales, and most excitingly, the ability to financially sponsor a dog.
There’s nothing like Companion Homestead Dog Sanctuary in southeast Minnesota, and “We are thrilled to welcome it to the community!”- Martin and Kocak